NAMING RIGHTS: It’s not unusual for popular novelists to use pseudonyms, whether because their given names seem too pedestrian (“John le Carré” is actually David Cornwell) or because they work in more than one genre (“J. D. Robb” is actually Nora Roberts) or because it’s just really cool to invent a secret identity or two (“Elizabeth Peters” and “Barbara Michaels” are both actually Barbara Mertz).
But the Atlanta writer Karin Slaughter comes by her thriller-ready name honestly: it’s the one she was born with. “I was teased mercilessly as a child,” she told a Web site dedicated to mysteries a few years ago, “so I think I’ve earned the right” to the name. Slaughter’s new novel, “Criminal,” hits the hardcover fiction list at No. 4. It’s her sixth consecutive book to land there, and her 10th best seller over all. Like her last several novels, “Criminal” unites characters from two different series, and it’s earning Slaughter some enthusiastic attention. “Reading this book was like watching a great athlete having a career year,” the mystery writer Jim Grant said. Jim who? Oh, right: you probably know him better by his pseudonym, “Lee Child.”
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: For a guy with a law degree, John Grisham can be casually (and lazily) insulting to the lawyers in his novels. In “The Litigators,” at No. 6 in its second week on the trade paperback list, he refers to one character as a shark, and to various others as sleazy, unethical idiots. But he’s got nothing on Hilary Mantel, whose “Wolf Hall” is at No. 20 on the same list after 15 weeks. In that book, the Duke of Norfolk confronts King Henry’s eventual fixer, Thomas Cromwell, with one of the more scathing curses in recent literary memory: “You . . . person,” he sputters, before finding his footing. “You nobody from hell, you whore-spawn, you cluster of evil, you lawyer.” It’s the kind of thing you can picture (or I can picture, anyway) crocheted on a throw pillow in the chambers of the Supreme Court.
ASSASSINATION FASCINATION: Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln,” written with Martin Dugard, is at No. 5 in its 41st week on the hardcover nonfiction list. It’s not the first time Dugard has shared credit for a best-selling account of an assassination: in 2009, he and James Patterson made the list with “The Murder of King Tut.”WORTH WAITING FOR: Fifty years ago in the Book Review, on July 22, 1962, the fiction list was topped by Katherine Anne Porter’s allegory about the rise of the Nazis, “Ship of Fools.” A selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, “Ship of Fools” went on to become the best-selling novel of the year, against some pretty strong competition.