Publisher behind O.J. Simpson book fired
By HILLEL ITALIE,
NEW YORK - Extra! Extra! The press release arrived with a headline worthy of Rupert Murdoch: HARPERCOLLINS TERMINATES JUDITH REGAN. So ended, at least for now, one of the book world's most profitable and provocative careers.
Regan,O.J. Simpson's would-be publisher, has been fired, her sensational tenure at the Murdoch-owned HarperCollins finished off with the tersest of announcements.
"Judith Regan's employment with HarperCollins has been terminated effective immediately," HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman said in a statement late Friday. "The REGAN publishing program and staff will continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group."
Friedman offered no reason for the decision or details of any kind. But her statement comes just weeks after Murdoch's cancellation of Simpson's hypothetical murder confession, "If I Did It," a planned book and Fox television interview that Regan vehemently defended but was greeted with instant and near-universal disgust.
HarperCollins did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking additional comment. Messages left with Regan's publicist, Suzanne Wickham, and her lawyer, Bert Fields, were not immediately returned.
"She's a tremendously inventive publisher, but I guess she just pushed the envelope too far," said Jonathan Karp, publisher of the Warner Twelve imprint at the Hachette Book Group.
The 53-year-old Regan, a former National Enquirer reporter, has been turning out hits since the 1980s, including books by Howard Stern,
Drew Barrymore and Rush Limbaugh. But her image is as harsh as some of her writers. An industry outsider, and proud of it, Regan has been labeled a "foul-mouthed tyrant" and the "enfant terrible of American publishing."
She is also widely envied — if not admired — for attracting headlines about her books, and herself.
Since 1994, she has headed the ReganBooks imprint at News Corp.'s HarperCollins, an ideal fit for Murdoch's tabloid tastes. Regan has published a long list of racy smashes, among them Jose Canseco's "Juiced" and Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star," and is the rare publisher of interest to gossip columnists, notably for a rumored affair with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
She often clashed with her more temperate peers and is widely believed to have had tense relations with Friedman. Last year, Regan moved her offices to Los Angeles, further distancing herself from corporate officials in New York. She has worked on numerous television projects and currently hosts a talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio.
Longtime ReganBooks author Jess Walter said he was "flabbergasted" by her firing.
"I think Judith was misunderstood by people," said Walter, a National Book Award finalist last month for his novel, "The Zero."
"The Judith I knew was nothing like the tabloid headlines," he said. "Judith has always been a good friend and one of the few people who never lied to me. Having dealt with publishing and Hollywood, I can't say that about everyone."
Regan has often complained that her more literary side has been overlooked, pointing out that she has published books by Jess Walter, Wally Lamb and Douglas Coupland. The Simpson project, announced the day before the National Book Award ceremony, quickly overshadowed Walter's nomination.
Simpson's book, said to have described how he theoretically would have committed the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, had been scheduled for release Nov. 30 following the airing of a two-part Simpson interview.
Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1995 but later found liable for the killings in a wrongful-death suit filed by the Goldman family.
Upcoming titles from ReganBooks include a memoir from former
Pentagon official Douglas Feith, an architect of the U.S. war in Iraq; and sports writer Peter Golenbock's "7: The Mickey Mantle Novel," a raunchy, fictionalized account of the baseball great that has angered some of Mantle's admirers.