Sunday, February 19, 2012

HarperCollins: A Commendably Balanced Report By The UK Daily Telegraph’s Iain Hollingshead

Posted by Peter Quennell

Iain Hollingshead has written a fair and balanced piece in the Daily Telegraph. It contains quite a few notes of caution for HarperCollins:

1) Iain Hollingshead has this restrained Anne Bremner comment from her side though it fails to mention the million-dollar-plus PR campaign that has so many people addled on the real evidence; a pity Iain Hollingshead didnt press her.

“No one here has lost sight of the enormity of the fact that Meredith was killed,” says Anne Bremner, a Seattle-based lawyer and a spokeswoman for the Friends of Amanda Support Group. “But there’s widespread belief in Amanda’s innocence. And when something horrible happens, people all over the world are interested in how you get through it.”

Something horrible happened to Meredith too, of course - and she didn’t get through it. Anne Bremner might press Amanda Knox to make sure to answer in her book the several hundred open questions.

2) Then Iain Hollingshead quotes a London agent who is saying, like other agents and publishers, that HarperCollins sure seems to have taken on a risky publishing venture:

A positive balance sheet is far from guaranteed, however. “I think it’s very risky money,” says Ed Victor, the London-based literary agent whose clients range from Keith Richards to Alastair Campbell and Frederick Forsyth. “But all advances at that level are risky. A lot will depend on whom they hire as the collaborator. It has to be written well.”

3) Also Iain Hollingshead points out what many others have previously pointed out which is that that Knox is not really known for good prose or interesting writing:

HarperCollins hasn’t released the name of the ghostwriter, but one imagines they will have their work cut out. Not only is the book scheduled for publication early next year, they will also have to tread the fine line of polishing Knox’s prose without losing her voice. Although Knox is said to have harboured long-standing dreams of becoming a writer, extracts from her prison diaries ““ some of which were given to investigators in an attempt to clear her name and were later leaked to newspapers ““ suggest that she has a little way to go. One poem read: “Do you know me? Open your eyes and see that when it is said I am an angel, or I am a devil, or I am a lost girl, recognise that what is really lost is: the truth!”

By the way, Mr Burnham of HarperCollinws is widely quoted as saying that Amanda Knox’s side of it is the only one still to come out.  He seems to think that her side of it is still a mystery, and that the world is holding its breath.


She seems to be one of the most widest quoted perps or suspected perps or non-perps in all history. In fact, she talked so much in the early days that her own lawyers had to publicly caution her to stop piling wrong explanations on wrong explanations.

There are her letters and her emails and her diaries and her notes to police and prosecutors. Plus long quotes from her in books by for example Rocco Girlanda. Plus her two full days on the witness stand. Plus half a dozen major statements to the trial court and appeal court. Plus a few hundred quotes from her family on her behalf. Plus her whole raft of alibis.

Often (when her parents and lawyers are not shushing her) she seems to be digging herself in deeper. Which elements of her story does Mr Burnham think we are all waiting for?

4) Also (although Iain Hollingshead fails to mention John Kercher’s book due in April and may not know about it) he points out that Meredith is the real victim in this case and a very sympathetic one especially in the UK.:

In the British market, Knox’s book will face far greater challenges than the quality of her ghosted prose. “I don’t think the book will be huge here because a lot of British sympathies are with the British victim,” says Victor.

5) Also Iain Hollingshead points out that when there is a sympathetic real victim there is little evidence that the perp or framed perp (dont they all claim they are framed?!) sells a lot of books:

The interest in the O”‰J Simpson case, for example, did not lead to good sales for his book, If I Did It. And while many pundits are comparing Knox’s book to Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life, the memoir of the Californian girl held against her will for 18 years which has sold more than a million copies since last July, Victor thinks the comparison unhelpful. “She was the victim of a crime, not the putative perpetrator of a crime,” he says. “And that’s a big difference. You could say she was the victim of a miscarriage of justice ““ but so are a lot of people.”

6) And Iain Hollingshead shows us that Andrew Gumbel, Sollecito’s ghost writer, is pretty uninformed on the case.

We will now be able to watch him having a tough time writing on the hard evidence and the fair Italian system and the real character of the druggie loner Sollecito. Assuming that Mr Gumbel hasn’t made up his mind:

“The book will be a lot of things: a love story, a harrowing description of an innocent young man in prison, a full-blooded Italian family drama, and a legal thriller,” says Gumbel. “But these are not the only reasons I got involved: what happened to Raffaele and Amanda was inexcusable and unconscionable and my intention is to get to the bottom of exactly why they were targeted.”

