Some old enemies from the Watergate era are going at it again, this time in the literary arena.

In one corner are Howard Simons, former managing editor of The Washington Post and now curator of the Nieman Foundation, and Haynes Johnson, a Post political writer. In the other is former White House aide John Ehrlichman, who this month wrote a negative review in USA Today for "The Landing," a novel written by Simons and Johnson.

"He savaged it," Simons said recently. Calling USA Today's decision to assign the book to Ehrlichman "very spooky," Simons added, "I was instrumental in putting him in jail."

Johnson commented, "Maybe the only thing worse than being criticized by Watergate felon and perjurer John Ehrlichman would be to be praised by Watergate felon and perjurer John Ehrlichman."

Ehrlichman could not be reached for comment. USA Today book editor Robert Wilson defended his decision. "Watergate is pretty far behind us," he said, adding that he had discussed possible conflict of interest with Ehrlichman and was convinced that he "wouldn't use that for settling a score . . . he's a big enough boy that he's not going to settle scores in a bush league way like that."