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Is Serious Interest in Simpson Case Waning?


For months after the O.J. Simpson case burst into the national consciousness, the public's curiosity remained hot enough to drive sales of three instant paperbacks about the slayings, a friend's memoir about the late Nicole Brown Simpson and a book by the defendant himself.

As the Simpson trial drones on, the books keep coming, but their retail fates illustrate the pitfalls of being tied to a media-saturated story.

Case in point: Marc Eliot's "Kato Kaelin: The Whole Truth." Only a month after Harper Paperbacks broke format to bring out the book about Simpson's house guest as a hardcover, the publisher has implemented steep discounting to help recoup its $500,000 outlay for the manuscript and to move its supremely confident printing of 800,000 copies. Harper is urging stores to sell the $20 book at half price. Yes, the book made the New York Times' national bestseller list, but a price cut that deep suggests the publisher printed far too many copies.

"The trial has recently gone through a long period of dry and scientific information," said Geoff Hannell, Harper Paperbacks' publisher. "We feel it is about to take a more interesting turn, and the discount is a proactive move toward maintaining the success of the book."

Pinnacle Books, which published a quickie paperback about the murder case last summer that went on to sell about 600,000 copies, reports a slower response to Clifford L. Lindecker's more recent "Marcia Clark: Her Private Trials and Public Triumphs." Paperback copies in print: 300,000.

"There was interest in the custody battle [with her estranged husband], but that shut down real fast," said Paul Dinas, Pinnacle's executive editor. "Unfortunately, what also happened is that the book came out when the trial was at its most boring."

The latest entry in the Simpson genre, Michael Knox's "The Private Diary of an O.J. Juror," is given a six-page launch in this week's People magazine, and its tales from inside and outside the jury box have been mined by newspapers and broadcasters around the country. Dove Books, based in Beverly Hills, is betting that Knox will have more than 15 minutes of fame by distributing a whopping 400,000 copies.

Bucking the trial doldrums is "O.J.'s Legal Pad," a spoof fabricated on lined yellow paper by Henry Beard, John Boswell and Ron Barrett. It purports to show Simpson's courtroom jottings. ("My name is O.J. and I'm here to say/I never went to Bundy on that Sunday.") Rush Limbaugh is among those who have laughed out loud at the $8.95 gimmick, published early last month by Villard, which has 275,000 copies in circulation and spent five weeks on the New York Times' bestseller list.

"The stuff coming out now is all quirky," said Dinas, the Pinnacle editor, who cited "O.J.'s Legal Pad" as the start of a trend away from serious interest in the case. Meanwhile, Dinas is turning down fringe ideas, including a proposed guide to the sidebar discussions held at Judge Lance Ito's bench and the memoir of someone who knew Simpson in college.

Still to be heard from is the ex-wife of defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. In one of the odder pairings in publishing, Barbara Cochran Berry's "Life After Johnnie Cochran" will be brought out in October by Basic Books, a brainy imprint of HarperCollins whose other fall offerings include books on Freud, foreign policy and multiculturalism.

"We looked at it, debated it and decided there were interesting issues here," said Kermit Hummel, Basic Books' president and publisher. "In the aftermath of the O.J. Simpson trial, the question will be: What's the fate of women in all this?"

Meanwhile, with an announced first printing of 75,000 copies on the line and a 10-city author tour planned, a recent trade ad put a tabloid spin on the goods: "The ex-wife . . . reveals why she put up with philandering, physical abuse, mind games, put-downs, and even a long-term white mistress before finally walking away from fame and fortune to find herself."


TV Guide's Musical Chairs: A high-profile game of musical chairs is being played this week at TV Guide, the newsstand giant and cash cow of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Thursday, it was announced that Editor in Chief Anthea Disney is leaving to become editor in chief worldwide of Murdoch's Delphi Internet Services Corp., where she will develop content for an expanded on-line service being unveiled in the fall.

Her successor is Steven Reddicliffe, a former associate of Disney who is now editor in chief of Parenting. In addition, TV Guide's second-in-command, Executive Editor Barry Golson, has been named editor in chief for magazine development and new media for Murdoch's News America Publishing Inc.

* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His column is published Fridays.

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