BOOKS: DAMSEL IN DISTRESS

RANDOM HOUSE SCORNED JOAN COLLINS' MANUSCRIPTS AND THE DISPUTE WOUND UP IN COURT. SO WHITHER THE CELEBRITY NOVEL?

IN 1991, AFTER READING THE MANUscript of a novel submitted by Joan Collins, Random House editor Joni Evans wrote a letter to the actress saying, among other things, "My biggest problems have to do with asking, 'Could this be real?'--and thinking it could not be." Problems? What problems? A steamy novel by a glamorous celebrity that read as if it were not "real"? Faced with such an object, many editors and publishers would have immediately ordered up a dust jacket and a print run of 200,000 copies.

But Evans and Random House, which had given Collins a $4 million, two-novel contract...

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