“The Da Vinci Code” itself is still a best seller, in the top 5 on The New York Times’ paperback fiction list, but no longer can a book simply be compared to Brown’s and expect to catch on. Noting a drop in demand, Barnes & Noble is taking down the special display tables dedicated to “Da Vinci Code” games, puzzles and related books. Publishers also report a decline in the number of proposals that cite “Da Vinci” similarities.
“There was a point where I felt like every week I was getting something that mentioned `The Da Vinci Code,’ and that has fallen off,” says Mitch Hoffman, a senior editor at Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA that published Raymond Khoury’s “The Last Templar,” a best-selling novel that came out in January.
Hoffman and others refer to a “maturing” of the market. They note that “The Da Vinci Code” didn’t invent the religious/historical thriller, and they expect the genre to continue as it once did, with books failing or succeeding on their own, as opposed to being tied to the fortunes of “The Da Vinci Code.”
“I think the best parallel is the rise of legal thrillers,” Hoffman says. “Lawyers were writing thrillers before John Grisham and Scott Turow, but the perceived market coalesced in their wake. Over time, it’s the authors who deliver the goods that readers come back to.”One sign of maturity: a reluctance to compare a book to “The Da Vinci Code.” Barnes & Noble’s Hensley notes a shift in the promotion for Brad Meltzer’s “Book of Fate,” a thriller about a young political aide coming out this fall.
During the annual booksellers convention, held about the time the movie was released, publisher Warner Books emphasized its “Da Vinci”-like elements: ancient Masonic symbols, a code devised by Thomas Jefferson. Now, Hensley says, Warner highlights the track record of Meltzer, author of such popular legal-political thrillers as “The Tenth Justice” and “The Millionaires.”
“They’re a smart publisher, so they’re probably backing away from it,” she says.
If book-industry types are, indeed, moving away from Da Vinci hype, it will be interesting to see just what kind of attention the next book in Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series gets. Or, for that matter, to see how far the development of that movie version of Angels & Demons, the first of the Robert Langdon books, gets.