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Clark Signs Book Deal for $4.2 Million

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Defying the adage that nothing succeeds like success, prosecutor Marcia Clark, who was unable to convict O.J. Simpson of double murder, signed the third most lucrative nonfiction book contract in the history of U.S. publishing Thursday.

Viking-Penguin, a New York-based publishing house, announced that it will pay the deputy district attorney $4.2 million for the world hardcover and softcover rights to a manuscript that will be produced with the help of an as yet unnamed co-author. Only Gens. Colin Powell and H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led the allied forces to victory over Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, have received more lucrative publishing deals--$6 million and $5 million, respectively.

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Clark’s deal was negotiated by a trio of high-powered representatives from the William Morris Agency--Norman Brokaw, who is the firm’s chairman and CEO, and literary agents Joni Evans and Robert Gottlieb, who represent best-selling novelists Tom Clancy and Jackie Collins. The Morris Agency also has secured a $1.5-million book advance for Clark’s co-counsel, Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher A. Darden.

Brokaw, who was in Los Angeles when the agreement was announced, said Thursday that he is negotiating separate film deals for each book.

According to a Viking source who was privy to the negotiations, Clark’s untitled book will be “a strong indictment of the criminal justice system from her point of view. It will also be the definitive O.J. courtroom account. It will not delve into her personal life.”

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Thursday’s agreement capped an unusual, though not unprecedented, process in which publishers were invited to bid on a book for which no written proposal existed and for which no co-author had been selected. Instead, Clark flew to New York and personally met various publishers. The publishers were then invited to participate in an auction that began Tuesday with a requisite opening bid of $1 million.

According to publishing sources, Clark created such a favorable impression during her meetings in New York that eight publishers initially bid for the book. By Wednesday night, as the price approached $4 million, all but Viking, Doubleday and Random House had dropped out.

The final price tag, said editor Jason Epstein, who conducted the bidding for Random House, was “damn high. It doesn’t happen every day. It will be very hard to earn back that much on this book.”

“My own interest was stimulated by meeting her,” said Epstein, who is regarded as one of the publishing industry’s most distinguished editors. “She is bright and lively and, potentially, has something to say. But in order to pay that much, one had to imagine a proposal. One also had to imagine a writer to work with her. Finally, one had to imagine that she was likely to fulfill the promise created by one’s first impression. Obviously my imagination did not extend that far.”

Doubleday editor Arlene Freidman was frank about her disappointment in the auction’s outcome. “I’m crushed that I didn’t get the book,” she said, “but the money just got a little too steep.”

Freidman said that as she watched the Simpson trial unfold, she frequently thought, “If ever a book comes out of this, the only author I’m interested in is Marcia Clark. She emerged as a very interesting woman--a single mother, a professional battling sexism in the workplace, a lawyer coping with the media’s unprecedented onslaught.

“When I met her, she lived up to all my expectations. She was funny and warm, as well as smart. She’s a very strong role model for women.”

However, another prominent editor who asked not to be identified and whose firm was among the unsuccessful bidders, said, “I think that final price is crazy.”

The prosecutors’ colleagues greeted the news of Clark and Darden’s deals without any of the rancor that attended this week’s revelation that Simpson team members had been awarded tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses by Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti.

Garcetti may have had that controversy in mind when he went out of his way to defend the propriety of his deputies’ book contracts, which he said “do not compromise their position or responsibilities as deputy district attorneys. This is a case that, from our office’s point of view, is over and done with. They did not go into this case with the idea of making any money or signing book deals.”

Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea P. D’Agostino is one of the prosecutors who opposes the nearly $43,000 in bonuses given to Clark, Darden and their supervisor, Deputy Dist. Atty. William Hodgman, for their work on the Simpson case, because other hard-working prosecutors have not received similar special compensation from the cash-strapped county government.

But D’Agostino on Thursday congratulated Clark on her good fortune in landing the book deal.

“More power to her,” D’Agostino said. “I’m very happy for her. I’m very happy for Chris.”

Unlike the bonuses, she added, the money Clark and Darden will earn from the books will come from the private sector, not taxpayers.

Both Clark and Darden paid brief visits to the district attorney’s Downtown offices Thursday. Clark avoided comment, but Darden, who was casually dressed, said he has been deluged with “all sorts of offers” since the end of the trial, but denied knowledge of an impending movie deal.

“I haven’t heard anything about it,” he said, though he confirmed he is interviewing several prospective co-authors for his book.

As the size of the prosecutors’ contracts suggests, the publishing industry’s appetite for books on the Simpson trial appears to remain hearty.

Thirty-six books on the so-called “Trial of the Century” are on the shelves with at least 14 more to follow.

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Simpson’s lead defense attorney, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., also is in New York this week conducting meetings with publishers. Industry sources report that Cochran has “charmed” the editors he has met, but the value of his final deal is not expected to match those of either prosecutor.

“From what I’ve heard from people who have met with him,” said columnist Maureen O’Brien of Publisher’s Weekly, an authoritative trade journal, “Cochran’s book will not be so much of a courtroom or O.J. recollection.

“It will be more his life story. Just from what I’ve heard from publishers, everyone seems to think the prosecution books will be stronger financial performers, because there’s such a strong sense of outrage over Simpson’s acquittal, particularly among women who constitute the largest percentage of book buyers,” O’Brien said.

One of Simpson’s co-counsels, Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz, already had signed a reported $350,000 deal for a Simpson book to be titled “Reasonable Doubts: The O.J. Simpson Case and the Criminal Justice System.”

Sources say that defense lawyer Robert L. Shapiro is close to concluding his own agreement with Warner Books, which is the sister company to Little Brown, which published Simpson’s book, “I Want to Tell You.”

Publishing industry sources said Thursday that there are no plans for a follow-up to that volume, for which Little Brown paid a reported $1 million. According to knowledgeable editors, Simpson’s co-author, Lawrence Schiller, circulated a new book proposal within 24 hours of the verdicts but was rebuffed.

“Nobody in this town will risk the outrage that would crash down upon the head and shoulders of any publisher who pays O.J. Simpson one more nickel,” said a prominent editor, who asked not to be identified.

As for Clark’s book, Viking’s publisher and senior vice president, Barbara Grossman, had an assessment as expansive as the project’s price tag.

In a statement released in New York, she said Clark’s “book will be an impassioned critique of justice in America. . . . Not another O.J. book, this will be a seminal work which will last beyond the headlines, beyond the dirty facts and personalities, to become, like ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ and ‘All the President’s Men,’ the quintessential representation of an event which has changed forever the way we understand ourselves as Americans.”

The former book is a reflection on the Nazis’ murder of 6 million European Jews written by Hannah Arendt, one of the century’s leading political philosophers. “All the President’s Men” recounts the constitutional crisis triggered by President Richard Nixon’s misconduct in the Oval Office.


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