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Posts Tagged ‘Josh Getlin’

John Shannon’s Tales of the West Coast Midlist

What elevates some crime writers to exalted status while others fly under the radar? It’s a question Josh Getlin attempts to answer in his profile of John Shannon, an LA-based writer whose novels featuring private investigator Jack Liffey attempt to recount the city’s contemporary feel and landscape. “John’s goal, among other things, has been to write an alternative history of Los Angeles from the standpoint of groups and people who are excluded from the established discourse,” said social historian Mike Davis, who wrote “City of Quartz” and “Planet of Slums.” “This fits uneasily into people’s stereotypes of modern Los Angeles, and it’s what makes him so distinctive.”

But try finding Shannon’s books on shelves. Though he’s currently published by Pegasus, his backlist – in the form of early paperback originals published by Berkley Prime Crime and later, hardcover-only books from Carroll & Graf – are out of print. “It’s been a struggle,” said Shannon, who lives in Topanga Canyon. “If all my novels were in paperback, there would be this critical mass on the shelf. And I think that I’d be comfortable today instead of broke,” he added ruefully, his voice trailing off. “You know, I probably need to win an award or sell a movie. But I’m not stopping my writing. I’ve always had stories to tell.”

(Full disclosure: Getlin interviewed me on background for the piece.)

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Kerouac Biographer Lambasts Viking For “Vendetta”

The LA Times’ Josh Getlin reports that Gerald Nicosia, biographer of Jack Kerouac, blasted Viking Penguin on Tuesday at a press conference in Manhattan for allegedly removing his name and all references to his work from its books about the late author as part of a vendetta against him by the executor of Kerouac’s estate. Nicosia added that Viking had bowed to executor John Sampas‘ wishes and removed Nicosia’s name from books it is publishing on Kerouac and the Beat Generation. “When scholarship and publishing is tampered with by a major publishing house, it’s censorship,” he said in an interview with Getlin before his New York news conference. “I haven’t heard of anything like this happening before…. You don’t hear about such things in the book world.”

Nicosia got involved in a nasty estate fight among Kerouac’s heirs when he took sides against Sampas and other Sampas family members in a 1994 lawsuit filed by the author’s late daughter, Jan. The estate is controlled by the relatives of Kerouac’s widow, Stella Sampas, Kerouac’s third wife and the executor’s sister, who died in 1990. In her lawsuit, Jan Kerouac was contesting the will of her grandmother, Gabrielle Kerouac, saying it had been forged.

Viking publisher and spokesman Paul Slovak denied any vendetta was in place. “We’ve not been removing [Nicosia's] name, we never had any intention of blacklisting him, [but] our authors are under no obligation to name him in their new books or use his book as a reference,” Slovak said. And then Ron proved Nicosia wrong with a simple citation from an book Viking will publish this fall that calls Nicosia’s Memory Babe the “most detailed and best documented” of the Kerouac biographies used by John Leland during his research.

Written Interludes

After reading Josh Getlin‘s profile of Delaune Michel – best known in LA circles for launching the Spoken Interludes salon, now transplanted to Westchester County – I scratched my head as to why the Warren Beatty connection hadn’t been divulged in a big way last year, when Michel’s novel THE AFTERMATH OF DREAMING was first released by William Morrow. One would think it could be a news peg, especially as the book has a character modelled pretty strongly after him.

So instead, we find out now, when the novel is released in paperback: When she was 18, Michel left Baton Rouge, La., and moved to New York, hoping to launch a modeling career. Although her runway dreams fizzled, she met Beatty in 1987 while working as a hostess at the posh Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan. The two instantly became very close friends, Michel said, and the story of their up-and-down relationship is central to her novel. “I was green as a pea,” she said, recalling the night she met Beatty. “And he was nothing but a wonderful, kind and supportive person. Being able to call him on the phone and tell him what was going on, to hear his take on it, was truly everything. He was an emotionally generous friend.”

Beatty doesn’t say his side of the story as he elected not to respond to repeated requests to be interviewed for Getlin’s piece. “It’s not like we’re in touch,” she said of Beatty. “He’s happily married. And this novel is not a hatchet job. [The relationship] was a very sweet, poignant thing, and was part of my growth.”

LA Times Book Festival Preview

The LA Times’ Josh Getlin previews the goings-on at this weekend’s LA Times Book Festival (which Ron is lucky to attend while I recover from Edgar-related festivities.) With nearly 400 authors in 100 booths plus a multitude of panels, no wonder more than 200,000 people show up at UCLA campus for the weekend. “The lineup is overwhelming,” said Debby Applegate, a Connecticut-based historian who won a Pulitzer Prize last week for THE MOST FAMOUS MAN IN AMERICA, a biography of abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. “But it’s not surprising. Los Angeles is a city of storytellers, and this weekend they’re all in one place.”

Later on the piece breaks down the Festival by numbers with “4 reasons not to avoid panel overload” and “2 chances to celebrate” – the LA Times Fest awards and a pre-awards dinner with the finalists.

