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Bound to sell: royal tales of wedded woe


"Behind Palace Doors," written by British gossip columnist Nigel Dempster and reporter Peter Evans, promises "a through-the-keyhole story." James Whitaker's "Diana vs. Charles: Royal Blood Feud" offers "the explosive story" and nothing less than "full details" of the couple's relationship. Anthony Holden's imminent "The Tarnished Crown" is said to bear the thumbprint of Diana herself, who reportedly gave the author her side of the fractured marriage.

A year after no less than three books about Diana reached best-seller lists, a new wave of royal titles is crashing into stores, with more to follow in the next few weeks. But instead of focusing mainly on Diana as the aggrieved fairy-tale princess, the books pull the camera back to present wider views of the troubled House of Windsor and to ponder its future following the seismic reports about Charles' involvement with a married woman, Camilla Parker Bowles.

A. N. Wilson's "The Fall of Windsor," which W. W. Norton & Co. is bringing out seven months ahead of schedule, goes so far as to suggest that the embarrassments over Camilla-gate (not to mention Diana's own tape-recorded indiscretions) may bring about the end of the monarchy.

So many choices, but so little time and money. What's a book buyer to do?

"There was a time when a consumer would buy any royal tattle-tale book with Diana's picture on the cover," said Stuart Applebaum, the vice president for publicity at the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, which is sitting out the latest round. "But the flood of new titles makes it impossible. Now, unless you have a royal treasury at your disposal to buy them all, the consumer has to be more selective. It becomes a public relations and a credibility battle as to who is the most believable author, not necessarily who has the most salacious book."

If so, then Mr. Whitaker would seem to have a problem. His "Diana vs. Charles" (Dutton) puts great stock in a supposedly bugged bedroom conversation in which the couple argued over custody of their two sons. However, the authenticity of this widely reported "tape" has since been called into question in Britain largely because schedules apparently show that Charles and Diana were not together at his country home when the row allegedly took place. Nevertheless, Mr. Whitaker's book does contain 32 pages of striking color photos -- a competitive edge in the crowded field.

As for "Behind Palace Doors" (Putnam), besides offering bonus transcripts of the Charles-Camilla tape (already dramatized by "Saturday Night Live") and Diana's recorded "Squidgy" conversation with a male friend, it has a marquee name in Mr. Dempster, a top gossip with London's Daily Mail. His book alleges in layers of detail that Charles, like his father, Prince Philip, was frequently an unfaithful husband. Asked this week whether the palace is one giant sieve of whispering sources, Mr. Dempster said no, "but if your ear is in the right place, you hear things. You have to understand that each palace source is trying to convey his or her boss's point of view and put that boss in the proper light."

Still to come: "The Royal Marriages" from Lady Colin Campbell, who had a best seller last year with "Diana in Private." St. Martin's Press says that her new book will offer "explicit facts about Di's extramarital affairs," as well as the "missing minutes" of the Squidgy tape.

And: "The Tarnished Crown," in which Mr. Holden, the author of a previous biography of Charles, will describe a campaign by the prince to blacken his wife's name. A confident Random House has ordered an initial print run of 60,000 copies.

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