By Ken Tucker
May 18, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

So there’s this new novel being published June 1st called Who’s Killing the Great Writers of America?, by Robert Kaplow, see? And in it, famous scribes, including EW columnist Stephen King (pictured) — as well as Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel, and Sue Grafton, among others — are offed violently. In the novel, the murderer turns out to be… comedian-writer Steve Martin. Cindy Adams is reporting in The New York Post that Martin is annoyed about being portrayed in this way.

Well, as EW’s unofficial Ancient Pop-Culture Guy on the staff, I can pull a tattered paperback off of my dusty shelves and remind you whippersnappers that way back in 1973, there was a novel called American Mischief, by one Alan Lelchuck. In it, the lead character shoots Norman Mailer at point-blank range and kills the famed author of The Naked and The Dead dead. And — well, whaddaya know? — at the time, Mailer, like Martin, was peeved at being portrayed fictionally.

addCredit(“Stephen King: Seth Wenig/AP”)

But while Cindy Adams asserts that Steve Martin’s agent has triedunsuccessfully to prevent publication of Kaplow’s book, back in 1973,Mailer took matters into his own rough-knuckled hands. As Timemagazine’s R.Z. Sheppard reported at the time, Mailer threatened toreduce Alan Lelchuck to “a hank of hair and some fillings.” (AncientPop-Culture Guy is moved to remark with admiration: They don’t makethreats like they used to, do they?) While Alan Lelchuk has publishednumerous books since American Mischief, none of them has brought him anywhere near the coverage and notoriety that Mischiefdid. And if I was Robert Kaplow, I wouldn’t have picked Stephen King asa victim no matter how much ink it got me. Gosh, I’d hate to see Kaplowreduced to a hank of hair and some fillings in a future King thriller…

So, given the fact that, despite having published a number of othernovels, Robert Kaplow isn’t exactly a household name, do you thinkkilling off “great writers” is: a publicity stunt? A rip-off of AlanLelchuk’s idea? A chance for readers to discover a bold talent whohasn’t yet received the acclaim he deserves? Or some combination of allof these?