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Civil Is Publishing's Favorite War

May 01, 1988|SONJA BOLLE

Warner Books has won the rights to publish the sequel to "Gone With the Wind" with a bid of $4.9 million. According to Publishers Weekly, participants in the auction for the cloth and paper rights read the first chapters of the unfinished manuscript in secrecy in the offices of the William Morris Agency, which had chosen Virginian Alexandra Ripley as author from among a dozen candidates. The manuscript is due to be finished next year and published in 1990. Industry experts estimate that the novel, which will probably run 700 pages and be priced at more than $25, will have to sell at least 250,000 copies in cloth and 3 million in paper to earn back the purchase price.

GLORY GLORY HALLELUJAH! At the other end of the Civil War publishing spectrum, Oxford University Press has sold paper rights for James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" to Ballantine Books for $504,000--not a record in the paperback world, but an astonishing price for a university press title to command. McPherson's book, which has been on national cloth best-seller lists since its publication in February, is the second volume in a projected 12- to 15-book series, "The Oxford History of the United States."

THE SMALL PRESS SCENE: B. Dalton Bookseller has created consternation in the small press community by announcing that it will no longer order directly from companies with which it does less than $100,000 in business annually. Dalton officials point out that this does not mean that the nation's second-largest bookselling chain will stop carrying books from the smaller presses; it means Dalton will order their titles only if they are offered through distribution arrangements with a larger house or through a jobber. The decision is expected to affect several hundred independent presses. Small publishers maintain that their works will have less chance for national exposure in the chain's 780 outlets; the retailer, on the other hand, claims that the cost of doing business with the large number of small suppliers is prohibitive.

The cost of distribution is currently one of the most aggravated issues in the book business. Dalton's move is reminiscent of Avon Books' decision a few years ago to stop selling directly to small booksellers, who were then directed to make their purchases through jobbers. Also on the small press scene, Small Press magazine publisher Alan Meckler plans to make his bimonthly publication mainly a book review medium for titles from independent presses. The scheduled changes will double the current 50 reviews in each issue and add thematic roundups, such as the cookbook special scheduled for the July/August issue. Meckler hopes to win wider support for the magazine among small presses--only a small percentage of which manage to attract review attention in the media--and among bookstores, libraries and others who want to keep abreast of what the independent presses are publishing.

FROM BENCH TO BOOKSHELF: Former federal judge Robert H. Bork has contracted to write a book on the state of the American legal and judicial system to appear in the spring of 1989 with The Free Press/Macmillan. Bork's editor will be Free Press president and publisher Erwin Glikes, who also published Bork's first book, "The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War With Itself," in 1978.

ZZZZ BEST BOOK: Barry Minkow, the Los Angeles whiz-kid who turned his carpet-cleaning business into a $211-million public company, will be the subject of "Wonder Boy," a book from Charles Scribner's Sons to be published in 1989. Author Daniel Akst wrote the L.A. Times and Wall Street Journal stories exposing Minkow, whose company, ZZZZ Best, was laundering money; Minkow himself, Akst reported, committed credit card fraud totaling more than $100,000.

PULPIT VS. PORN: The recent (unsuccessful) libel suit brought by televangelist Jerry Falwell against Hustler magazine's Larry Flynt serves as subject for a November book from St. Martin's Press. In "Falwell vs. Flynt," law professor Rodney Smolla uses the case--he calls it "a real only-in-America story"--to comment on the interpretation of First Amendment rights.

TURNING EAST: Travel writer Bruce Chatwin, author of "In Patagonia" and "The Songlines," has signed a two-book contract with Viking. The first book, "Utz," will be a novel based, as all Chatwin's works are, on his travel experiences. Due out in January, 1989, "Utz" tells the story of a Prague art dealer who has money in the West but whose art collection remains in the East. The second title, "What Am I Doing Here?" is a collection of essays covering the author's travels to Russia, China, Afghanistan, Africa and America and narrating his encounters with such figures as Andre Malraux, Indira Gandhi and Nadezhda Mandelstam.

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