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Clarence Thomas Story Told Twice

August 19, 1994|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; He is a columnist for Newsday

The fall publishing season is already shaping up as a dueling ground between Marlon Brando's autobiography (Random House) and the unauthorized biography of him by Peter Manso (Hyperion).

At the same time, two books about the battle to seat Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court three years ago also will vie for readers' attention with contrasting accounts of what happened.

In "Resurrection," Sen. John C. Danforth, the Missouri Republican who was the jurist's staunchest defender during the confirmation struggle, alleges that law Professor Anita Hill lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee and that her charges of sexual harassment by Thomas were hatched to scuttle the nomination.

According to a review in Publishers Weekly, Danforth "describes Thomas during the confirmation process as a 'lost soul,' sobbing, writhing in agony on the floor, lying in bed in a fetal position, but ultimately pulling himself together through prayer, Bible reading and the support of friends and his wife, Ginni."

The Danforth book will be published by Viking in October, one month before Houghton Mifflin is scheduled to bring out "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas," by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, reporters with the Wall Street Journal.

The publisher's fall catalogue says "Strange Justice" will lay out Thomas' "10-year campaign for the high court and the doubts about him that haunted the White House from the start," as well as how President George Bush "used the vast powers of his office to achieve a partisan victory, no matter what the cost to the country."

Originally scheduled for release in October, "Strange Justice" has been pushed back to Nov. 2 apparently to bolster marketing plans for what the publisher sees as a headline-making read. The Wall Street Journal will run a first-serial excerpt. First printing: a healthy 75,000 copies.

"Resurrection" was delayed until October because that's when the Senate is expected to adjourn, making Danforth available for what Viking describes as a big book tour. The publisher has announced a print run of 50,000 copies.

The drama over the Thomas nomination previously was explored in "Capitol Games: Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, and the Story of a Supreme Court Nomination" (Hyperion, 1992), written by Helen Winternitz and Timothy M. Phelps, and David Brock's "The Real Anita Hill" (Free Press), which was a national bestseller last year.

In fact, "Resurrection" was first acquired by Free Press, which specializes in contemporary affairs, but Danforth followed Publisher Erwin A. Glikes when the latter moved to Viking's parent company, Penguin USA, to start a similar imprint. Glikes died unexpectedly in the spring.

Hill is writing her autobiography for Doubleday.


Fitness Mag for Gay Readers: Urban Fitness is a new book that should not necessarily be judged by its cover, which shows a man jogging on a beach alongside the line, "Looking Good, Feeling Great, with our custom workout program."

Is Urban Fitness honing in on Men's Health turf?

Yes and no, for Urban Fitness is targeting the gay and lesbian market. Turn the cover and there's a two-page ad for Mazda that shows a beautiful car--and two beautiful women embracing in its shine. An ad seeking recruits for the Los Angeles Police Department shows a man in scuba gear and says, "Not All Our Officers Wear the Same Uniform."

The 136-page September/October premiere issue contains pieces on women who bike, in-line skating, the designer drug Ecstasy and a workout regimen designed to tone up pecs and the ticker. Travel and fashion, too.

Urban Fitness, a bimonthly, is based in Seattle. The number for subscriptions is (800) 460-0602.


Gathered 'Round the Computer: Family PC has nothing to do with being politically correct. It's a new magazine for parents wanting to incorporate the personal computer into family life and represents the joint publishing savvy of the Walt Disney Co. (FamilyFun and Disney Adventures) and Ziff-Davis (PC Magazine). It expands on the kind of computer-befriending articles that Family Life also does well.

A back-to-school section sizes up ways that the family PC can assist young scholars. The September/October premiere issue also family-tests all sorts of hardware, giving top marks to the new Macintosh Performa 578. For subscriptions: (800) 413-9749.


War on Film and in Reality: Two decades after the fall of Saigon, enough Vietnam-inspired celluloid has played on American screens to endow an entire book.

Michael Lee Lanning's "Vietnam at the Movies," newly published in trade paperback by Fawcett Columbine, rates and catalogues nearly 400 flicks, from "Apocalypse Now" to the lesser-known "Getting Straight," the protest-on-campus film (1970) that starred Elliott Gould as a world-weary grad student and offered early performances by Candice Bergen and Harrison Ford.

Lanning, who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 20 years in the Army, has authored other books on the Vietnam experience.


Speaking of War: Vintage Books has published an unusual paperback that is no less compelling for its dry text. "The Laws of War" lays out the international agreements that govern armed conflict.

Although noting that "all is not fair in love and war," editors Chris T. Antoniou and W. Michael Reisman put the various accords signed at The Hague, Geneva and elsewhere in modern context via references to Operation Desert Storm, the Bosnian mess and other hostilities.

* Paul D. Colford's column is published Fridays.

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