Massacre book 'a big bestseller'

Published: Saturday, Nov. 29 2008 12:11 a.m. MST

'Massacre at Mountain Meadows' now on 5th printing, with more expected

Anxious booksellers were calling Oxford University Press every other day asking when they could get more copies of the book "Massacre at Mountain Meadows.""Where are our books? Where are our books? We need books now!" the anxious sellers have been asking the press. "We couldn't print them fast enough," said Susan Fensten, a publicist for Oxford University Press.One of the authors, Ronald W. Walker, said he was pleased and delighted how well the book has been selling. He speculated that the popularity of the book has to do with the approach he and his co-authors, Richard E. Turley and Glen M. Leonard, took to the subject of one of the darkest incidents in Mormon history."I think there's a real hunger out there for honesty and reliability," Walker said. "We went to enormous lengths to get the story right and did a lot of research."The first printing was 4,000 copies. "Those were sold out before we even reached the publication date," Fensten said.The second, third and fourth printings were also sold out within a few weeks."This was a big best-seller," Fensten said.Walker wonders how many books would have been sold had the supply been in place to meet the initial demand."We were slightly underestimating the potential of the book," Fensten said. "We are a smaller press, and we tend to be a little conservative with our print runs."The book was Oxford's top seller on Amazon.com for two months.The fifth printing was 25,000 copies with an aim to have enough to last through the Christmas season. More than 19,000 of those have already been sold before the holidays."I think there has been a terrific Christmas market," Walker said.With more than 44,000 books sold over so short a time, it has been Oxford's fastest-selling book over the last few years.Thanks to Utah."(The book) does have some national appeal, but judging by the publicity we did, it was pretty much all Utah — it was all local publicity," Fensten said.This is about to change.The History Book Club and the Military Book Club have both picked up "Massacre at Mountain Meadows." A special printing of at least 5,000 book club editions will take place in spring.A sixth printing of the book is almost certain. If a large retailer like Costco orders books, the sixth printing could also be large. Costco had ordered a lot of books earlier for its western operations, but it is possible it could order more for its national stores.Fensten said that sales of the book are continuing at a pretty good clip but have tapered off a little.Critical response has been positive. "We've been very pleased with the critical reception as well as the general reception," Walker said. "We wrote the book mainly for the general audience the book could have been two or three times longer in narrative, but we really wanted a fast-paced narrative and from everything we have been able to find in our sales figures, we fill that niche.""Massacre at Mountain Meadows" will have a sequel, and Oxford University Press is excited to publish it. "There's a whole second half of this story — which is the trials and the aftermath and all the stuff that happened afterward, which is really the juicy bits," Fensten said.The sequel is currently in the planning stages. Walker won't be working on the next volume, however. He is finishing up a new biography of Brigham Young, which Oxford University Press may also publish.Also, BYU Studies is preparing a special edition that includes unpublished source materials used in the book and includes essays from the authors discussing their work and thoughts about the massacre. The journal went to press Tuesday and will be available within weeks.BYU Studies is also planning to print a hardcover book around March with a more extensive collection of documents.But there are some limits to the book's sequels and spinoffs.Asked if he thought a movie might ever be made based on the book, Walker said, "I can't imagine a movie coming out of this. Hopefully not."


E-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

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