HarperCollins has confirmed the existence of the book Underboss, the story of Gotti informant Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, written by bestselling author Peter Maas (The Valachi Papers; Serpico). The book, originally acquired by HarperCollins Ltd. in the U.K., will have a worldwide publication date of April 16 and a simultaneous HarperAudio. Gravano, who confessed to 19 murders as part of his deal with federal prosecutors to testify against various organized crime figures, including reputed mob boss John Gotti, gave "extensive access" to Maas in the writing of the book, the publisher confirmed.

HarperCollins sales reps are now informing U.S. accounts about the book, which sources say will likely have a first printing here of around 200,000. Already generating a lot of publicity -- Maas spoke exclusively to the New York Daily News about the book -- Underboss will also get a boost from a Diane Sawyer interview with Gravano, to air soon on ABC.

HarperCollins's acknowledgment of the book came just at the 30-day deadline set forth in a January 27 letter sent to the publisher by the State of New York's Crime Victims Board. The organization felt the book might fall under the domain of New York's "Son of Sam" Law, which prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes. HarperCollins spokesperson Ginger Curwen told PW that the house shared details of the contract with the Crime Victims Board on February 27 "to clear up the misconception that Gravano was the author of this book." She also stated that HarperCollins has no agreement with Gravano to share in the proceeds of the book.

Board counsel Everett Mayhew told PW he "wasn't placated" by what HarperCollins submitted -- the contract for the book from HarperCollins U.K. -- and is seeking further documentaion.

The pursuit of Underboss is apparently a way for the Crime Victims Board to test a Son of Sam law put in place after a Supreme Court ruling, in a case that involved mob informant Henry Hill's financial participation in Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy, struck down a prior one, in 1992.