Henno Lohmeyer, publisher of United Publishers Group, an 18-month-old, Norwalk, Conn.-based subsidiary of a privately held German real estate/insurance conglomerate, obviously has no problem with controversy. Just last month, he acquired the U.S. rights to Wensley Clarkson's Tom Cruise Unauthorized (published in 1994 in the U.K. by John Blake Publishing) -- despite its focus on that most litigious of subjects, Scientology. Lohmeyer plans to publish the Cruise bio in January, the same month he'll bring out the U.S. edition of Martin McGartland's Fifty Dead Men Walking (published this past April by Blake), the first-person account by a British secret agent who worked undercover inside the IRA that is already a bestseller in England.

But UPG's most-talked-about move is its cooperative publishing agreement with Barney Rosset, the Grove Press founder well known for publishing controversial books by the likes of D.H. Lawrence and Henry Miller and, more recently, for the line of erotic fiction he continues to publish in the long wake of losing control of Grove. Even UPG's own press materials describe Grove as "the most influential, innovative, audacious, pugnacious, controversial and finally self-destructive publishing concern in the United States." Rosset will work from his New York office with co-editor Gabriel Morgan to launch UPG's new Rosset-Morgan Books imprint, and Lohmeyer plans to give him free reign. "You don't tell a man like Barney Rosset what to do," he said.

Lohmeyer's plan for UPG is actually quite like what Rosset and other small press partners once imagined when they made an unsuccessful bid to buy back Grove (the house instead merged with Atlantic Monthly Press): to build a strength-in-numbers collection of boutique imprints.

Peter Leers Group, the Germany-based concern that owns UPG, has invested "several million" already in its "vision of starting a publishing concern, but not from scratch," said Lohmeyer. First incorporated in December 1996, UPG the same month bought Eagle Publishing Corp. and its main asset, Hastings House, known for its Daytrips travel guides, and retained former owner Hy Steirman as editor-in-chief. UPG also picked up PGW as its distributor.

In January, UPG established a new division, Gates &Bridges, to provide "gates to new worlds... bridges between continents" and to be personally supervised by Lohmeyer. This was followed by the agreement with Rosset, who also brings with him the Foxrock imprint and a backlist of titles by Samuel Beckett, Kenzaburo and Marguerite Duras, although he'll operate his erotica publishing house, Blue Moon Books, separate from UPG. In March, UPG acquired Washington, D.C.-based Judd Publishing, with editor-in-chief Ruina W. Judd set to develop mainly illustrated books for the UPG collection.

Lohmeyer hopes to eventually have a list of 40-50 books a year, and is starting out with such titles as Land of the Ascending Dragon/Rediscovering Vietnam, a photo essay that will be published by Gates &Bridges in September, as well as newly revamped Daytrips guides from Hastings House. Rosset is bringing out this fall In Broken Wigwag, a first novel by Suchi Asano; Watching, a new book by The Little Brothers of St. Mortimer author John Fergus Ryan; and Power Game, a novel by Perry Henzel, director/creator of the cult classic reggae film The Harder They Come.