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Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 1/31/00

A Vast Seller
In Jeffrey Toobin's latest bestseller, A Vast Conspiracy, the subtitle tells the tale: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. (That would be Bill Clinton, and that's our final answer.) Toobin, a New Yorker staff writer and ABC News legal analyst, is no stranger to controversial topics: his The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, spent six weeks on our list back in 1996. Random House published this Conspiracy on January 11 with a first printing of 125,000, and is "on the verge of going back for a second," said publicity director Tom Perry. Not surprisingly, publicity began off the book page with a January 2 mention in the Drudge Report that a MonicaGate insider was talking with lawyers about taking action against Toobin's book. On the 10th, a Washington Post story identified the culprit as Lucianne Goldberg, who insisted that changes be made in the book's content. According to Perry, "We were grateful for the attention, but not concerned about any legal action." Subsequent publicity -- which includes, noted Perry, an 11-city "media-packed" tour -- has been intense, featuring all the usual suspects: Today, Good Morning America, Larry King Live (twice), NPR's Fresh Air, ABC's Nightline, CNN's Burden of Proof (twice), etc. etc. Finally -- reinforcing the Web's increasing influence -- the publisher noted that "source documents relating to Jones v. Clinton case are available online at www.vastconspiracy.com."

Stickin' to the List
Trotting along the political track -- and moving to #15 on our nonfiction list -- brings us to Stickin': The Case for Loyalty, published on January 18 by Simon & Schuster (first printing: 90,000). Other than author James Carville, we can't think of another political pundit who's had four national bestsellers (but can we phone a friend?); his most recent work, And the Horse He Rode In on, resided on our charts for six weeks in 1998. Promotion to date has included a live Meet the Press interview with Carville and wife Mary Matalin, along with appearances on Imus in the Morning and Today. On deck, said S&S associate publicity director Aileen Boyle, are Larry King Live, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Rivera Live, an Amazon.com interview "and much, much, much more to come."

Hurricane Force
Along with the perennial appeal of a gripping, true-to-life story, the power of movies, movie stars and award shows is being amply demonstrated by the success of Houghton Mifflin's Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter. Former Wall Street Journal staff reporter James S. Hirsch tells the harrowing yet inspiring story of the New Jersey prizefighter who in 1967 was wrongly convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment. The N.J. State Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1976, but Carter was convicted in a second trial and returned to prison the same year. That conviction was overturned in 1985 and three years later all charges against him were finally dropped. Hurricane, the film version of Carter's ordeal, received high praise on its release at the end of last year, and it's been among the top five grossers for the past two weeks. On January 23 Denzel Washington took home the Golden Globe Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Carter; the appearance of "Hurricane" with his celluloid counterpart was certainly one of the evening's emotional highlights. The media blitz for the book has been tremendous, highlighted by a January 12 Oprah appearance by Carter and Washington. Houghton's extensive publicity campaign has taken the form of a barnstorming triumvirate, as Carter, Hirsch and/or Washington have been featured on Today, Entertainment Tonight, NPR's Only a Game and Fresh Air, The Edge with Paula Zahn, C-Span2's About Books, etc. Carter's current lecture tour includes stops at a Charlotte, N.C. Death Penalty Conference and a Pittsburgh Boy Scouts of America/Urban Emphasis Committee along with several colleges and universities. Hirsch's book has appeared on regional bestseller charts, as well as on USA Today's list for last week. Houghton has just returned to press for the sixth time, bringing the in-print total to nearly 89,000; as we go to press, the book is #91 on Amazon.com.

With reporting by Dick Donahue.
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