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Booknews: Hot New Titles for Spring
Edited by Judy Quinn -- 1/31/00
Crash pubs for Bob Costas's on baseball and J Klein's 'Colors' followup

What about Bob? For people (like us) who track books hyped in catalogues that then disappear, that's been the burning question in the case of Broadway Books, which signed up hot sportscaster Bob Costas to do a book in a rumored mid-six-figure deal several years ago and had trumpeted release of his book in its summer 1998 catalogue.

But now this spring Broadway really is set to play ball; the house has just announced the crash publication of Costas's Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball, which will go on sale April 4, the day after opening day of this year's season.

Broadway says the book is not the same one detailed in the previous catalogue, then a book called Costas on Baseball and to be written with author and Vanity Fair contributor Buzz Bissinger (Friday Night Lights, A Prayer for the City).

That version of the book, now scrapped, was described as "mixing autobiography, vivid storytelling and incisive commentary." The new book, written solely by Costas and completed just after the World Series this past October, will now focus less on personal story and more on "a provocative, no-holds-barred critique of Major League Baseball."

One of Costas's major criticisms involves the extent to which money drives the business, and affects competitiveness. Teams with the biggest bucks, according to Costas, have a lock on getting into post-season play since only those few teams in the largest markets can afford the best players. To highlight that issue, Broadway is supplementing its New York-Los Angeles-St. Louis author tour (all big-market cities) with stops at Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, all second-tier cities with teams struggling under that structure.

Broadway plans major ad/promo and a 275,000-copy first printing, an ambitious outlay perhaps but also a fair one considering it could be argued that Costas already has had a strong at-bat in the book market: He's the narrator of the CDs that accompany J Garner's And the Crowd G s Wild : Relive the Most Celebrated Sporting Events Ever Broadcast, a bestseller for Sourcebooks with 500,000 copies in print. [Watch for a roundup of upcoming sports titles in PW's March 20 issue.]

'Anonymous' Returns

Also with a book coming in April is journalist J Klein, thanks to Dial's just announced decision to rush out The Running Mate, his new political novel and followup to his bestselling Primary Colors, for a April 18 release

John McCain probably will want to get an early copy of this novel by the author formerly known as Anonymous, since, according to publisher's early publicity, it's about "Senator Charlie Martin, a Vietnam War hero and hot political property,"--a character suspiciously like the current presidential candidate (and best-selling author) from Arizona. The story will revolve around Martin's experience of "an election year in this era of spin, marketing and vicious personal assaults," where he is forced to "confront the two biggest challenges of his life: a charismatic political opponent who has no scruples, and a dazzling, difficult woman who loves him, but is appalled by his life's work."

In May 1998, journalist Klein left previous hardcover publisher Random House and signed a new, rumored multi-book deal with Dial v-p and editorial director Susan Kamil, rumored to be in seven figures (Dial has already brought back to print a Klein book on Woody Guthrie).

Another novel, however, has been the most anticipated part of the deal, since 1996's Colors sold a million copies in hardcover, nearly two million in Warner paperback and sparked a frenzy of media speculation as to the identity of the "insider" who wrote the biting Clintonesque tale. The novel also was made into a motion picture, starring John Travolta and Emma Thompson and directed by Mike Nichols.

Bantam Dell spokeswoman Barb Burg told PW that Klein is now nearly finished with his new book , allowing Kamil to commit to the April 18 pub date, which falls opportunely between the presidential primaries and the nominating conventions. The timing also allows Klein, who is covering the election as well as the McCain campaign for the New Yorker, to schedule a tour for the book, although no media plans have yet been set.

Rather surprisingly, there will be no embargo on this book, which will soon go out for serial and other rights. But Burg noted that galleys in advance of a 100,000-copy first printing won't go out until February or March, giving political junkies more time to wonder if Klein is prescient in hinting in his title that McCain will be a Campaign 2000 v-p candidate. And while it's unlikely that the lightning of Colors can strike twice, Klein's book is already creating debate whether its main character is based on McCain--or perhaps Senators Bob Kerrey of Nebraska or John Kerry of Massachusetts, both Vietnam vets as well.

