How many Books are inspired by Television Commercials?

The popular Yellow Pages television commercial posted below aired in the UK in 1983.  Actor Norman Lumsden portrays JR Hartley, a man trying to locate a bookstore that stocks a book he wrote.

A 27 September 2009 article in The Telegraph, “Title Deed: How the Book got its Name,” by Gary Dexter, explains how the commercial led to a series of actual books authored by Michael Russel and published under the fictional Hartley’s name:

Fly Fishing was at first just a title: it appeared in the famous Yellow Pages ad in which an old man, one JR Hartley, makes telephone calls to bookshops asking for a book of that name and, after much searching, finally finds it and announces himself as its author. Then the sports-writer Roddy Bloomfield sensed an opportunity. He contacted a bona fide fly-fisherman, Michael Russell, to write the book of the ad, and in Christmas 1991 Fly Fishing by JR Hartley shifted an eye-watering 130,000 copies in hardback. It was followed by two sequels, JR Hartley Casts Again and Golfing by JR Hartley. Two other examples of ‘fictional’ titles spawning real books are L Sprague de Camp’s Necronomicon, drawn from the non-existent book by HP Lovecraft, and Philip José Farmer’s Venus on the Half-Shell, a realization of a fictional work by Kilgore Trout (himself the fictional creation of Kurt Vonnegut).

Despite the unusual source of inspiration for the book, Russel’s Fly Fishing, is really a great read. I recommend it very highly to fly fishers on non-fishers alike. Incidentally, the book and its sequels were best sellers.  The out-of-print Fly Fishing is now a collectible title.

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