Newt Gingrich's conservative politics may not play well in liberal-leaning Hollywood, but will his sometimes-steamy new novel?
A Los Angeles literary agency confirmed Wednesday that movie rights to "1945," a soon-to-be-published novel co-authored by the House Speaker, will be shopped next week to producers, including at least a dozen who have already expressed interest.
"Obviously, these people want to read it because [Gingrich] is the co-author," said Irv Schwartz, a partner at Renaissance, the agency handling the sale.
The publication of the book, which contains some language depicting sex and violence, comes at the very time Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), a presidential contender, is publicly blasting Hollywood for exploiting sex and violence in films, television programs and rap lyrics.
The irony has not been lost on Democrats, the news media or screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who has penned some of Hollywood's steamiest thrillers, including "Basic Instinct" and "Sliver."
On Tuesday, Eszterhas lampooned Gingrich in the pages of Daily Variety, an entertainment industry trade paper.
In an open memo to Dole, Eszterhas urged the Senate leader to prevent Gingrich from publishing the book. "Newt's pages, to use your words, show that 'a line has been crossed--not just of taste but of human dignity and decency.' "
Having obtained a 77-page early draft of the novel, Eszterhas quoted a passage in which a young woman Gingrich depicts as a "pouting sex kitten" is in bed with a middle-aged man: "She rolled onto him and somehow was sitting athwart his chest, her knees pinning his shoulders. . . . Her fingers twined the fur on his chest. . . . He stirred at the movement of her fingers, which were no longer on his chest."
Eszterhas also pointed out scenes of violence, including references to "puddles of blood oozing."
On NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Dole was read several lines from the book and was pressed to comment. He replied: "I don't particularly care for it."
But Gingrich's publisher complained Wednesday that people have been quoting lines that are no longer in the book.
Jim Baen, whose Baen Books in New York is publishing the novel, told The Times that had Eszterhas and others checked, they would have been informed that the 77-page draft that was circulated "six to eight months ago" was a "teaser" copy that was "carefully labeled an advance copy subject to editorial revision."
He noted that while the novel still contains a reference to a "pouting sex kitten," some 40 other words concerning the woman sitting "athwart" the man's chest have been removed.
"She'll still wriggle, she'll still be a pouting sex kitten, but she won't be athwart anybody," Baen said with a laugh.
As for "puddles of blood oozing," Baen explained: "That is a dream sequence that our hero is having . . . that the Nazis are coming. He is having a dream about a concentration camp." The novel centers on the question of what would have happened if Hitler had not declared war on the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Asked if other steamy or violent scenes would be removed, Baen replied: "How are you supposed to write a novel if you don't write provocative scenes? What are we supposed to do, cast it in passive mode and put it in bureaucratese?"
The 120,000-word novel was also written by William R. Forstchen, a North Carolina history professor and science-fiction author. A printing of 170,000 to 200,000 hardback copies is planned, Baen said.
A far larger printing is planned for Gingrich's forthcoming nonfiction political treatise, "To Renew America." That book also engendered controversy over allegations that the Georgia Republican may have compromised his position as Speaker by getting a $4.5-million contract from publisher HarperCollins Inc. Gingrich subsequently turned down an advance on the book.