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Is O.J. Simpson a worthwhile book topic?

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Over the past decade, I’ve often wrestled with the idea of an O.J. Simpson biography. To which my wife usually responds, “Ugh. Really?”

I see her point. I also see an iconic football player and celebrity who murdered his wife, then went through, perhaps, the trial of the century. O.J. Simpson offers everything an author could dream of—highs and lows, glory and horror, love and hate and suspense and murder and, ultimately, prison.

But … is he a book?

Does an O.J. Simpson biography sell 500,000 copies or 500 copies? Do people want to spend $30 to read about such a despicable man? Can one glorify a 2,000-yard rushing season and delve into the details of the Buffalo Bills’ locker room … when you know what’s coming?

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

Thoughts?

11 replies on “Is O.J. Simpson a worthwhile book topic?”

Yes
O.J. is the classic American tragedy. Black, white, whatever … he had it all. Fame, athleticism, TV job. Pretty sad that, me being 52, my memory of OJ used to be that game at Shea in ’73, when he topped 2,000 yards. Now, like everyone else, my memory is of him being acquitted for killing two people. Look forward to reading it.

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Obviously he’s a fascinating subject. And yes, people would shell out money to read an OJ Simpson bio, because OJ created reality TV and celebrity scandal as we know it today. There’s a massive appetite for any OJ Simpson stuff, and always will be. A bio of his entire life would be great. As someone too young to remember OJ for anything except the trial and Officer Nordberg I’d absolutely read it. All I ask is keep the chase and the trial to as minimum as possible. There’s been a billion books written on those subjects alone, we lived through it (I was barely 7 and I still remember watching the chase live), we all know the ins and outs of it by now. Leave the trial to a single chapter, maybe two if you have to, and focus on his life before and after 1994, and you’ll have a fresh perspective on his life that could absolutely sell.

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Do it only if you know you can bring something to the tale that is fresh. Otherwise why would you want to waste your time? I also think it is too soon. The story needs to percolate longer. Besides, he will probably get out of jail eventually. Sadly, there may be another chapter to the story…

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Will not sell. People have had enough of this guy. Unless he admits it, explains what happened, where the knife is, etc.

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I’m sure there would be a ton of material for an interesting character study – rags to riches to murder to jail.

Having said that, I would be surprised if it sold well – the fatigue factor is still high. Maybe a longer wait would help things in that regard.

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The quintessential OJ book is The Run of His Life, by Jeffrey Toobin. If you can improve on that, then i’d say go for it. But even though Toobin wrote it not too long aftrr the trial , I’d say he captured the best part of the story. Even if you report the hell out of the last 20 years of OJs life, what purpose would that serve? The climax of the story occurred when the jury declared him innocent. Your skill at capturing the nuances of a person’s character – Clemens and Walter Payton come to mind – is unprecented. But Toobin’s portrait of OJ as an spoiled celebrity with a monstrous sense of entitlement would be difficult to top. Jim Daly

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No, no, no, no, no. No. No. Did I mention the answer to your question is no?

When you read a biography, you are asking the reader to spend several hours “hanging out” with the subject of the bio. That is not an argument for hagiography, but the reader has to want to spend time the subject, warts and all. The number of readers who want to spend several hours with O.J. Simpson is exceedingly small.

This is why your Bonds and Clemens never sold as well as Mets/Cowboys/Payton/Lakers. All of your books are incredibly well-reported, written and publicized. The only difference between them is how few people wanted to spend time with Clemens and Bonds.

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I have to go along with others to question whether there is any new ground to cover, especially with every step he takes still being tracked by tabloids.
Another thought that sticks in my head- it feels like a minefield topic. No matter what, you will have people upset that you were too sympathetic, others that you were too hard on him, others that are just outraged that you wrote it in the first place. If the attention you received from Walter Payton frustrated you, this seems like it would be tons worse.

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How about a Rickey Henderson (imagine stories from some of his ex-teammates), Isiah Thomas or Eric Dickerson bio? History of the USFL? The 1980 Olympic Boycott?

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