MOSCOW -- Mikhail S. Gorbachev emerged as a promising capitalist yesterday, launching the Russian edition of his coup book with a masterful display of hype.
In measured, somber tones befitting the statesman he is, the Soviet president said at a news conference that President Bush had personally called him to warn about a coup attempt.
"There was a call from the president of the United States himself," Mr. Gorbachev said. "He said, 'Excuse me, but we have information which we cannot keep from you.'
"I told him, 'President Bush, don't get excited. Everything is fine.' "
If President Bush's call had been made and ignored just before the August coup, this would have been sensational news. But yesterday Mr. Bush's spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, said the call was made in June.
In June, Moscow was full of talk that a coup was imminent.
Mr. Gorbachev also suggested that someone had been eavesdropping on him before the coup. He said that before leaving for his vacation in August, he had speculated on some changes in leadership. Some of the coup leaders had not heard their names mentioned for future jobs, he said, and decided to act.
He said the Soviet Union still faced a danger that conservatives might seize upon economic troubles to stage another coup.
"We must not be naive," he said. "They have not given up."
For the book, "August Putsch: the Truth and the Lessons," Mr. Gorbachev has received an advance of $500,000.
"That's good," he said, smiling. "It shows the process has started toward a market economy."
Mr. Gorbachev's first book, "Perestroika," earned him close to $3 million, he said. He said he donated most of the profit to good causes, with some going to the Communist Party.