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Collins Book Deal Turning Into Courtroom Soap Opera Actress, Editor Accuse Each Other Of Failing To Live Up To Agreement

Samuel Maull Associated Press

Actress Joan Collins is cast as an author who is either taking advantage of or being victimized by her publisher in a failed book deal. The drama, a real-life, $4 million fight, opens Monday in state court.

Random House says a three-way deal with its American and British subsidiaries and Collins fell through because the actress failed to deliver a usable manuscript.

But Collins, 62, says she spent many months working in 1991 and 1992 to produce the manuscripts for “A Ruling Passion” and “Hell Hath No Fury.” Collins has written best sellers in the past - “Prime Time” and “Past Imperfect, An Autobiography” and her sister Jackie is the queen of potboilers like “Hollywood Wives.”

The manuscripts, by the way, were about two competing sisters.

Interesting? Random House didn’t think so - and sued in the trial-level state Supreme Court to try to force Collins to return a $1.3 million advance. She is countersuing for the rest of the $4 million.

The actress who played Alexis Carrington in TV’s “Dynasty” and appeared in 50 movies said in court papers that she delivered two and one-third manuscripts and an outline on time and in publishable condition. The publisher insists the manuscripts were not “ready for press.”

Collins’ lawyer, Kenneth David Burrows, said other book contracts may let a publisher reject a manuscript and get its money back, but not the deal negotiated for Collins by the late superagent Irving P. “Swifty” Lazar and editor Joni Evans.

Burrows said Random House tried to back out because “to them Joan Collins was a problem; she hadn’t worked out.”

Collins says she suspects Evans found the first manuscript, about two princesses vying for control of a principality that sounds a lot like Monaco, too unbelievable.

Collins said Evans gave her positive feedback on her second manuscript in May 1992 - “quite good - lively, fast-paced, nicely populated” - but then did not come to her vacation home to help her work on it.

“I knew that Joni Evans had spent a week or so working with Michael Caine in Europe that summer on his book,” Collins said, “(but) she never made any attempt to come work with me at my home in the south of France.”

Collins said she suspected Evans was too busy dealing with her own career crisis: Alberto Vitale, chairman of Random House, wanted to eliminate the Turtle Bay publishing imprint created especially for books she edited.

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