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WORD: O.J. isn’t the first to get pulped; fallout happens when publishers ice books

When HarperCollins finally decided to pulp O.J. Simpson's train wreck of a book If I Did It earlier this week, the publisher followed a long tradition of withdrawing controversial books before they hit stores. Earlier cases in which publishers canned new books range from the plagiarism of Kaavya Viswanathan to the politically sensitive work of Nancy Kobrin, whose own work scheduled for publication this month has been shelved to little fanfare.

The flamboyant Judith Regan picked up If I Did It, which describes how Simpson would have killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, then dumped the work along with a tie-in television interview amid pressure from sister company Fox Broadcasting and a general public outcry. While the publisher says it will destroy all copies including those already shipped, you can bet some will end up on eBay within weeks.

Other books that publishers backed away from before publication saw mixed fortunes.

Fear of religious nutcases. Lost in this week’s O.J. scandal, Looseleaf Law Publications reportedly is canceling Nancy Kobrin’s book The Sheikh’s New Clothes because it’s afraid of fundamentalist reactions and the safety of its staff. Kobrin, a psychoanalyst and lecturer on counter-terrorism, spent a year writing and researching her book about the psychology of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists.

In her book, originally slated for publication in November 2006, Kobrin writes that family dynamics and the degradation of women in Muslim society have influenced the radical behavior of Muslim extremists. Intriguing stuff, and Looseleaf’s withdrawal of the title looks like self-censorship at its worst. But there’s still hope: According to Jewish Press, two other publishers unafraid to handle the book have approached Kobrin about reading the manuscript.

How Opal got flogged, tarred and feathered. Most books are tossed in the literary garbage can due to plagiarism. Back in May of this year, Kaavya Viswanathan’s planned debut novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life was canceled after it became clear Viswanathan had stolen numerous passages from other authors. Not only did Opal Mehta get dumped, the author saw her two-book deal with publisher Little, Brown and Co. snuffed out like a bad cigarette.

James Nae deal blown into a million pieces. Then of course is one of literature’s most notorious cases: Penguin imprint Riverhead canceled its two-book deal with James Nae earlier this year after The Smoking Gun revealed that his "memoirs" A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard included huge embellishments. Riverhead, which had contracted Nae to write two more books including a novel, canceled the deal.

Warner Brothers executives, who had plans to make a film version of A Million Little Pieces, probably slam down the phone as soon as Nae’s voice is on the line. He was last seen smashing glasses at a NYC bar while being taunted by a hipster. It remains to be seen in Nae can re-emerge as a novelist, since that’s what he was all along.

Ziefert is a snake. In January 2006, veteran author Harriet Ziefert had a children’s picture book A Snake Is Totally Tail ready to hit bookstores through her own publishing venture Blue Apple Books. That is, until it was revealed that one Judi Barrett had published a similar book with the exact same title back in 1983 that included some passages that matched word-for-word. Whoops.

Ziefert's Snake was abruptly canceled. Evidently Viswanathan plagiarized her later excuses from Ziefert, because both of their stories read exactly the same. Ziefert claimed that she had "no recollection" of ever seeing the earlier book from which she had clearly stolen content, then apologized for the embarrassing turn of events.

Spare us the perverts, please. In September 2005, The Haworth Press canceled publication of an obscure academic book called Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West, which included essays by Temple University's Bruce Rind, Ph.D., Thomas Hubbard, William Armstrong Percy III and others.

Why would a seemingly blasé title like this get dumped? The book praised earlier civilizations like Greece and Rome for the role homosexuality played in those ancient cultures -- hardly shocking during these days of same-sex marriage and openly gay celebrities -- and reportedly took a positive stance on sex between adults and children. The Worldnetdaily reported that "in light of the public outcry" The Haworth Press decided to not proceed with publication of the book.

My lawyer will beat you down. In 2003, Virgin Publishing dumped an unauthorized biography of Catherine Zeta Jones after getting threatened by her lawyers. Celebrity biographer Cliff Goodwin scuttled the project entitled simply Catherine Zeta Jones: The Biography when lawyers on behalf of the Hollywood star fired off a series of letters threatening legal action to himself and his publishers.

We need more serial killers. Going back in the early 1990s, Simon & Schuster dished a reported $300,000 advance and then shelved publication of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, a brilliant and graphic story about a serial killer. S&S appeared to get spooked by pre-release buzz, as well as protests from women’s rights groups and women within S&S who believed American Psycho glamorized violence against women.

Competitor Random House picked up the novel, which made a huge splash in literary circles and later saw Universal Pictures develop it into a feature film. Bret Easton Ellis is now considered one of America’s great authors and a human cash register. He has authored novels like Glitterati and Less Than Zero that were also made into films.


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