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The inside scoop on the book world

Hunter S. Thompson, the books of the Lewinsky scandal, and Tyra Banks made news the week of April 17, 1998

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The rum’s rush

Nearly 40 years after he gave up on finding a publisher for his novel The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thompson has finally sold it to Simon & Schuster for $600,000. ”He tried to get it published in ’59 and ’60 but put it aside because his nonfiction started doing so well,” says S&S publisher David Rosenthal. S&S hopes public awareness of the gonzo journalist will be at an all-time, er, high by publication date this fall, following the May release of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp.

Vox populi

Sure, there are quickie tomes aplenty — like Villard’s salacious Bill Clinton’s Little Black Book — out to make a buck from le scandale Lewinsky. But the biggest beneficiary so far is…actual literature. Academics are having a field day with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (apparently one of Clinton’s standard courtship tokens), performing spot interpretations for reporters and incorporating current events into their English 101 lesson plans. And Vintage has taken Nicholson Baker’s 1992 phone-sex novel, Vox, back to press to meet demand, following leaks that Lewinsky purchased a copy for the President. Such free publicity might come to an end, however, as two D.C. bookstores are now fighting Kenneth Starr’s subpoenas for information on her spending habits. ”If somebody buys my book, I’d rather that I found out because they wanted to tell me, rather than because some bully was using the legal system to extract information from a bookstore,” comments Baker.

Blush life

Cindy Crawford’s best-selling 1996 makeup guide, Basic Face, no doubt delighted her Revlon employers, but they steered clear of cross promotion. Tyra Banks’ bosses at Cover Girl appear to be applying a heavier hand to her Beauty Inside & Out (HarperPerennial), enclosing coupons for their products in the book and underwriting the model’s tour stops in key markets. ”She’s expensive to travel, because her entourage is so large,” sighs a HarperCollins source. ”And [Cover Girl has] so much money, it’s disgusting.”

— Alexandra Jacobs and Matthew Flamm