For the time being, at least, Richard Perle has put his fiction-writing career on hold.
Yesterday Perle released a statement announcing that he would terminate negotiations with publishers on his proposed novel for as long as he remains in office, and adding, "It is an honor and a privilege to be able to serve my country in my present capacity as Assistant Secretary of Defense. That service is now as it has always been my highest priority."
Perle's statement took strong issue with charges that he had behaved improperly by inviting publishers to bid on the proposal, which had drawn fire for its apparent roots in real events. He was reportedly offered an advance in excess of $300,000 for the novel, tentatively titled "Memoranda."
"I have never had the intention to reveal sensitive or classified information or to relate the views of individual government officials on matters of national policy," Perle wrote. "Any impression that I would write a memoir that would violate the confidence and trust placed in me by the President and the Secretary of Defense is profoundly mistaken."
In his book proposal, Perle had written that the book would "reveal an array of bureaucratic manoeuvers recounted in the context of actual events altered only enough to make them publishable, to preserve the fiction in 'Memoranda'."
Perle's statement also emphasized that it had not been his intention to write the book or to accept money for it while still in government service. But even "the appearance of impropriety," he wrote, "however insubstantial in fact, can only diminish my effectiveness."
Perle's statement did not address charges that his decision to offer the book to publishers while still in office might have inflated its value. However, it stressed that the Department of Defense general counsel had assured him that, "subject to restrictions to which I have adhered, DOD regulations permitted me to negotiate and conclude a contract for the publication of a work of fiction."
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who on April 10 sent a letter to President Reagan protesting Perle's actions, declined to comment yesterday because he had not seen Perle's statement.
Perle would not elaborate on his written statement. The final paragraph of Perle's statement implies that he will go forward with the project when he leaves the government. "When, following my government service, I undertake to write a book, I will apply the same standard of concern for the public interest . . . that I have maintained throughout my government career."
And Robert Barnett of the law firm Williams & Connolly, who represented Perle in the bidding, said, "I am hopeful that when Richard leaves the government, the project will go forward."
Sources close to the negotiation said that the interested publishers had expressed willingness to resume discussions in the future. Said Peter Osnos of Random House, generally believed to be one of the final bidders, "We certainly respect [Perle's] decision."