Gumbel denies he’s cashing in on a brutal murder. “I know that, in Raffaele’s case, no day has gone by without him thinking of Meredith and the hell her family has gone through,” he says. “We are not ‘cashing in’ on her death, but rather illuminating the way the Italian police and judiciary compounded the tragedy by throwing two young people into prison for no good reason. Their stories ““ both their stories ““ deserve to be heard and I believe it is important that they are.”

Cashing in on Meredith’s death? No, the thought never even occurred to us. Image of the accusatory and under-researched Mr Gumbel below. Keep on his tail Mr Hollingshead.

7) We would have liked Iain Hollingshead to touch on the risks of calunnia for HarperCollins, but to be fair to him it is doubtful he knows what in the very fair Italian system that defense for those unfairly attacked means.

Mr Burnham and Mr Gumbel seem to be setting themselves up nicely to find out.

[Below: Sollecito ghost writer Andrew Gumbel; and Sollecito book agent Sharlene Martin]


The HarperCollins building at 10 East 53rd Street in Manhattan owned by Millenium is up for sale.

HarperCollins have a lease there to 2014 at which point the rent could jump astronomically or the lease not be renewed.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/19/12 at 04:46 PM | #

One reason why HarperCollins’ book by OJ Simpson’s “If I Did It” did not do all that well:

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/19/12 at 04:50 PM | #

Harper’s is owned by NewsCorp - the same train wreck that spied on Milly Dowler and many many others and bring you the wonderful Faux News…any questions?? as to their scruples, integrity, intelligence?

Posted by mojo on 02/19/12 at 05:51 PM | #

Murder shouldn´t pay!

Posted by aethelred23 on 02/20/12 at 04:40 AM | #

Off topic. Michael and Nicki and Ergon have all been valued main posters here and as always they would be so welcome if they send us more. I posted something on a PMF forum about the history of the unfortunate split over there as I was on the sidelines throughout and TJMK was and is a vehicle for PMF posters’ long-form posts. Michael sent me his point of view. Why Charles Wilkes thinks there was a threat is beyond me and it seems a pity and not helpful to AK’s status in Italy that he makes so many things up. Hugs all round. Except you Charles.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/20/12 at 02:01 PM | #

Egnlish-language reporting on the HarperCollins deal seems generally flat, and biased only because it is so seriously under-informed.

But the excellent Chelsea Hoffman who sometimes contributes to the excellent NBC Dateline does realistically point out the toughness of the Supreme Court appeal that lies ahead.

She also has this helpful take on extradition which is a frequent topic in comments here:


“Unknown to some, in particular those on the side of the formerly accused murderess, the United States has an extradition treaty with Italy. That means the U.S. cannot harbor a fugitive of Italian justice unless they wish to violate said treaty. It’s a real beaurocratic process that requires the fugitive to be apprehended by federal agents and held without bond. From there, the United States will investigate whether or not the crime is truly worthy of extradition. In the case of murder, it’s safe to say that extradition happens.”

“If the appeal being pursued by Italian prosecutors is successful, then the treaty between the U.S. and Italy must be honored and Foxy Knoxy must go and serve the time for the crime she may have committed. As far as Italian prosecutors believe, she is guilty. However, this is heavily argued, so who knows what the truth really is. Hopefully, the money she earns from her published memoirs help her out some!”

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/20/12 at 02:14 PM | #

Hi Mojo. Thanks a million for the tip! As you can see our gnomes here have now turned it into a main post.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/20/12 at 03:22 PM | #

You’re surely right, Peter, in thinking that Andrew Gumbel is taking a real chance on Amanda’s book, but I think he must know that. Very nice photo of this handsome fellow, by the way: insouciant Hollywood. Question at bottom is whether he expects to “manage” that chance, just as so much has already been managed in this woman’s behalf.

And as you say elsewhere of the appeal now filed in Rome: “Dr Galati has set the stage for a very, very tough third act.”  A well thought of prosecutor who knows Cassation well (your point on this) he has certainly declared his own belief—it happens also to be mine—that Knox & Sollecito were co-conspirators in Meredith’s murder.

But the very severity of his opinion already counts for the public.  People nod & say: They know who did it.  Yet that same severity might serve as a replacement for any further trial & for the bother of extradition, not to mention the continuing cost.

I think the same public (Italian, not American) that would nod in agreement with Dr Galati might easily go on to say: They know who did it—we’re not kidding anybody—but Cassation doesn’t want to be bothered with this.  Who can blame them?”

