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Rolling Stone's Early Bite of a New Wolfe

November 28, 1996|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The wait for a new novel from Tom Wolfe will have been 10 years by next November, when Farrar, Straus & Giroux brings out the writer's first hardcover fiction since the popular "Bonfire of the Vanities."

Meanwhile, Wolfe is offering an appetizer in the pages of Rolling Stone, where "Bonfire" first appeared as a 27-part "serial novel," and his book publisher has offered a few other details of the much-anticipated work.

"Ambush at Fort Bragg," a tale of sensationalistic TV reporting that debuts in the Dec. 12 issue of Rolling Stone (on sale this week), was spun off by Wolfe from his novel-in-progress.

"He conceived this as a scene in the book and then realized it didn't fit," said FS&G President Roger Straus Sr., who said Wolfe's novel will be called "Chocolate City."

"The novel is set in Atlanta," Straus said. "It's very much like 'Bonfire of the Vanities' because it has a large cast, all ethnic types and it's fast-moving."

When "Bonfire" was published in 1987, minting such terms as "masters of the universe" (to describe the new breed of ruthless Wall Street money men), Newsday critic Dan Cryer called it "an exhilarating tale of high life and low life, with an occasional stop in between, in today's New York City." The book was a big bestseller, generating nearly 4 million copies in paperback alone, but became a poorly received movie starring Tom Hanks as Sherman McCoy.

Undaunted, Hollywood wants another try at Wolfe. The final half of "Ambush at Fort Bragg" will not appear until Rolling Stone's year-end issue, and word from the magazine is that impatient movie people have been clamoring to see the conclusion right away.

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Out of Print: The fall issue of Forbes MediaCritic has become a collector's item, now that Forbes Inc. has decided to discontinue the 3-year-old quarterly as a printed publication. Plans call for the journalism review to reappear in an online form next year.

"We had hoped to get a sponsor and we obviously didn't get one," editor Terry Eastland explained. "And three years was time enough in which to find a sponsor."

According to Elizabeth Ames, a spokeswoman for Forbes Inc., the MediaCritic had a total circulation of 25,000, including paid subscriptions, newsstand sales and in-flight distribution. She called the quarterly an "editorial success," adding that Forbes would redirect resources to other publications.

Forbes ASAP, which has been bagged along with subscription copies of Forbes, is newly available on newsstands. Forbes Inc. also is joining with the Gilder Technology Group to publish the Gilder Technology Report, a newsletter about business trends and technology that bows this month.

Forbes MediaCritic had published 13 issues, analyzing the stories and the politics behind news coverage.

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Afterword: The December issue of Conde Nast House & Garden showcases an elegant Brentwood Park house designed by Paul R. Williams, the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects and one who numbered many Hollywood legends among his clients. The home, built in 1936 for actress ZaSu Pitts, was more recently decorated by Michael Smith.

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

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