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Royal Tell-Alls to Spice Up Booksellers' Shelves

October 14, 1994|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; He is a columnist for Newsday

It was quiet there for a while on the royal watch. Except for Prince Charles' admission to a TV interviewer that indeed he had been unfaithful to Princess Diana, the two appeared to be muddling through their separation without headlines.

Comes the fall, however, and a new round of charges involving the House of Windsor has re-energized the tabloids and the publishing industry. More than a year after five books mined the ruins of Charles' and Diana's marriage for color and dish, four new titles promise to expose infidelity on both sides. And confident American booksellers are preparing for a bestseller response from their customers to at least two of the four.

After all, the first of the lot, Anna Pasternak's "Princess in Love" (Dutton), will arrive in stores Monday on a tall wave of sales in Britain and front-page coverage in New York. This is the breathy tale of how Di's former riding instructor, James Hewitt, allegedly pursued a steamy, clandestine affair with the princess (and now cashes in, the cad). First printing: 250,000 copies.

Early next month, it will be joined on shelves by "Diana: Her New Life" (Simon & Schuster), a sequel from Andrew Morton, whose 1992 "Diana: Her True Story" ranks as the Everest of the genre, having sold 600,000 copies in hardcover. The august Times of London plans to run a two-part serial from the book, and People magazine has scheduled an excerpt for the issue that goes on sale Nov. 7. First printing: 285,000 copies.

Also in the pipeline are two books with a similar focus: Christopher Wilson's "A Greater Love: Prince Charles' Twenty-Year Affair with Camilla Parker Bowles" (Morrow) and Caroline Graham's "Camilla: The King's Mistress" (Contemporary).

"It's amazing to see this story every time you turn on the TV or open a magazine," said Bob Wietrack, senior merchandise manager of Barnes & Noble Inc. "The interest never seems to go away."

Considering there are still other Windsor books published in Britain but not (so far) in America, it boggles credibility that there could be enough good palace sources to go around. As the Independent, a British newspaper, put it: "No story has been more subject to misinformation, disinformation, exaggeration and simple plain error than that of the Royal Family."

Nevertheless, a representative for Waldenbooks said this week that the country's largest bookstore chain expects Hewitt's purported kiss-and-tell and Morton's sequel "to be hot." Both books also have been ordered in what was described as bestseller quantities by the Barnes & Noble chain.

An abundance of royal titles does not necessarily shortchange the sales of individual books. Morton's "Diana: Her True Story" and two other books became national bestsellers in 1992. Three of the five released in spring 1993 did "very well" at Waldenbooks, which declined to be more specific.

"But the books that came out last year did not have the media driving them as they do this time," Wietrack said. "There's a lot more happening out there in the news) and this kind of book is so tied to the media."

Which is why Random House plans to redirect bookseller attention to a novel published four months ago, Peter Lefcourt's "Di and I," a funny valentine in which the princess falls in love with a Hollywood screenwriter and ends up running a McDonald's restaurant with him in Rancho Cucamonga.

You never know.


On the Racks: Business Week has turned 65 years old by unveiling a modest redesign throughout the mag and a bigger, bolder logo on the cover. Editor in Chief Stephen B. Shepard also uses the occasion to announce that the Goliath of biz mags--estimated ad revenues through September of $154.6 million are up 10.5% compared to the first nine months of last year--is expanding international coverage by 25%. . . .

Money for Kids is a nonprofit giveaway designed to help economically disadvantaged youngsters 8 to 14 make wise decisions. Games, cutouts and celebrity interviews (St. John's University basketball star Felipe Lopez describes emigrating from the Dominican Republic) are part of the mix. Created by Money magazine and sponsored by Janus Funds, Money for Kids may be obtained by writing Janus at Box 173375, Denver, Colo. 80217-3375. . . .

A celebrity, not a place, adorns the November cover of Architectural Digest. Candice Bergen shows off her countrified home in a Beverly Hills canyon.

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

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