'Diplomat' puts Da Vinci Code in the shade

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 July, 2006, 12:00am

He's not quite the diplomat perhaps, but Chris Patten knows a thing or two about selling books. Hong Kong sales of his latest title have eclipsed Dan Brown's publishing sensation The Da Vinci Code since its release in September, and are second only to those of J.K. Rowling's boy wizard Harry Potter.

In town for the book's paperback launch and asked if he was pleased it was outselling The Da Vinci Code, Lord Patten, a Catholic, quipped, 'I think the Vatican must be delighted'.

'The hardback has been huge,' said Dymocks spokesman Matt Steele. 'It's certainly the biggest Hong Kong book since his last, East and West. Given that this one is about Europe and not Hong Kong it's been surprisingly successful. Harry Potter is still somewhat in a league of it's own, but apart from that it is the best-selling book in Hong Kong.'

Attending the Hong Kong Book Fair yesterday to promote Not Quite the Diplomat, Lord Patten packed out a 240-seat auditorium with book fans eager to hear him talk about his love of reading and writing.

Enthusiasts queued for up to an hour afterwards to have their copies signed in scenes that have been repeated throughout the city since his arrival on Thursday. A walkabout in the main book fair was cut short when crowds following him became too large.

Fair-goers made it clear that, despite some sniping in the media, the enthusiasm for Lord Patten at grass-roots level has not waned.

'Chris Patten wasn't just the governor, he is a friend of Hong Kong and the people want to welcome him back. He is quite a guy having the guts to say no to China, unlike Donald Tsang Yam-kuen,' said S.K. Cheung.

Johnny Yeun Shiu-cheung agreed. 'He's a figure in the history of Hong Kong, and maybe has some influence over the political situation here, especially for the election we are now talking about. He should come to Hong Kong often to keep people thinking about democracy here. When he's here the community is interested in that.'

Mr Steele said sales of the hardback version of Not Quite the Diplomat had been so heavy he expected paperback sales to be affected, a phenomenon associated with the Harry Potter series. But Adrian Greenwood of publisher Penguin said paperback sales since the book was released in Hong Kong on June 26 had been impressive, with more than 10,000 sold ahead of his arrival.

'Every single bookshop has reordered, having originally placed big orders to cater for demand during the book fair and the tour. Some of the bigger ones have reordered twice.' Mr Greenwood said Penguin had sold 20,000 copies of Not Quite the Diplomat in hardback in Hong Kong, equalling sales in the UK.

Asked how the tour was going, he said: 'If I were in Hong Kong with Robbie Williams, I don't think we could have been more mobbed.'