- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

NEW YORK — Crime thrillers and literary debuts, celebrity biographies and works of history manuscripts arrive each week in publishing houses.
But one subject that isn't turning up much anymore is September 11.
"There were an enormous number of proposals in the fall and winter, but we haven't seen that level of submissions for a couple of months," says Bob Miller, president of Hyperion Books, which just published "Firehouse," David Halberstam's account of one firehouse devastated by the attacks.
"There are still some coming through, but it's definitely less than it was at the beginning of the year," says Carolyn Reidy, president of the adult publishing division at Simon & Schuster, which this fall will release "What We Saw," an audiovisual record of September 11.
"I think there is a feeling now that to find a story that is unique and adds to what we have seen is more difficult," Miss Reidy says.
The drop in submissions reflects an apparent overall decline of interest by the book world. Even though dozens of new works are expected to mark the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, publishers worry that readers' interest has peaked.
Books about September 11 are still on best-seller lists but not as often as last fall. The June 2 nonfiction list of the New York Times showed only one such title: "Last Man Down," a memoir by fire battalion commander Richard Picciotto. The top three books were Richard Blow's "American Son," by a former associate of John F. Kennedy Jr., and memoirs by Rosie O'Donnell and Michael J. Fox.
"I really think people have retreated to their televisions or their VCRs," says Jonathan Segal, a vice president and senior editor at Alfred A. Knopf. "Everybody said September 11 would change everything, but I don't see a quantum shift."
Some September 11 books expected to do well this fall are "What We Saw" and "On Top of the World," the story of Cantor Fitzgerald and its struggle after the deaths of more than 600 of the firm's employees.
One leading retailer, Michael Powell of Powell's Books, says he has seen "very little" interest lately in books about September 11.
"People like reading about natural tragedies, like 'The Perfect Storm,' but they don't have as big a taste for things that are man-made," says Mr. Powell, whose store is based in Portland, Ore. "It's too scary and depressing, and cuts too close to the bone."
After this fall, the number of new books about the attacks will decline significantly. But just as books about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy continue to be released, publishers will not drop September 11 altogether.
Works of emotional appeal, such as "Last Man Down," likely will give way to more analytical books. Publishers believe writers will refer to September 11 in the future but not use it as the primary subject; studies of Islam and the Middle East will continue to be written and broader histories and investigative studies will emerge.


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