The Passage by Justin Cronin

Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in the whole world. She is. Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He’s wrong. FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is. THE PASSAGE…

Thanks to Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review for the heads up on the cover!

The Passage first caught my attention when the film rights for a still unfinished manuscript, were purchased by Scott Free Productions (Ridley Scott’s production company) at auction for 1.75 million dollars.

For five days Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox battled over the film rights to Mr. Ainsley’s novel “The Passage,” the first book of a planned trilogy about vampires born not of bat bites, but of medical experiments gone awry. The winning bid, made last month by Fox 2000 and Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, was $1.75 million.

The auction is just the latest indicator of the lengths that studios will go to in search of their next franchise, at a time when it seems that all the biggest projects have already been done or spoken for.

“Fantasy has always been popular in Hollywood,” said Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000 Pictures. “And between the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films and the upcoming end of the Harry Potter series, everybody’s looking for what the next version of those movies will be.”


That’s a lot of cash for an author who almost no one’s heard of, let alone read. Or, for that matter, for an unfinished manuscript (as an aside, I’ve got a few of those sitting around, if any film companies want to purchase the rights, we’ll start the bidding at 500k….) Perhaps even more surprising, though, is the sum paid for the rights to publish the novel: somewhere in the ballpark of $3.75 million dollars.

The frenzy for the “Passage” film rights was unleashed even before the first pitch went out to the studios. Two weeks before the studio deal, Ellen Levine, a literary agent at Trident Media Group, had taken the manuscript to the country’s biggest publishing houses, including Random House and the Penguin Group. Ms. Levine chose to send out the book under the pseudonym Jordan Ainsley because the author, Justin Cronin, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for his 2001 short-story collection, “Mary and O’Neil,” was known more for midsize family dramas than for Stephen King-size thrillers.

“We weren’t trying to hide who he was, but I didn’t want him to be typecast as one kind of author, and I thought this had vast commercial potential,” Ms. Levine said.

The story, a futuristic fable about death row inmates transformed into vampires by a government-spawned virus, hit a nerve with publishers. A number tried to block their competitors with pre-emptive offers, some in the millions. The offers were summarily rejected, and the manuscript was put on the block at a “best bids” auction between four houses on July 3.

The winner for the United States rights to the trilogy was Ballantine Books, which New York magazine reported had paid $3.75 million, a figure that Mark Tavani, the book’s editor, said was “not correct, but in the ballpark.”


That’s some serious weight behind the novel. Whether it’s worth that sort of money remains to be seen, but it seems safe to say that we’ll see a humungous push behind the novel when it’s released next year (the article in The New York Times points to a Summer 2009 release, but review copies are only just reaching bloggers hands now. Speak of, I’d love a copy, if anyone’s listening). Who knows, maybe in five years we’ll be as sick of Justin Cronin and The Passage as we are of Stephanie Meyer and Twilight; just remember, there was a time when no one knew her name.

  • Adam Whitehead November 27, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Justin Cronin is actually a well-regarded name in the more mainstream sphere for writing big family saga books, and apprently submitted THE PASSAGE to a publisher under a pseudonym so they wouldn’t pick it up just based on his name. I understand he’s a very successful and bestselling author in his own right, although I’d certainly never heard of him before the ARC turned up.

  • aidan November 27, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    That’s what the article in the NYT seemed to indicate, but when I went to research him, I found very little on the web beyond a weak Wikipedia entry, the worst website I’ve ever seen, and a few novels that look almost as thought they’re self-published (they’re not, as far as I’m aware, but they’re certainly not eye catchers). His Amazon sales rank (375,000 and 95,000) also doesn’t indicate that Justin Cronin’s a name that would send publishing houses into a fit at the auction house.

    I have to admit, beyond that NYT article, I’m having trouble putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

  • locusmortis November 28, 2009 at 11:56 am

    It sounds like a rather run of the mill Buffy the Vampire Slayer plot in all honesty.

  • Dave March 8, 2010 at 1:29 am

    I’ve just (as in, ten minutes ago) heard of the novel from the publishers here in SA, and I’ll be getting a copy soon. Sounds interesting for sure, but from the premise it’ll have to be something special – death-row inmates being transformed will probably become old-hat soon, so hopefully this is done in a refreshing way. Looking forward to it nonetheless.

    Thanks for the info!

  • Donna March 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    It’s more about the survival of the human race against ” Virals” ( man made vampire type creatures.} Reminds me of where I am legend th movie, left off if Will Smith and the girl found the other survivors living in a colony somewhere

  • zax April 19, 2010 at 8:57 am
  • […] likely don’t know Justin Cronin by name. I didn’t, when I first caught wind of his absurd, multi-million dollar publishing deal (in place before the book was even done, but the upcoming release of The Passage looks to change […]

  • […] The Cover Art and Synopsis For The Passage (and info about how Cronin’s book deal) […]

  • Waden May 31, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    will this book come to indonesia?