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Thursday, September 23, 2010 9:48 am
Book Trailer Thursday: The Empire Strikes Back vs. Ruth by Lake and Prairie
Posted by: Daniel Kraus

Two books that could not be more different: one, a glossy, behind-the-scenes story of one of the biggest sci-fi films ever made; the other, a small-publisher effort on a topic of local interest. But both use the same trailer strategy, positing their author as a hard worker deserving of your attention. Which one reigns supreme? Let’s find out.

The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Del Ray, 2010) sells itself; it’s packed with rare candids from the set, lost art concepts, creature design, and related esoterica that make geeks go weak in the knees. The trailer is a slick, TV-documentary-style affair, featuring well-lit interviews with heavyweights including George Lucas, not to mention the best B-roll that money can buy.

Most interesting to me, though, are the shots of author J. W. Rinzler walking through the LucasFilm archives, opening boxes and whatnot. “Jonathan became our own in-house Indiana Jones,” one interviewee says. The fact that footage of this even exists makes it likely that this video was in the planning stages all along.

In the other corner is the underdog: Ruth By Lake and Prairie (Gnu Ventures, 2006), a young-adult historical tale in the Little House mold, tracing the founding of Naperville. It’s telling that the trailer does not specify which state Naperville is in; clearly, this is a book of regional interest. Author Katharine Kendzy Gingold knows this and embraces it, and the second half of the video is more or less a resume, showing her at work (“long-forgotten facts uncovered over months of research”), holding the book’s award certificate from the Illinois State Historical Society, and featuring a blurb by none other than the mayor of Naperville.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the approach of either of these trailers. If your book involves history, research is part of the deal. We expect it; nay, demand it. Somehow, I can’t get too jazzed about a writer diving into the (extremely well organized) LucasFilm stacks and miraculously emerging alive. However, I rather like Gingold’s transparency: she knows her book’s audience and she’s going after it, and if this video doesn’t win her a few school appearances, then Naperville’s gone nuts.

Verdict: It’s Buster Douglas-defeats-Tyson all over again! The little girl from the prairie topples the evil empire! Cue celebratory Ewok yub-yub song.

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