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Is Marcia Clark’s Book Too Much, Too Late?

Sun., May 25, 1997

Marcia Clark is lying at my feet. I should pick her up and embrace her, take her home, devote several hours to her thoughts, but somehow … I can’t. I’ve had enough. Luckily for the former O.J. Simpson prosecutor, many readers feel differently.

“Without a Doubt” (Viking, $25.95), Clark’s 500-page memoir written with Teresa Carpenter, hit bookstores May 9 and quickly took off, aided by Clark’s many television appearances. But will the sales continue as strongly once the television appearances are over? That’s the $4 million-plus question - the amount Viking paid Clark for her side of the Simpson story. That the publisher cut its first printing of “Without a Doubt” by half - to 500,000 copies - makes you wonder if there isn’t a lot of doubt about our remaining appetite for this kind of stuff.

So does the timing. Obviously, the Simpson book business has been staggering, but they’re not all best-sellers and it would appear being early has been an advantage. Christopher Darden’s “In Contempt” was one of last year’s big books in terms of sales. The better-written and more comprehensive “The Run of His Life” by Jeffrey Toobin did nicely (and got its author more trial-commentating gigs) when it came out last fall, but not nearly as well as Darden’s did six months earlier. Clark’s book is very late by any timetable.

Perhaps the worst omen for Clark is that Borders buyer Robert Teicher didn’t see quite “the bounce” in sales he might have expected after Clark spent an hour with Oprah Monday. Although the book did well in the Detroit area, at least one Barnes & Noble manager reported virtually no activity on the Clark book after the Oprah show. (The success of the Oprah book club has blinded people to the fact that many books she’s featured do not become mega-sellers.)

Bottom line? Clark’s much-delayed view may be too much too late. Perhaps there is life after Simpson. And we’re there, reading something else.

That something else might well be Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” (Villard, $24), his riveting account of last year’s disastrous Mount Everest climb. (As opposed to this year’s disastrous Mount Everest climb.) Given last week’s deaths, Krakauer’s excellent recounting of the commercialization of Everest is both timely and horrifying.

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