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by John F. Baker -- 2/1/99
Special prosecutor Ken Starr can dish it out, but can he take it? That's the question that will be answered with the publication of To the Point of Knives: The Triumph &Tragedy of Ken Starr, in preparation by a former Washington Post investigative team that has joined again for this purpose. They are Pulitzer-winning Susan Schmidt, who has been covering the presidential investigation for the Post, and Michael Weisskopf, now of Time, who performs the same function there. HarperCollins executive editor David Hershey signed up the pair, beating out nearest rival St. Martin's in an auction conducted by their William Morris agent, Joni Evans. They produced, according to Hershey, "a very compelling proposal" for a book that will combine a study of Starr's life and background with a detailed look at how his investigation has proceeded. Hershey predicts that the book, which he hopes to publish late this year, will create the inevitable headlines.
SMP is by no means out of the running, however. Thomas Dunne has signed up a book that also sounds like a big newsmaker for his imprint. It's to be called The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, and another pair of well-connected authors are at work on it. They are J Conason, a columnist at the New York Observer, and Gene Lyons, formerly of Texas Monthly and Newsweek, who is now an Arkansas newspaper columnist. According to Dunne, their book, which he will publish in the fall, "may well be the All the President's Men of this political drama." Conason and Lyons, said Dunne, claim that a well-financed series of attacks on the First Couple began 10 years ago, long before they were even in the White House. The Wylie Agency represented the authors.

Looks as if it will be a horse race to be first past the post with a true-crime book on the Anne Marie Fahey-Thomas Capano murder case, in which prominent Wilmington, Del., lawyer and former state prosecutor Capano was convicted this month of the murder of his former mistress Fahey, a secretary to the state's governor. Veteran true-crime writer Ann Rule will be doing the book for her longtime Simon &Schuster editor, Fred Hills; both hope to have it out in late fall. Rule told PW she has been following the complex case since 1996. "My readers have been flooding me with clippings on it," she said. "In effect, they pick my books for me." The doyenne of true-crime writers told PW she d s not fear any rivals: "There were three or four ahead of me on the Bundy case, but I won out." Her agent is Joan Foley. The other entrant in the Capano stakes is George Anastasia, an award-winning writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has also followed the case from the beginning. His book, to be called The Summer Wind, will be published and edited by Judith Regan at HarperCollins's Regan Books. Anastasia has written three previous true-crime books, including Blood and Honor about the Mafia. Frank Weimann of the Literary Group International sold the book.

Alan Watt is a Scottish-born Canadian who has been working for the past 10 years as a stand-up comedian, paying his bills with business writing while trying his hand at the occasional screenplay. It was through a Hollywood producer, in fact, that he came to the attention of New York agent Molly Friedrich, who was told Watt had also written a novel and asked to see it. It turned out to be Diamond Dog, a dark, lean thriller told in the voice of a 17-year-old living in a small town in Nevada, whose father is the local sheriff-and the sheriff happens to have covered up a murder. Friedrich told PW she found it so compelling that when she auctioned it recently, she bet the editors who saw it that they wouldn't stop reading before the end. Little, Brown's Sarah Burnes was one who couldn't stop, and when she took it to Warner trade publishing CEO Larry Kirschbaum, he promptly came up with half a million dollars for North American rights to take it off the table. Burnes has already begun editing it for a spring 2000 release, with a Warner paperback to follow.

Jonathan Galassi at Farrar, Straus &Giroux, still riding the huge success of Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full, will probably have another big hit on his hands this fall. He has just received the manuscript of Scott Turow's new thriller, Personal Injuries, and both he and the book's agent describe it in glowing terms. "It's his best book in a long time," said Galassi; agent Gail Hochman of Brandt &Brandt, the author's longtime agent, added: "It has all his best talents on display." As usual, neither Hochman nor Galassi is spelling out financial details, but at this stage, Turow is believed to earn into seven figures per book. Personal Injuries is about a charismatic but sleazy, skirt-chasing lawyer who has prospered by paying off corrupt judges. Unfortunately, he hasn't been reporting all his fees to the IRS. When his crime is discovered, the government offers him a deal: if he will implicate the judges, he will be absolved of his tax fraud.

Warner v-p and executive editor Rick Horgan has signed a collection of tales by Idaho newspaper reporter Dave Johnson, whose method is to call people at random from the phone book and interview them. The result, Everyone Has a Story, was bought preemptively from agent David Black.... The British Royals will be on the griddle again in June when the queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, weds Sophie Rhys-Jones-and Pocket Books publishes Edward Windsor, Royal Enigma by American-in-London journalist and biographer Wendy Leigh. The book, bought from Alex Smithline at David Vigliano, and to be edited by Mitchell Ivers, promises to look into many of the scandalous rumors that have surrounded Edward.
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