Riverhead Books Dives in With Nine Releases

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; He is a columnist for Newsday

The first books to be offered by a new publishing imprint with a strong interest in literary fiction will soon make their way into the swollen stream of spring releases. Introducing Riverhead Books, a division of the Putnam Berkley Group Inc.

Riverhead's spring list of nine books turns outward (via novels with strong ethnic themes) and inward (via titles that explore spirituality and healing powers).

"Remarkable Recovery" by Caryle Hirshberg and Marc Ian Barasch is a scientific study about defeating terminal illness. "Wrestling With the Angel," edited by Brian Bouldrey, consists of essays in which gay men address their faith in God and the response of religious institutions to their lifestyles.

Novels include Chang-rae Lee's "Native Speaker," the story of a Korean American spy coming to terms with his cultural identity, and "Katherine," a first novel by Anchee Min ("Red Azalea").

Susan Petersen, the publisher of this new venture, joined Putnam Berkley last year after a decade in the Random House organization, where she became one of the most powerful women in book publishing. Among her achievements as president of Random House's Ballantine division, she founded the multicultural One World imprint.

"The name doesn't come from Riverhead, Long Island," Petersen says. "It's a combination of words that I like a lot. River to me represents a lot about books. They can influence people in many different ways; some rivers are fast, some are slow. . . . And head because it symbolizes to me discernment, intelligence, work, the craft of it all."

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Tripped Up: Publication of travel guidebooks is usually a staid field. But Fielding Worldwide Inc. has discovered in recent days that it has put out a controversial Baedeker to Vietnam.

The publishing and travel company, based in Los Angeles, reports that copies of its newly released "Fielding's Vietnam" apparently were seized and impounded by the Vietnamese government before an air-express firm could deliver them to five tourist companies in Ho Chi Minh City. Fielding Worldwide has gone so far as to advise travelers to the country to exercise caution when carrying Fielding guides.

Touted as the first guide to Vietnam published since the U. S. trade embargo was lifted last year, "Fielding's Vietnam" presents a favorable view of the country, while also describing the open solicitation of bribes and urging visitors to bypass government-developed tourist areas.

The author, 36-year-old Wink Dulles, spent a year motorcycling around Vietnam.

"For the independent traveler, I still consider it a perfectly safe destination," he says.

He believes his surname--he's the cousin of former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA director Allen Dulles--may have drawn government interest in his travels.

Fielding publisher Robert Young Pelton said the company will seek an official explanation of the guide's status from a Hanoi-based ministry that supervises the import and export of books.

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On to Bigger and Better: The word out and about that legendary photographer Richard Avedon was divorcing himself from the New Yorker is untrue, according to the parties involved.

"Dick has wanted to consolidate his time with us and it makes more sense for him to do special portfolios and that we use other photographers for our week by week needs," says New Yorker editor Tina Brown. "Dick is a great photographer and we want to nurture his talent in whatever way he needs."

Says Avedon, "The magazine needs more photography and I need to spend time developing my own projects. I hope I never have to leave The New Yorker completely. I've never had a better or more satisfying working relationship with an editor in my life than with Tina Brown."

* Paul D. Colford's column is published Fridays.

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