Margaret Truman Is Missing
COMING next spring from Arbor House is a massive project -- 2,000 typed pages in manuscript. Called One Thousand and One Midnights, it's made up of 1,001 different reviews of suspense and mystery fiction. The editors are Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller, both detective novelists and prolific anthologists, and though they themselves penned many of the entries, there were outside contributors, as well, like mystery writers Edward D. Hoch and Max Collins. The book's set to retail for $50, and Pronzini and Muller are currently breathing a joint sigh of relief that it's in the hands of Arbor's production department now and no longer on theirs.
However, one planned entry may be missing from the book as it goes to press -- specifically, Arbor House author Margaret Truman, whose mysteries set in and around Washington (Murder at the White House, Murder on Capitol Hill, and the forthcoming Murder at the FBI) have won this well-known presidential daughter a fair-sized following. There have been hints that she got a look at the unfavorable comment on her books which was set to run and subsequently made her displeasure felt.
"There was a review written," admits Pronzini cautiously, "though so far as I'm aware Margaret Truman hasn't seen it. But I know Arbor is protective of her . . . ." He declined to elaborate further, adding only that there won't be any reviews of Truman in One Thousand and One Midnights and that "Arbor House is the publisher and we pretty much have to abide by what they say."
Counters Arbor publisher Eden Collinsworth, "I don't believe for a moment that entire deletions would be made because they're negative, even if they're Arbor House authors." Yet Fred Chase, one of the in-house editors working on the book, says that, in fact, it's true there once was a Truman evaluation which no longer exists. Written by noted mystery scholar Francis M. Nevins, it was adjudged "extremely vituperative and negative and not at all in keeping with the (evenhanded) tone of the book." Nevins, he explains, is an expert on Cornell Woolrich and "prefers more noir-ish types of writers."
According to Chase, there are "maybe only six or seven wholly negative entries in the entire book . . . We were perfectly willing to accept a negative Margaret Truman entry but not one this extreme." And he says that he and Bill Thompson, the book's other in-house editor, also decided to tone down Pronzini's very unfavorable reviews of Robert B. Parker (creator of the Spenser series), which went a "bit overboard." Nevins, Chase says he was told, "refused" to submit to any changes." But, it turns out, Nevins was never even conulted. Says Pronzini, "I refused to ask someone to whitewash a review." Nevins, when queried about the episode, stated, "I probably would have cooperated," he says.
So the plot thickens.
And Fred Chase, doing a quick recovery when told of Nevins' amenability to editing, pronounces it "very, very surprising and brand-new information to me." But it could mean "a happy ending." There's still time, you see, to put Truman back in: "She's a noted mystery author and ought, by rights, to be included," Chase insists. So now the mystery remains: Will they, or won't they? Rambo Gets Written
THE ordinary way to produce a novelization of a film is for the paperback house which has bought the tie-in rights to contract with an author to do it. Usually a writer is chosen who's familiar with the demands of this halfbreed genre, although, occasionally, official "literary" types (like William Kotzwinkle, who did E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial) are brought in. How Rambo: First Blood, Part II (Jove), which is currently topping box-office and bookstore sales around the country, came to be done, though, presents an unusual story.
It was in 1972 that David Morrell published First Blood, a novel that, after taking 10 years to make it to the screen, became a successful film starring Sylvester Stallone. One hit movie spawns another (that's the natural law of Hollywood), so even though Rambo, the protagonist of the novel First Blood, had died at the end of the book, it turned out to be a wise decision to have him survive the bloody climax in the screen version. So the script for a sequel was prepared by Stallone and James Cameron with "virtually" no input from Morrell, who'd sold all the film rights to the character.
"The producers came to me and proposed that I do the novelization of the script," David Morrell recalls. Despite the "bad rep" of novelizations, he says "the idea of full circle" appealed to him -- going from writing the original story on which the first film was based to writing the "original" book based on the second film. The negotiations for Rambo II, the book, ended last November, and Morrell began to write in early December. His deadline was January 1 . . . and he made it, with a few days to spare. The book went into immediate production and was in the stores and on the chains' best-seller lists by early April. There are, at present, 724,000 copies in print.
There are, however, numerous differences between the movie's Rambo and the book's, owing to what Morrell calls "authorial license." In particular he points out that the films have made his hero part- Indian, part-German; by him, Rambo is and remains part-Navajo, part-Italian. He's also, Morrell adds, "more philosophical" in the novels and less musclebound.
Naturally, part III of the adventures of Rambo (film first, of course) are in the "talking," but, in the meantime, David Morrell is awaiting publication of his fall thriller, The Fraternity of the Stone (St. Martin's/Marek). Interestingly, if that hits the best- seller lists too, it won't be Morrell's second of the year, but his third: The Brotherhood of the Rose was a national chart-maker when Fawcett published it back in February.