Canadian writer's thriller named bestselling paperback in Britain

Linwood Barclay's No Time for Goodbye was Britain's bestselling paperback novel in 2008.

Linwood Barclay's No Time for Goodbye was Britain's bestselling paperback novel in 2008, beating out Patricial Cornwell's Book of the Dead and Maeve Binchy's This Year It Will Be Different, among others.

The former Toronto Star humour columnist's first stand-alone thriller sold 636,105 copies in Britain and 1.5 million worldwide, according to the London Sunday Times in its year-end bestseller lists published last Sunday.

"And at least five per cent of sales aren't recorded, so we're really talking about at least 670,000 sold in Britain," Barclay told CBC News on Thursday from his home in Burlington, Ont.

"It still doesn't seem real," he added. "I never expect this to happen again."

The novel was first published in hardcover in Germany by Ullstein in 2007, by Bantam Books later that year in North America and by Orion in Britain in January 2008.  

The story is about a teenage girl who wakes up one day to find her entire family has vanished. Years later, as an adult, she tries to find out what happened to them.

"I think it taps into a primal fear about being abandoned," Barclay said. "It's a very fast, fun read."

The book has been translated into nearly two dozen languages and about 500,000 sales were in Germany, Barclay added.

A popular 'summer read'

In June, No Time for Goodbye was one of eight "summer reads" of The Richard & Judy Book Club. The British equivalent of Oprah's Book Club, the club nominates about 500 books a year and is influential in generating sales.

To take advantage of being on the book club's shortlist, Orion moved the paperback publication forward and it came out later that month. It was voted Richard & Judy's winning book by readers in September.

Barclay's latest stand-alone thriller, Too Close to Home, was released in hardcover in September.

Barclay left the Toronto Star last year to focus on writing fiction.

He has also written four non-fiction books, and the four-novel Zack Walker mystery series.

Despite a print run of 3.5 million copies and reports of being sold out at booksellers, J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was published in early December, didn't make the Sunday Times' hardcover fiction short list.

"Maybe that's because it is a book of short stories, rather than a novel," Barclay said, "or because it's considered chilldren's fiction."