Early this morning, Grove/Atlantic confirmed rumors that it had offered debut novelist Pete Tarslaw a “mid-seven figure” pre-empt—the highest advance in the company’s history—for The Tornado Ashes Club, a story about an innocent man forced to become a fugitive from the law who’s helping his grandmother dispose of the ashes of her long-lost love by tossing them into the first tornado they can find; somewhere along the way, they pick up, according to the plot summary on the novel’s website, “a young singer of ranchera music blessed with beauty but cursed with private agonies and secrets.”
Some industry observers were surprised by the move, especially by the fact that Grove was willing to pay an unproven writer what’s said to be around the same amount of money, give or take a few hundred thousand here or there, Audrey Niffenegger scored from Scribner for her second novel just a few weeks ago. Publisher Morgan Entrekin had an answer for those skeptics: “There are good investments and bad investments,” he said in a statement about the Tarslaw acquisition. “Earnest, tender fiction that rings your heart like a bell is always a good investment. Pete Tarslaw is a hell of a good investment. I had this novel read to me, and by the time I was finished I told the accountants to open the floodgates. We’re going all out.”
“No one can put a price on the human spirit,” said Tarslaw, an unemployed education consultant from Boston, but “[Grove] came pretty close… Isweated blood to get this story right, and Grove made it clear that they were willing to sweat both blood and treasure to get this story to readers.” At this time, however, no publication date has been announced…
…APRIL FOOL’S! There is no Pete Tarslaw, no Tornado Ashes Club—except in the fevered imagination of Steve Hely, the former Harvard Lampoon president and current sitcom writer behind How I Became a Famous Novelist, which Grove really is publishing this summer as a trade paperback original. The promotional copy for that book describes it as a story that stretches “from the post-college slums of Boston, to the fear-drenched halls of Manhattan’s publishing houses, from the gloomy purity of Montanaâ€™s foremost writing workshop to the hedonistic hotel bars of the Sunset Strip.” So there’s that to look forward to.
(One of these days, we’re going to have to get Grove/Atlantic to send us the fake New York Times bestseller list which accompanied the novel’s catalog description; until then, you’ll have to take our word for it that it was an awesome string of publishing in-jokes.)