WHEN SIMON and Schuster canceled publication of "American Psycho," S&S President Richard E. Snyder explained his decision thusly: "Through the press, I became aware of the book and then aware of its contents." That is commendable, given the fact that Snyder heads the company.

To be sure, Snyder had also heard that some S&S underlings were dismayed at being associated with a novel that features the dismemberment of women and that sort of thing. And he may have come across his firm's winter catalogue, which does a pretty good job of summing up the book: "Patrick Bateman is young, handsome, and successful. He works on Wall Street, dates fashion models, frequents trendy restaurants and hangs out at the latest nightclubs. His hero is Donald Trump. But Patrick has problems . . . . {He} can't stop killing people -- women, men, children -- in ever more gruesome ways."

In fact, "American Psycho" is an example of the curious subgenre known as "splatterpunk," and as anyone who wants his own copy must know by now, the book was quickly bought by Vintage. (No doubt some reviewer is getting ready to compare Bret Easton Ellis's protagonist to, say, Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov or Dreiser's Clyde Griffiths, on grounds that all fictional sociopaths are created equal.)

But was "American Psycho" a mere aberration for Simon and Schuster? S&S's "Subsidiary Rights Guide -- Spring 1991 (May-August)," a preview of upcoming books, provides evidence to the contrary. Indeed, the spring list suggests that S&S editors have a keen professional interest in the themes of power, celebrity, sex and violent death. As Snyder put it so well, "It's a matter of taste."

Following are some genuine, undiluted excerpts from S&S's '91 list, all of it enough to make you wonder: Have Snyder (and Vintage) been made aware of this?

"Women Who Love Men Who Kill," by Sheila Isenberg, an investigative reporter's "in-depth psychological examination of why women -- from every variety of background and education -- are attracted to, fall in love with, and ultimately marry convicted killers." (To be published in July)

"Moments of Favor," by Daniel Bergner, a novel "that explores the siren song of celebrity . . . . Struggling musician Peter Bram becomes the best friend and confidant of Michael Marr, the son of the nation's beloved, assassinated President-elect. Peter is tempted {into} . . . a world of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll where friendship is based on whom you know and what you're worth." (June)

"Hollywood Requiem," by Peter Freeborn, heralded by the catalogue copywriter as " 'Sunset Boulevard' meets 'Fatal Attraction' -- a bizarre and destructive love story brimming with obsession and psychological suspense that climaxes in murder." (May.) (Is there copywriter burnout? A novel by Theodore Roszak is described as "weaving together the decadent allure of 'Sunset Boulevard' and the metaphysical intrigue of 'The Name of the Rose.' ")

"Piranha." The return of Harold ("The Carpetbaggers") Robbins, and his "sizzling new novel that combines passion, sex, ambition and money . . ." (May)

"If You Really Loved Me: A True Story of Desire and Murder." Ann Rule "explores one of the most bizarre and inexplicable murder puzzles of this century that occurred in California during 1985 when computer genius and millionaire David Brown masterminded the murder of his young 23-year-old wife by his 14-year-old stepdaughter, so he could collect the insurance and marry his teenage mistress and sister-in-law." (May)

Not to mention these: an insider look at the Donald Trump empire ("Trumped!"); Patrick Anderson's "incomparable portrait of life among the Texas rich in this engrossing tale of love, lust, and evil"; and a John Calvin Batchelor novel that investigates "the embodiment of the fast-buck '80s yuppie, of American glory gone greedy."

Who said literature was dead?

Jeffrey Frank is an editor of Outlook.