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A Novel Beginning

June 07, 1987|ELIZABETH MEHREN

NEW YORK — Twenty-six-year-old Frederick Kaufman was determined to sell his first novel. Trouble was, he hadn't written it. A typesetter who earned his first paycheck at age 5 as an extra in "Krakatoa East of Java," Kaufman began by submitting an "About Men" column to the New York Times Magazine. To ensure it would be noticed in the sea of entries, he set it in exactly the same format used by the magazine. As his identification line, he wrote, "Frederick Kaufman, Yale '82, lives in New York. He is at work on his first novel." One day after the essay was published, he got a call from Carol Lazare, an editor at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Sure, said Kaufman, nervously eyeing his then-idle typewriter, sure he'd be happy to show her 50 pages. Just give him two weeks' time. The upshot was a $7,500 advance and a coming-of-age novel called "42 Days on the Iberian Peninsula With Anis Ladron," just out from HBJ. Kaufman, son of screenwriter and "Mr. Magoo" creator Millard Kaufman and a former resident of Hollywood, is at work on a second novel, although this one "will probably take a couple of years to write." Said Kaufman, "I did the whole thing backwards," though clearly with no regrets.

PERSONAL PROTECTION: Inspired by U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's admonition that "Some personal measures are adequate to protect yourself and others from infection by the AIDS virus. . . . If you jointly decide to have sex, you must protect your partner by always using a rubber (condom) during sexual intercourse," Signet has come out with "The Condom Book." Subtitled "The Essential Guide for Men and Women," the $3.95 paperback purports to offer "an up-to-the-minute consumers' report on condoms" and the practice of "safe sex."

BIG NUMBERS: For the record, the American Book Publishing Record Cumulative 1986 (a mouthful forthcoming from Bowker) reports that more than 42,500 titles were published in cloth and trade paperbacks in this country in 1986.

THE FAITH OF A FOX: So strongly did Random House editor Joe Fox believe in Joseph Heywood's World War II thriller that he worked with Heywood for 14 months and three drafts on the book that was to become "The Berkut"--with no contract. Now the novel, theorizing that Hitler did not die in the bunker, is set for September publication by Random House, and the book is holding a $200,000 paperback floor.

NATURE KIDS: Sierra Club Books and Little, Brown & Co. will produce a new line of children's books, dealing mainly with themes related to nature, in both fiction and nonfiction.

FAST PITCH: Fans of the 168-m.p.h. fastball pitcher George Plimpton introduced in a 1985 spoof in Sports Illustrated will learn more about that character's exploits in a first novel, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch." Due out from Macmillan on June 15, the book will have an 80,000-copy first printing. The paperback floor for the book is said to be $100,000.

DEPARTMENT OF LITERARY OPTIONS: Reasoning that "young women need even more direction and planning ideas to help them make the new life styles of today relevant and workable," Santa Barbara's nonprofit Advocacy Press will publish "More Choices: A Strategic Planning Guide for Mixing Career and Family." The workbook-size guide picks up where "Choices," Advocacy Press' runaway success of four years ago, left off, and bears the bylines of Mindy Bingham and Sandy Stryker. With a July publication date, "More Choices" ($17.45) should hit the bookstores this month, co-author Bingham reports. In the meantime, the book may be ordered from Advocacy Press, P.O. Box 236, Santa Barbara 93102.

ON THE BEACH: Los Angeles literary agent Barbara Markowitz reports that her whirlwind three days in the Big Apple ("swollen feet, achy shin bones from walking 30 to 40 blocks a day carrying heavy manuscripts . . . ") resulted in an easy sale of a collection by L.A. cartoonist Keith Robinson. With offers from four of seven publishers who saw the proposal, the artist and agent chose Harper & Row. "Making It: A Survival Guide for Today" (no publication date as yet) will feature the characters from Robinson's popular strip, "The Beach."

BIG DADDY: Out May 1, Berkley's first-run paperback printing of Bill Cosby's "Fatherhood" numbered 2.1 million copies.

SON OF "CATCH-22": Following publication next year of his new novel, "Poetics," by G. P. Putnam's, Joseph Heller will begin working on a sequel to his wildly successful, now-classic "Catch-22." The book is expected to be ready for publication in 1990 and is part of a two-book deal with Putnam's that's said to be worth $4 million to Heller.

PRIZE-WINNING GHOSTS: To promote "The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories," Oxford University Press has announced an English Ghost Story Writing Contest--with Stephen King as judge. The winner, naturally, will be revealed on Halloween. (Applications are available from bookstores only.)

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