Rowling Recommends

Not all that millennial madness in the media--including the many century's-end book lists--turned out to be mere hype.Thanks to its mention in a December 5, 1999, New York Times Magazine roundup by none other than influential and mega-selling Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling, St. Martin's Press issued a 20,000-copy second printing of Dodie Smith's 1948 novel I Capture the Castle, released in a 11,000-copy Griffin trade paperback reprint this past April.

Rowling, one of a handful of writers asked to choose a book for a millennial time capsule, praised this tale, about a girl's coming-of-age while living in genteel poverty in an English castle, as having "one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain captures the castle in her insightful witty journal entries. The book still draws a stark picture of the limited options available to women in the early part of this century."

Of course, this novel by Smith, perhaps best known for the children's classic The Hundred and One Dalmatians, already has a significant fan base. The reprint was a Book Sense pick, and SMP shipped 1,500 copies a month even before the Rowling recommendation.

But Potter's sorceress helped conjure orders of 5,000 copies in December alone, a surprise gift to SMP just as the company was closing for the holidays.

Great news for the publisher, but the book almost gained a handseller even more powerful than Rowling. Late last year, SMP got a call from Oprah's Book Club producers. Alas, the book could not qualify: there's no author to make a show appearance, since Smith died in 1990.

Kennedy Case Reignites

The news on January 20 that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is now being charged in the 1975 murder of Greenwich, Conn., teenager Martha Moxley is bringing another season of purgatory for the seemingly doomed family of Camelot.

But it's also prompting some heaven-sent sales for publishers with books related to what has been a perennially fascinating case.

Topping the list of authors gaining new media bookings as well as immediate online sales spikes for their books is former O.J. case detective Mark Fuhrman, whose bestselling Murder in Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley? named Skakel as the most likely suspect. The book's publisher, HarperCollins, has returned to press for 100,000 more copies of its updated February 1999 mass market edition. To date, the book has sold about 200,000 in mass market..

Fuhrman's book includes a foreword by Dominick Dunne, whose bestselling novel A Season in Purgatory (Crown, 1993) is a fictional account of the case. Since the indictment of Skakel, Dunne has been called by the media to comment, and Ballantine, which issued a new reprint of his novel in January 1999, pushed out 25,000 more copies to stores last week.

Warner also went back to press on Greenwich hometown reporter Timothy Dumas's A Wealth of Evil: The Story of the Murder of Martha Moxley, its retitled and updated mass market edition of the 1998 Arcade hardcover and Edgar nominee,which was then called Greentown. The reprint brought the edition to 100,000 copies in print.

St. Martin's printed about 50,000 more copies of its June 1995 mass market paperback edition of Jerry Oppenheimer's The Other Mrs. Kennedy, a bestselling biography of Ethel Kennedy (Skakel's aunt), which includes a lengthy account of the Moxley murder. The book sports a new banner: "The Explosive National Bestseller that includes Chilling Details About Ethel Kennedy's Nephew Michael Skakel, The Accused Killer of Martha Moxley."

While these rushed reprints couldn't truly compete with the immediacy of the broadcast media's coverage of the case, most of the publishers PW talked to hinted they might do subsequent updates, either in print or online. And the complications of the newly reactivated case (the now 39-year-old Skakel, might be tried as a juvenile) also could extend shelf life of current books--as well as possibly bring new ones.

Just this past November, a contender for the new books category was, ironically, Skakel himself , who shopped a book proposal entitled Dead Man Talking.The book was to be written with Richard Hoffman, who at the time noted to the Boston Globe, "If I thought Michael was a murderer, I wouldn't do a book with him. I absolutely believe his innocence." Partly due to publisher disinterest if not downright concern over the proposal's sketchiness and also on the advice of Skakel's lawyer (who proclaimed Skakel's innocence when his client surrendered to authorities), the book proposal was taken off the market. Agent David Vigliano, who at that time represented the property, did not return calls for an update as of press time.

Another possible author could be Leonard Levitt, a Newsday reporter who has been following the case since the early 1980s. "I always thought I couldn't do a book before because there was no ending, although I'm not quite sure there is one now," said Levitt, who is represented by agent Laura Dail. Stay tuned.

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