Brandon Tartikoff founded a Warner imprint for ready-for-film novels

By Matthew Flamm
February 23, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

If Brandon Tartikoff could have his way, all novelists would be happy with how their books get turned into movies. That was the idea behind Brandon Tartikoff Books, the imprint he founded at Warner Books in 1994. Tartikoff — the former NBC president best known for fostering such small-screen hits as Cosby, Cheers, and Hill Street Blues — set out to publish works that highbrow publishers often shy away from: popular fiction ready-made for film.

Tartikoff defends his imprint’s focus on the blatantly commercial as being in the spirit of such popularizers as Dickens and Shakespeare. ”We are out to entertain people,” he says.

Well, maybe. A year and a half later, Tartikoff has his first book, Cathy Cash-Spellman’s The Playground of the Gods, and Warner, which has printed a hefty 100,000 copies, has high expectations. There’s just one tiny snag: no movie deal in sight. Could the plot — six powerful, arrogant men take their trophy dates to a tropical island and (surprise!) get their comeuppance — be too banal even for Hollywood?

Probably not. Tartikoff has pull, so the movie may well get made. But this one could go straight to video.