Ballatine Books is the center of the biggest story about New York's publishing industry. This story has even higher stakes than the strike happening at Simon and Schuster. On March 23, 2023, they are set to publish Argylle, the debut book from Elly Conway.
The plot revolves around "a troubled agent with a tarnished past who may just have the skills to take on one of the most powerful men in the world," The AV Club reports. According to a report from Deadline, it's such an exciting plot that Apple paid $200 million for the rights to make the movie. While there is hope that this could be a franchise, the rights only allow for one movie to be made.
A deal like this is very unusual in the publishing industry. Typically, a first-time author would get a six-figure movie deal, which is on the high end.
What sets this book apart from the thousands of other books released is how little information is available on it. There is an Amazon page for it with some plot details and the publisher's information. However, the site is for the United Kingdom.
It is also worth noting that the Amazon link came from the Penguin Random House website.
Another confusing piece of the puzzle is that there is very little information on the author, Elly (sometimes spelled Ellie) Conway. The Amazon and publisher pages both have a one-sentence bio for her. Which gives no further insight into who she is or what prompted such a massive deal for a first-time author.
Intrigue Book Movie
With as little that is known about the book and the author, the movie has generated a lot of headlines. It started with Apple securing the rights to make the film. Then an all-star cast was announced.
Deadline reported that the actors include; Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bryan Cranston, and in her big screen debut, Dua Lipa. It's a studio executive's dream lineup of stars; each one is more marketable than the last. It ensures that there will be a lot of press surrounding the film upon release.
Adding to the allure of the film is that it is set to be directed by Matthew Vaughn. He is best known as the director of The Kingsman franchise. His work is acclaimed and has been nominated for numerous awards over the years.
When Vaughn was asked about the mega-deal that was made for the rights to the book, he tried to keep things simple. He told The Hollywood Reporter: "When I read this early draft manuscript I felt it was the most incredible and original spy franchise since Ian Fleming's books of the '50s..."
It is an incredible pitch.
However, the fact that the New York-based publishing company had pushed back the release date by more than two months and isn't offering any information on the book or author is causing some to wonder what's going on.
Many wonder why the publisher and Apple aren't releasing any information about what is expected to be a major franchise for both companies.
As the story has hit the media, theories have begun percolating about the shroud of secrecy around Elly Conway and the book. They question why there isn't more information about both and why everything seems to be based in Europe but has a mostly American cast.
Some Reddit users believe there's a simple explanation for everything. They believe the author is using a pen name because they are a celebrity and want to test the waters of their talent without relying on their pre-established fame.
They point to Bryce Dallas Howard as a likely culprit. The argument is that she comes from a Hollywood family and would have connections to secure huge deals. She would also have enough pull to get A-list actors to join the movie and entice Vaughn to direct.
Further fueling that theory is that a Bryce Dallas Howard fan account is one of the only followers of Elly Conway's Instagram.
Others think that it might be someone closer to Vaughn. This group believes the most logical guess is Jane Goldman, the screenwriter of The Kingsman. The two have a working relationship and seem to enjoy creating films together.
It would explain Vaugh's enthusiastic response to the first draft. Goldman being the creative force behind the movie and book, would also explain the vast amount of money being invested in it.
Of course, there is a third group that argues Occam's Razor. This contingent says that the reason Apple invested $200 million and why there's not a lot of information about Conway is because she's an unknown author. The pitch was amazing, and $200 million is pocket change for a company like Apple that is worth more than a trillion dollars.
Ballantine Books, Apple, and Vaughn did not respond to requests for comment.