The partly toothless, partly earless onetime World Wrestling Federation champion Mick Foley — a.k.a. Mankind, Cactus Jack, and Dude Love — doesn’t look like he would be Alfred A. Knopf material. But the house of Updike and Naipaul has opened its tony doors to the former wrestler — whose autobiography, ”Have a Nice Day!,” was a No. 1 best-seller for ReganBooks — and the Knopf editor who acquired Foley’s first novel, ”Tietam Brown,” claims she didn’t even know who he was. ”What can I say? I’d never heard of him and neither had anyone else here,” says Victoria Wilson.
”I think [Knopf and Foley] are a great combination. I see it as ‘The Prince and the Showgirl,”’ she added, referring to the 1957 comedy that teamed Laurence Olivier with Marilyn Monroe. The novel, a coming-of-age tale laced with violence, features ”really complicated people,” Wilson says. But it still needs some work. Let’s hope, for Wilson’s sake, that Foley’s nicer out of the ring…. One person Foley won’t be working with at Knopf is Bill Loverd, the famously genteel head of publicity, who is retiring after 37 years at the house. Known for the handwritten notes he would send to book review editors with the advance copies of books he thought especially praiseworthy, Loverd, 61, says he is leaving ”at a high point.”