Judith Regan and her eponymous imprint should win a prize. I'm not just talking about the Best Fiction National Book Award they should have gotten last week for Jess Walter's excellent 9/11 novel, The Zero. I'm talking about something even bigger: call it the Most Brazen Publisher award.

Think about it: who else has the combination of nerve, foresight and soullessness it takes to publish a book by O.J. Simpson in which the former sports star turned social pariah has the gall to speculate on "if I did it," the "it" being the brutal 1994 murder of his estranged wife and her friend. I mean, many publishers court controversy—Crown and Ann Coulter, for example—but they, at least, can cloak themselves in the mantle of free speech. But to give O.J. Simpson a book contract is outrageous: if the book, and the accompanying TV interview on—how shocking!—the Fox network (owned by Regan's parent company, News Corp.) is indeed a "confession," as Regan contends, why should we be expected to pay for it? O.J. had his chance to speak freely 11 years ago—on the witness stand.

But Regan, with her inimitable publishing sense, has chosen this moment—just as the holiday book-buying season begins—to publish what even she has to realize is a disgrace. But then, publishing, Regan-style, is nothing if not a business. This is an imprint, after all, that produced three, count 'em, three books about the Scott Petersen trial, all of which managed to land on the bestseller lists. Never mind that it was Regan Books that published the account by Petersen's mistress, Amber Frey, who was repped by California attorney and champion-of-the-wronged-woman Gloria Allred—the same Gloria Allred who yesterday lambasted Simpson's project as being exploitive. Publishing, like politics, makes strange bedfellows indeed.

The reaction from Regan's colleagues and competitors was predictably one of outrage. "Don't even get me started," said one executive who held up her hands in horror when I asked for her opinion on the book. "Maybe she has finally jumped the shark," said another. Surely, Regan would reply—as do mothers everywhere when another child disses their kid—that they're simply jealous. But while I don't think I'm naïve about the needs of and pressures on publishers, I refuse to believe it: even if—and here's a scary thought—the book actually does well, sells through, hits the bestseller lists—I can't imagine any other publishers envying such a success. Yes, publishers routinely claim they only publish trashy books to finance the publication of more worthy material, but I can't imagine that theory makes a sentient person like Jess Walter feel a whole lot better today.

But maybe we misjudge Regan. Maybe she is, as she has implied, a champion of women, especially the downtrodden, abused or weak, and this is her way of finding justice for Nicole Brown Simpson. If the book succeeds, O.J. will make money—much of it no doubt destined for the victims' families, who are still owed $30+ million. So maybe Regan's heart is in the right place after all.

Then again, maybe not.

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