Kerrigan, Harding Books Readied

<i> Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. </i>

And the winner is . . . “The Kerrigan Courage: Nancy’s Story,” by Randi Reisfeld.

Reisfeld’s effort appears to be the first of four instant books on the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding drama to take a bow. The Ballantine paperback will be vying for cash-register intake with “Dreams of Gold: The Nancy Kerrigan Story,” by Wayne Coffey and Filip Bondy, published by St. Martin’s Press, and “Nancy Kerrigan: Heart of a Champion,” by Mikki Morrissette, which BDD Books for Young Readers is aiming at kids 8 and older.

The fourth contender as the Winter Olympics get under way this weekend in Norway is “Thin Ice: The Complete, Uncensored Story of Tonya Harding--America’s Bad Girl of Ice Skating,” (Pinnacle) by Frank Coffey and Joe Layden.

With each of the paperbacks getting ambitious six-figure printings, some stores may face the challenge of finding adequate space to display four stacks together.


Sure, there have always been instant books on curiosities ranging from the Warren Commission’s report to the Amy Fisher case to President Clinton’s proposed health-care reforms. But the clubbing of Kerrigan on Jan. 6 and the subsequent revelations about the Harding camp provided only the first impetus to line up instant books; the other was a wish to have books within reach once heightened public attention turns to the skaters’ performances in Lillehammer.

Reisfeld, editorial director of 16 Magazine, has passed this way before. In 1990, she had an uncredited hand in the writing of “Our Story: New Kids on the Block” (Bantam), one of several quick hits that tapped into the short-lived teen craze over the singing group.

Reisfeld says Ballantine called her Jan. 14 about doing a Kerrigan biography. “I thought it was a great idea, and within four hours a deal was done with my agent.”

After phoning, interviewing and poking around Kerrigan’s hometown of Stoneham, Mass., Reisfeld says she believed that she had the goods to turn in a manuscript of about 40,000 words on Jan. 31. Finished books were delivered to Ballantine three days later.

Revelation: “Nancy was so focused on skating from such a young age,” Reisfeld says. “It’s unusual for a kid to give up her entire social life. She really had no friends. She really did nothing but skate.”

As well as these four books may sell--and they are competing with saturation coverage in newspapers and magazines, including Newsweek’s special Olympics issue featuring Kerrigan on the cover--the real prize may await the publisher that acquires Kerrigan’s own story.


Word is that Hyperion’s children’s-book division will have an announcement in that regard. The book deal apparently would be in tandem with an authorized TV movie planned by Hyperion’s parent company, the Walt Disney Co.


Many of those who buy books on Monday will also come away with a pamphlet written by novelist Don DeLillo that reflects on the death sentence imposed by Iranian religious leaders on Salman Rushdie, author in hiding. Monday marks the fifth anniversary of the fatwa provoked by publication of Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses.” Four thousand bookstores plan to distribute the pamphlet, endorsed by the Rushdie Defense Committee USA.


What’s interesting about the arrangement to publish Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s memoir of the past three years is that Times Books will be doing so in conjunction with Belka Trading Corp.

Belka, which has offices in New York and Moscow and counts major oil companies among its clients, acquired the U.S. publishing rights to “The President’s Journal” from Yeltsin’s London-based literary agent, Andrew Nurnberg.

By insisting that it be a co-publisher of the book, Belka will forgo the more typical cash advance against future royalties. Instead, Belka will share in the production costs and the profits, which could be significantly higher under the co-publishing setup.

Times Books Publisher Peter Osnos, who envisions an initial printing of 75,000 copies, says Yeltsin won’t be making the “Live at Five” rounds in these parts when the book is published in May. But Yeltsin has agreed to do “major television interviews” in Moscow.


Larry King, call your travel agent.