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Four New Books About Bush in the Running

July 07, 1999|PAUL D. COLFORD | NEWSDAY

The news last week that George W. Bush amassed a record $36 million in campaign contributions during the first half of the year alone has provided welcome assurance to a few publishers that his will be a long-distance run for the presidency. After all, Bush's expected staying power will raise the profile of three books about the Texas governor that are under contract and a fourth title being prepared by the candidate himself.

"First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty," written by Dallas Morning News reporter Bill Minutaglio, will arrive in September from the Times Books division of Random House. Minutaglio had access to dozens of individuals close to Bush, "as well as the governor himself," the publisher promises.

On Nov. 17, Bush's own "A Charge to Keep"--part autobiography and part reflection on campaign issues--will be published by William Morrow & Co. in a confident first printing of 250,000 copies. It's being written with Mickey Herskowitz, who has collaborated on books by Dan Rather and others, and shows yet again that a serious presidential candidate sooner or later makes his case in a book of his own.

Next up will be "W: The Rise, Fall and Rise of the Bush Dynasty," which Elizabeth Mitchell, a former executive editor of George magazine, is writing for Hyperion. The publisher announced the book last week and said that it will appear in January.

A month later, Molly Ivins, the frequently biting and more often hilarious political columnist based at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, will be out with "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" from Random House. Ivins had a big bestseller eight years ago, "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?," in which she declared: "I believe politics is the finest form of entertainment in the state of Texas: better than the zoo, better than the circus, rougher than football, and even more aesthetically satisfying than baseball."

Reached at home the other day, Ivins said: "The myth of inevitability about George W. Bush is one of the most amazing political phenomena in a long time."

She added: "Poor George Bush. He's been blown up like a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade already so that he can't possibly live up to expectations. . . .

"My book will be about his public record. No sex, no drugs, no rock 'n' roll . . . but tort reform. It's a book about Texas politics, so it's bound to be funny."

Summer Turns Chilly: Summer in the book business traditionally is a lazy season. A lot of agents hold off on submitting book proposals until after Labor Day.

But this is a summer of anxious uncertainty for some of those who work in the larger companies being rumbled by plans for further consolidation or talk of more to follow.

First came word on June 17 that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the owner of HarperCollins Publishers, was acquiring the Hearst Book Group, which includes William Morrow & Co. and Avon Books, for a sum believed to be around $170 million. Until HarperCollins management gives clearer signals about its plans for Morrow and Avon--for example, what degree of editorial autonomy the two imprints may have--employees at both shops will be sweating over more than New York's wicked heat.

Days after the HarperCollins-Hearst deal was announced, the New York Times and Reuters reported that Time Warner Inc., the owner of Warner Books and Little, Brown and Co., and Viacom Inc., the parent of Simon & Schuster, were discussing a joint venture involving their publishing operations. Talk of a possible deal comes a year after Viacom broke off and sold Simon & Schuster's educational-publishing units and suggests that the media giant is looking for greater cost efficiency in its remaining consumer-publishing imprints by sharing operational expenses with Time Warner. Again, though, word of the discussions has unsettled those who fear being the odd man out if a reorganization takes place.

Meanwhile, the acquisition that rocked the book business--Bertelsmann's purchase of Random House from the Newhouse family in June 1998 created the world's largest English-language publisher--has resulted recently in the linking of comparable divisions within the vast company into four new publishing groups. They include the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, which combines Bantam Books and Dell Publishing, and the Vintage Anchor Publishing Division, which combines two trade-paperback imprints. And this reorganization under "unified managements," to use the company's term, has led to the departure of certain executives who had been part of previously separate management structures.

Paul Colford's e-mail address is paul.colford@newsday.com.

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