Saturday, June 09, 2007

Dueling Hillarys, Tina Brown's Princess Di: Book Buzz

By Edward Nawotka

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Two new biographies of Hillary Clinton, Tina Brown's long-awaited expose on the late Princess of Wales and the returns of Armistead Maupin and Martin Cruz Smith are all potential June blockbusters.

``A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton'' by Carl Bernstein will be the first of two Hillary Clinton bios to reach readers when it hits the stores on June 5. Bernstein spent eight years on the book, which follows the New York senator from her Illinois childhood up to the moment she announced her presidential bid.

Hagiography or hatchet job? Knopf executive director of publicity Paul Bogaards will only say, ``Bernstein lets his sources do the talking -- and they are very good sources.'' Among the revelations: that in 1989 Hillary refused Bill Clinton's request for a divorce. (Knopf, $28.95; 275,000-copy first printing.)

``Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton'' by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. lands in stores shortly thereafter, on June 8. The authors, investigative reporters for the New York Times, focus on Clinton's political education as it evolved in Wellesley, Little Rock, Washington and Westchester. They train a microscope on her original Senate vote endorsing the war in Iraq.

``They only finished their reporting in May,'' says Little, Brown publicity director Heather Fain, implying that it's the more-up-to-date of the two books. In fact, there's been a pitched battle between the houses over publication date. Little, Brown had originally scheduled ``Her Way'' for Aug. 28 when Knopf blindsided it by announcing a June 19 pub date for ``A Woman in Charge.'' When the dust settled, both houses had moved the dates up even earlier.

1.5 Million

It will be a challenge for either to match the popularity of Clinton's autobiography, ``Living History,'' which -- despite lukewarm reviews when it appeared, in June 2003 -- sold more than 1.5 million copies in its first six months. (Little, Brown, $29.99; 175,000-copy first printing.)

``The Diana Chronicles'' by Tina Brown, to be published on June 12, arrives in time for the 10th anniversary of the princess's death, Aug. 31. Brown, the Brit who rose to the top of the New York media world as editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, offers a revisionist bio of the People's Princess that, word has it, is likely to outrage Diana idolaters.

Brown, who knew the princess, says she's interviewed more than 250 sources. Among the surprises in her unvarnished portrait: her suggestion that at the time of her death Diana may have had her sights on another man, and one just as rich as Dodi Fayed: Theodore Forstmann.

``Teddy Forstmann and the late Princess Di had a very close friendship,'' a spokeswoman for the American financier confirmed today. She declined to comment further. (Doubleday, $27.50; 200,000-copy first printing.)

More Tales

``Michael Tolliver Lives'' by Armistead Maupin is the first appearance of Maupin's HIV-positive gay hero since 1990. ``Tales of the City'' began as a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976; when this seventh volume in the series comes out on June 12, the city's mayor, Gavin Newsom, plans to declare it Michael Tolliver Day.

The first of the books written in Tolliver's own voice, the novel is about the 55-year-old's relationship with a younger man. Perhaps not coincidentally, in February the 62-year-old Maupin married his own 30-something lover in Vancouver, Canada. (HarperCollins, $25.95; 150,000-copy first printing.)

``Stalin's Ghost'' by Martin Cruz Smith stars Arkady Renko, the surly, cynical Russian homicide detective readers first met in 1981 in ``Gorky Park.'' That book's dismal take on life in the Soviet Union got it banned there. In the rest of the world it sold 6 million copies.

On June 12 -- after four more books and a further 14 million sales -- Renko returns to Moscow to investigate the Elvis-like sightings of Stalin on subway platforms and the systematic execution of members of an elite Chechnyan army unit. This book is as critical of Vladimir Putin's regime as the first one was of the communists. (Simon & Schuster, $26.95; 250,000- copy first printing.)