Simpson trial surely one for the books


The verdict in the O. J. Simpson trial may have brought to end the courtroom battle over one of the most celebrated murder cases in American history, but it marked the beginning of a battle for publishing dollars almost as fierce.

First in line Tuesday was Mr. Simpson's first wife, Marguerite Simpson Thomas who signed a contract with Crown Publishers Inc. four minutes before the verdict was read. Crown has contracted to do two other O. J. books, and is touting its newest O. J. volume as "a high road book."

"This will be chock-full of revelations but they will be handled in the context of a real American life story, both heroic and tragic," declared Chip Gibson, publisher of Crown Trade Group. He would not say how much the contract was for.

While a small library of O. J. books have been cranked out since the trial began -- more than one dozen books have already been published -- Tuesday's acquittal gave the definition to the final story that some publishers had been waiting for. Well, sort of.

At St. Martin's Press in New York, a fax announcing end-of-the-month publication of "O.J. A to Z: The Complete Handbook to the Trial of the Century," by crime writer Clifford Linedecker was dispatched 11 minutes after the verdict was read.

Several of the key characters, including Judge Lance Ito and defense lawyers Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro, are believed to be marketing their own books which industry sources estimated could bring in anywhere from $1 to $5 million. Some in the industry feel the losers, such as prosecutors Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark, might have the most compelling stories to tell. Of course, there's the saga of the 12 jurors.

"Everybody and their brother is trying to sell a book about this," said Esther Newberg, a New York agent. Her client, Jeff Toobin, who covered the trial for the New Yorker, has already sold his to Random House.

"I imagine all 12 jurors will be trying to sell their story and that's what's wrong with America. Unfortunately, they'll probably all get a contract."

Mr. Simpson is hoping he will, too. Again. Having already earned an estimated $1 million on his book "I Want To Tell You," he has reportedly made plans to issue a limited edition of the book to be auctioned by a Los Angeles marketing company.

He is also apparently angling to write a second book with Los Angeles writer-producer Lawrence Schiller, who collaborated on the first one. But selling the book -- which one agent suggested might be titled "I Want To Tell You More" -- may not be so easy the second time around. Although some in the industry predict that Mr. Simpson's acquittal boosted his potential book fee into the $10 million range, there are others who wonder just what new he has to say about it all.

Little, Brown, which published the first book, recently turned down a follow-up book, according to New York magazine. Although Little, Brown spokeswoman Beth Davey denied that the publisher had been offered another book, she said the company doesn't want one. "Not interested," she said. "Never were. Never will be."

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