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Wolfe’s ‘Ambush’ An Audio Exclusive

Sat., Aug. 9, 1997

Tom Wolfe has come out with his first work of fiction in a decade. Don’t clean off your reading glasses, though.

Crank up the tape deck.

In a surprise move, the author of “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “The Right Stuff” has released his satiric novella “Ambush at Fort Bragg” exclusively on audio.

“Ambush at Fort Bragg,” recited in an assortment of dialects by Oscar-nominated actor (and Wolfe fan) Edward Norton, arrived in stores on Monday. The three-hour novella is available on three CDs or four cassettes and carries a suggested price of $21.95 - comparable to most new novels.

Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing scored the coup, believed to be the first time an author with Wolfe’s credentials has released an audio-only work.

“It’s an innovative and exciting way to get ‘Ambush’ out to people,” BBD president and publisher Jenny Frost said Friday. “As an author, Mr. Wolfe wants to have his work distributed. And yet he wanted to have his next major print work be his next novel.”

The audio deal accomplished both. To promote “Ambush,” Frost said, her company has mounted an unprecedented $150,000 campaign that includes a flurry of ads in major newspapers and magazines.

In truth, “Ambush” has already appeared it print. It was serialized last year in two issues of Rolling Stone magazine.

Wolfe, whose last book was 1987’s “Bonfire,” acknowledged in a statement that “Ambush at Fort Bragg” could turn up in print again. But he said the “innovative opportunity to publish ‘Ambush’ in audio now” and the “choice of Edward Norton to perform it” convinced him.

Norton was nominated as best supporting actor for his role in “Primal Fear.” He played a young murder suspect who is not what he seems.

Wolfe said he is continuing work on a full-length novel but gave no date for its release.

“Ambush” does for TV journalism what “Bonfire” did for Wall Street, skewering it mercilessly. Along the way, Wolfe takes shots at the military, the South and homophobia - with great results, according to early reviews.

“Tom Wolfe’s stature as the meanest, smartest, funniest social observer around is amply illustrated by this unusual audiotape,” wrote USA Today’s Deidre Donahue.

Frost said it is too soon to determine if the audio version is selling at the level of Wolfe’s print novels. She is hopeful that an author of his caliber can introduce audio books to a whole new market.

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