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If it's published

The Goldman family may have a harder time finding a publisher than it had in buying rights to O.J. Simpson's book.

July 06, 2007|Scott Timberg | Times Staff Writer

The notorious ghost-written O.J. Simpson book, "If I Did It," left for dead after it sparked the closing of Judith Regan's publishing imprint and a PR disaster for parent company HarperCollins, seemed to have a shot at a second life earlier this week when the family of the slain Ronald Lyle Goldman purchased the book from a court-appointed bankruptcy trust. They then announced their intention of publishing it under the title "Confessions of a Double Murderer." But even if any further legal hurdles are cleared, finding a publisher for the book will prove difficult, players in the book trade said.

For one thing, although virtually all of the copies that had been printed by ReganBooks were confiscated, one sold on EBay in January, and last month the entire text was leaked on the Internet, where it's been intermittently available.

Because of the bankruptcy purchase, the family of Goldman, who was killed in 1994 with Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, owns rights to the story, as well as to the former football star's likeness, name and movie and media rights in connection with the book.

But getting a publisher on board will not be easy. "I can't imagine any reputable publisher touching that kind of manuscript with a 10-foot pole," said one representative of a major publishing house, who asked for anonymity because of the distasteful nature of the project. "Certainly not anybody that I'd want to sit down and have a drink with. The whole thing is a mess, it was a mess from the beginning.... Maybe there's some small publisher out there who thinks they could turn a quick profit on this because of all the notoriety.... But not one of the major publishing houses."

Another big publishing house representative, who also would not speak for attribution, said it was highly unlikely, but not entirely unimaginable, that a publisher would bite: "I never say never, but I don't believe any of us in the big publishing houses are that hungry or desperate. But who knows? Sometimes even reputable publishers commit to activities of questionable repute -- though it would happen with a less well-known house, I'd guess. There might be some sale of such a book, as a bizarre curiosity. But I can't believe that it would be terribly extensive or successful."

Still, as San Diego-based literary agent Sandra Dijkstra pointed out, a smaller publisher could justify the project as a way to help the Goldman family, who have never collected on the civil wrongful death case, now totaling more than $33 million, that they won against Simpson after he was acquitted of murder.

"I don't think any of the majors will step up to the plate. But a bottom-fisher will glorify it under the aegis of 'we're helping the Goldman family, it's a good cause,' and freedom of the press."

One publisher that seems like a potential home for the book is Michael Viner, a longtime publisher of tabloid fare who now runs Beverly Hills-based Phoenix Books. But Viner shied away when reached by phone. "We're not interested," Viner said. "On strictly moral grounds I'm against it; it's not something I'd be comfortable doing."

Even with the funds going to the Goldmans, he said, "it's still basically free advertising for O.J."

Viner expects someone will pick it up. "O.J. has always sold books, and there are always morbid curiosity seekers."

If the book does get published, Dysktra said, there would be another problem once it got to bookstores: "Who will buy it?"

At least one person is looking forward to the book's appearance: Simpson's ghost writer, Hollywood screenwriter Pablo Fenjves. "If people are expecting Tolstoy, they'll be disappointed," Fenjves said. "But if they're expecting O.J. Simpson, who actually manages to paint a very unflattering portrait of himself, and of his relationship with Nicole, I think they'll find the book compelling."

Times staff writers Josh Getlin and Gina Piccalo contributed to this report.

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