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A Whole Lotta Stumping Sure to Be Going On at Chicago ABA

May 30, 1996|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A discussion scheduled for the American Booksellers Assn.'s annual convention in mid-June will feature the authors of nine new political books. Besides Eleanor Clift, Richard Reeves, Ed Rollins and others enlisted to speak in Chicago, many more pundits and pols are contributing to the huge crop of titles being published in the weeks ahead.

The excitement of another presidential campaign explains why. In addition, during the past four years President Clinton and his administration have exerted their own special fascination, inspiring the largest subset of the dozens of books at hand.

The action began in recent months with big bestsellers, including James B. Stewart's "Blood Sport," a hard look at the Clintons and Whitewater, and Anonymous' "Primary Colors," a novel based on the president's 1992 campaign. James Carville, a top Clinton strategist four years ago, was on the bestseller list for the second time since then with "We're Right, They're Wrong." Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" and Sen. Bill Bradley's "Time Present, Time Past" also have sold well, as has comedy writer Al Franken's "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot."

"It seems to me that the public has quite a remarkable appetite for political books, especially when you look at the great success of 'Primary Colors' and 'Blood Sport,' " said Peter Osnos, the publisher of Times Books, which is represented by the upcoming "Dirty Little Secrets: The Persistence of Corruption in American Politics" by Larry J. Sabato and Glenn R. Simpson, and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum's "Madhouse: The Private Turmoil of Working for the President."

The Clinton years also figure in Reeves' "Running in Place: How Bill Clinton Disappointed America" and "The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point," in which Haynes Johnson and Washington Post columnist David S. Broder chronicle the president's failed attempt to implement universal health insurance.

Clift, a writer for Newsweek and a combatant on "The McLaughlin Group," and her husband, Tom Brazaitis, the Washington bureau chief for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, offer another look at Washington through a microcosm. Their new book, "War Without Bloodshed," details the relationships between eight players on Capitol Hill and how they practice the art of politics and compromise. In David Mixner's "Stranger Among Friends," which Bantam plans to release on July 15, the influential gay activist will recall the triumph of working on Clinton's 1992 campaign and the disappointments that ensued after his friend took the oath of office.

Presidential candidates traditionally have synthesized their positions in book form, and this summer Bob Dole, the expected Republican nominee, will do so by updating an earlier work. Bob and Elizabeth Dole's "Unlimited Partners: Our American Story," first published during the former senator's 1988 run for president, will be reissued by Simon & Schuster on July 2 in an edition that covers the intervening eight years and outlines the candidate's plans for a Dole administration.

Like the packed lineup of summer movies, the expanding array of political books gives readers lots to choose from. For the publishers, however, there may be too many such books, making it difficult for even the most thoughtful title to break out. Only "Primary Colors" and the books by Stewart, Carville and Franken are listed among the current top 150 sellers in the country ranked by USA Today.

Two books expected to stir considerable interest are Bob Woodward's "The Choice: November 5, 1996," the investigative reporter's inside look at the political combat to date and the campaign strategies of Clinton and Dole, and Ed Rollins' "Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms," a memoir of the Republican consultant's life in politics.

A representative of Simon & Schuster, which has announced a huge printing of 600,000 copies for Woodward's book, says it should be in stores at the end of June. Rollins' effort will be out in July. According to a spokesman for Bantam Doubleday Dell, some of Rollins' clients and foes will be "extremely unhappy campers" after reading the book.

A mysterious book, one we'll call Project X, is being readied by David Brock, an ardent critic of Clinton who writes for the conservative American Spectator. Brock is among the scheduled panelists at next month's booksellers' convention, but his publisher, the Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, plans to withhold a description of his book until July.

Is it about Whitewater? "I can't say anything," said John G. Ekizian, the Free Press' director of publicity. "It will be out toward late summer or early fall."

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Working It Out: The future of Working Woman, Working Mother and Ms. appeared secure Tuesday following an announcement that the magazines are being sold by Lang Communications to MacDonald Communications.

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