Abate v. ICM: Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction Request

Josh Getlin at the LA Times reports that Judge Peter Leisure has ruled against ICM in their quest to block Richard Abate from working as an agent with Endeavor. The 18-page ruling issued earlier this afternoon stated that ICM had not proven that Abate’s decision to join Endeavor, before his contract expired, posed an imminent threat to the agency.

Variety’s Michael Fleming has more, including how Abate’s status at ICM – where his current contract runs until December 31 – will now be handed over to an arbitrator, who will decide what commissions are owed to ICM.

When reached for comment, Abate’s lead attorney, Brian Kaplan of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP stated that “My client is extremely pleased with the Court’s decision, and looks forward to continuing to work on behalf of his clients.” In response to queries made to ICM, Richard Levy, the company’s general counsel, issued this statement: “We are disappointed with the Court’s decision. However, on behalf of our clients who rely on our efforts to protect their privacy and enforce the integrity of their contracts, Richard’s blatant misconduct compelled us to act. The final outcome now will be determined by an arbitrator. ICM has the preeminent publishing division in the industry and as always, our clients and continued outstanding service to them, comes first.”

Abate v. ICM, Day Two: Laying Out the Timeline

If there’s one thing yesterday’s proceedings in Judge Peter Leisure‘s courtroom demonstrated, it’s the extreme disconnect between legal relevance and true-blue drama. From a legal standpoint, all the preliminary injunction hearing (which wrapped up by 4 PM yesterday) accomplished was to show whether there was enough standing to hold Richard Abate to the terms of his ICM contract until the last day of 2007, or whether ICM’s contract, forbidding Abate to even discuss options with Endeavor, was anticompetitive according to New York law. That will be decided fairly quickly – likely within the week – as Leisure, testier and more impatient than he’d been on Thursday, remarked once more that he’d “never seen such a delay on proceedings for a preliminary injunction” as well as the scuttled TRO. From a contractual standpoint, either Abate left – thus violating his existing contract – or he was fired in passive-aggressive fashion because turning down a new offer imperiled his future and so he needed backup in case that happened.

But you’re not reading this lengthy account for legal wranglings (even though there were plenty, especially when Abate’s father-in-law, Harold Moore, could only testify in limited fashion thanks to attorney-client privilege, a point vigorously debated between ICM counsel A. Michael Weber and Abate’s lawyer Brian Kaplan.) You want the drama. And boy, was there drama, never more evident than when a steely-eyed Esther Newberg, pursing her lips and visibly unhappy to have spent most of the day cooling her heels in the jury room under sequestering until she was called to the stand around 2:30 PM, testified that she felt “betrayed” by Abate’s surprise exit on February 9, someone whom she characterized as being a close friend – though not anymore. Add Sloan Harris‘s testimony as well as Abate’s completion of his to the mix and the real story of this hearing is not so much about money, but about how seemingly close relationships deteriorated so suddenly, so badly – which might explain why the arbitration demand slapped upon Abate late last week is to the tune of $10 million dollars.

But first, let’s backtrack to the very beginning of the day’s events, when Judge Leisure reminded the court that the hearing ought to have wrapped up in a single day and he felt much of it was a waste of time. “I hope we can make some headway here,” he said, and while the court may not quite have got its wishes, the reporters in attendance – yours truly, the LA TimesJosh Getlin and a late-arriving Michael Fleming from Variety – certainly did.

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More on Abate/ICM/Endeavor Triangle Tango

Josh Getlin had a short piece in this weekend’s Los Angeles Times about last week’s lawsuit slapped upon former ICM agent Richard Abate, rehashing many of the details already reported on his exit for new digs at Endeavor and ICM’s alleging that he violated the terms of his contract – which runs through the end of this year — by moving to an arch-competitor ahead of time. Though no one spoke to Getlin publicly by name, one anonymous agent’s comment reflected the industry’s fascination with the impending lawsuit and its implications. “This kind of lawsuit normally doesn’t happen in the publishing world unless you’re playing at a very high level in the business,” said one veteran agent. “Usually these disputes get settled quietly. But when you’re a big agency and you’re threatened by the loss of clients, you don’t just take it sitting down. You have to make a statement — and that’s what this is really all about.”

Meanwhile, for those like me who wondered why Gawker kept inserting throwaway insults about Abate’s reputation and character, current La Jolla University doctoral student Ted Gideonse offers his own perspective. He interviewed with Abate in 2002 when looking for work as an agent’s assistant, and knowing of Abate’s penchant for attending “every thesis reading at Columbia and Iowa and pouncing on the best writers” thought it couldn’t hurt to mention the upcoming readings at Gideonse’s then-graduate program, the New School. “I was trying to be nice and proud of my school and I thought it couldn’t hurt the school’s reputation if a major agent came, listened, and signed some folks. Also, I was hoping this little gift would help get my a job,” Gideonse explained.

