Gorbachev sells account of failed coup for reported $500,000

October 04, 1991|By Esther B. Fein | Esther B. Fein,New York Times News Service GtB

First came the coup of the Kremlin; now comes the coup between hard covers: President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has sold his account of the August uprising for a reported $500,000 to HarperCollins.

Giving new heft and meaning to the ever-growing field of quickie books, HarperCollins says it plans to translate the 74-page typed manuscript, print it, bind it and ship it to stores before the end of this month.

In a nation where Nikita S. Khrushchev, after his own overthrow, was forced to write his memoirs in secret and smuggle them out of the country, many Kremlin denizens are now tell-all graphomaniacs.

Mr. Gorbachev, Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin and a raft of other government figures are competing to publish their versions of the coup that failed.

And even though the Soviet Union is at one of the most critical junctures in its history, struggling to redesign its economy and government, several of these leaders have already found time to write their accounts of the August events.

"We, without a doubt, have the publishing coup," said William M. Shinker, senior vice president and publisher of the adult trade division at HarperCollins. "After the coup, every publisher in New York was trying to resuscitate Soviet books on their back lists. But this clearly is the book to have."

He would not comment on widespread industry reports regarding the size of Mr. Gorbachev's advance.

Publishers are also furiously trying to secure the rights to a coup memoir by Mr. Yeltsin, whose resistance to the plotters is credited with defeating the attempt to oust the Gorbachev government.

An aide in Moscow said Mr. Yeltsin was writing a book at a government country house in Sochi, on the Black Sea.

Newsweek magazine has acquired first serial rights to the book, but the rights to its publication are to be auctioned at the Frankfurt Book Fair next week.

Mr. Gorbachev's book, which will be published in the Soviet Union by Novosti, is said to be an analysis of the events that brought on the coup and the consequences of its failure. HarperCollins executives said the book would describe in detail the Gorbachevs' three days of incarceration in their Crimean dacha.

Mr. Gorbachev has been circumspect about his personal life and thoughts in all his interviews and published writings, including "Perestroika," the best seller published by HarperCollins in 1987.

"It will be an attempt to say everything but what we want to know," said Tatyana Tolstaya, a popular Russian writer, who is teaching this year at Goucher College.

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