Except things didn’t work out as planned. “First, he told me he’d hired someone else, and then he asked me who was good, and who he should sign. My jaw dropped. I muttered something and then he went and started pouncing.” But Gideonse had the last word, telling those Abate approached of his rep and “that if they were looking for a good agent, I could suggest some better people.” Gideonse’s quest landed him with Ann Rittenberg, and Abate found the assistant he needed in Kate Lee, who hasn’t fared too badly since landing at ICM.

Yes, Starbucks Has Changed Ishmael Beah’s Life

Josh Getlin at the LA Times follows former child soldier Ishmael Beah around as he signs books in Manhattan, the author’s profile growing in leaps and bounds ever since Starbucks made his memoir A LONG WAY GONE its second book choice. “This all hit me out of the blue,” the modest, soft-spoken writer said to Getlin recently, riding a cab to his first appearance on the tour, in a New York cafe. “I didn’t even know Starbucks sold books. They chose mine, and it changed everything. I wasn’t really prepared.” So far, according to Starbucks, the book has sold 37,000 in its chain stores to date – which matches up with the Bookscan numbers published here last week.

There’s the usual surprise from publishing types like Ira Silverberg (Beah’s agent) and Sarah Crichton (his editor) and some further insight into how Crichton handled the memoir in the wake of the James Frey scandal. The publisher asked Beah to vouch for the accuracy of his book, with its sharp recall of details and conversations. Crichton was willing to take the leap after Beah assured her that he has a “photographic memory.” He reminded her that he had grown up in a culture with a long-standing oral tradition and had learned to tell stories from memory around a fire – and so editing continued. Beah’s book — and his message — are primed for huge national exposure. But will Americans really be able to grasp what he’s been through? “I’m like any other 26-year-old,” the author said with a laugh, minutes before his debut. “A 26-year-old with a Starbucks tour.”

Exact Sales Figures: The Needle/Haystack Conundrum

As part of its continuing coverage of the Clive Cussler/Philip Anschutz lawsuit (more on that below) the LA Times delves into one of the key points of the lawsuit – did Cussler grossly overinflate his sales figures – and fans back into the publishing industry’s general cluelessness vagueness of exact sales figures. Finding data about book sales got easier in 2001, writes Josh Getlin, when Nielsen BookScan, a New York-based firm, began compiling information that measured about 70% of the U.S. book market. Yet there is still confusion in the marketplace. BookScan records sales from major chain stores, a sampling of independent sellers, online firms like, plus Costco, Kmart, Target and Starbucks. But it does not track weekly sales from Wal-Mart, religious stores, gift shops, grocers, drugstores and other outlets.

Meanwhile, publishers routinely withhold full sales figures, saying the information is proprietary. The only people legally entitled to know those numbers are authors and their agents. “The publishing business has never gone out of its way to report actual sales numbers because it has no real interest in doing so,” said Albert Greco, a Fordham University economist who analyzes business trends in the book world. “It’s hard to know what’s real. If an author on TV talk says his book has sold 1 million copies, only a few people will know if that’s true.” Especially when announced print runs are about twice the number of actual books printed, the despair of returns at full price and the small number of readers as compared to other forms of media.

“Most books don’t have anywhere near the financial success of movies, even unsuccessful movies,” said Cathy Langer, chief buyer for the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. “So if you look at sales figures, it’s not a pretty picture. And when you get so obsessed with numbers, you lose the wonder and creativity that’s basic to the book business.”

As The Clive Cussler Lawsuit Turns

Way back in December the LA Times reported on the impending lawsuits between author Clive Cussler and film producer Philip Anschutz stemming from a $10 million dollar deal to adapt SAHARA. Cussler hated the movie and sued on the grounds that it violated terms set forth in the contract; Anschutz countersued, and things appeared to get nasty.

Now they have. Today’s report from Glenn Bunting and Josh Getlin says that attorneys for Anschutz allege that author Cussler duped the Denver industrialist into paying $10 million for film rights to the adventure novel SAHARA by flagrantly inflating his book sales to more than 100 million copies. (A review of more than 14,000 pages of royalty reports and accounting records found, according to the lawyers, that the number of Cussler novels sold was closer to 35 million.) “Cussler and his agent had gotten away with these numbers for years,” said Alan Rader, Anschutz’s lawyer. “It was a lie and it doomed the movie.” The claim is “ridiculous,” Cussler said Thursday outside a courtroom at Los Angeles County Superior Court. “They wanted the book. They solicited us.”

The lawsuit brings out one of publishing’s little secrets, that book sales can be inflated and often are. “Hyping sales figures is not productive for the book industry and in the end it hurts everyone,” said James Atlas, a writer and founder of Atlas Books. “It’s harder to get away with this kind of thing now. The information Nielsen BookScan provides may be unwelcome to some, but it’s necessary.” Which is where the disclaimer that Bookscan only tracks between 50-70% of sales comes in, of course. As for the Cussler/Anschutz lawsuit, it’s ongoing.