This is to express a doubt.  It’s not meant to be subversive or contrary but I can’t quite overcome my sense that Amanda’s not going back there, ever. Or say rather, that the business is effectively finished.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 02/20/12 at 11:34 PM | #

Dear Ernest. Sincerely sorry if you are feeling like a hamster in a wheel (who isnt?!) but we do believe Meredith’s circle deserve a definitive statement of justice either way.

That may take a while and it will set precedents in many areas for many years ahead. Toxic PR campaigns should never be allowed to succeed or we really will have one system for those who can muscle together enough resources for PR and another for everyone else. 

Talk of Amanda never going back is about the one weapon her useful idiots have left and there is no sign it is true. The US will go through a process of investigating whether Italy’s trial and appeals were fair or not. It will not be easy for the US to arbitrarily say no.

Besides the US has done nothing to upset the Italians in recent years beyond these two infamous military cases where the US argued that civil law does not apply.

Gumbel is the one writing about Sollecito. We dont know who will shadow write for Knox yet.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/20/12 at 11:58 PM | #

I would also argue that even RS and AK and their families would be better off getting this legitimately done.

I now think they made a huge wrong call early on and should have done what Guede in part did: gone for the short form trial with its guaranteed shorter sentence, but also argued mitigating circumstances (which may not have flown but with Italian juries who knows?) such as drugs and mental aberration and the claim that there was no prior intent to do more than give Meredith a fright.

Neither AK nor RS seem to be that well. Therapy etc might help them both. Sufficient time in prison might have taken care of that. Whereas US prisons seem intent on delivering unemployable basket cases onto the streets, the Italian system could not be more opposite and they could have come bouncing out. 

Knox now is claiming (it seems) or being made to claim that life was hell inside but I for one dont believe her.  We have at least one major witness who said that she had quite well adjusted and was treated well: the MP Rocco Girlanda, who visited her many times to check on exactly that.

Also her lawyers met with her repeatedly at Capanne and they never complained to the judge. This “mistreatment” seems yet another thing that Jonathan Burnham has been misled on. The list sure is growing long.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/21/12 at 12:21 AM | #

What do you lawyers make of this statement:

“The motion for appeal has officially been filed with the highest Italian court and this case will probably turn out very interesting. Do you think she will be reconvicted? It’s said that the reconviction rate of these particular types of appeals is as high as 70 percent so that can’t bode well for Amanda Knox.”

Chelsea Hoffman is a prolific crime writer and fiction author with several works published. Her writing has been recognized by such entities as NBC Dateline and several others. Contact her directly by visiting ChelseaHoffman.Com.

Posted by believing on 02/21/12 at 03:39 AM | #

I’m a little unclear - why are AKs parents the only ones being charged with ‘calumnia” when she was the one to testify in court that she was hit?  Or is there going to be two trials on this subject?

Posted by believing on 02/21/12 at 03:40 AM | #

Finally, my impression of the outcome of the OJ book “If I did it” was that even it it wasn’t a big bestseller (I finally read it this year), it convinced everyone that, yeah, he did it.  There was a big swing in opinion on the case after the trial, from what I saw.  During the trial he still seemed to have plenty of supporters, based on his football hero status.  After the trial and over the next years, after losing the civil case, publishing the book and his subsequent jailing for breaking in and threatening someone, it seems like nearly everyone believes now that he did it. 

I think the book will be a lot of blah blah blah about her daily routine and I can’t see how it can be that interesting unless it is highly embellished.  Which I’m sure it will be with the help of her ghost writers.  On the other side of things, I think the book that RS writes will be even more boring and I doubt it will sell many copies.  But perhaps more honest.  Have we heard one word about him having a terrible experience in the Italian Jail?  And yet there is a group of people who think AK definitely suffered in there, whereas the cellmate describes a not too awful life of books, studying, and exercising.  Sounds like university life to me, sharing a dorm room and a bathroom.  And at least it was a way for her to stop drinking and smoking pot and get her head together.  Not that I would want any innocent person to be locked up in jail.

Posted by believing on 02/21/12 at 03:52 AM | #

@believing her parents are being tried because they repeated her accusations to the press, also [though I don’t know if this will count] Knox was recorded telling her mother during a prison visit the Lumumba was innocent.

I’m feeling more and more positive about this, I have none of the forboding I experienced last time round [for Act 2]. I think justice will be served for lovely Meredith. I was reading an article yesterday announcing the book deal and the vast majority of comments were posted by people who believe in Knox’s guilt, they are educated, well thought out posts. I find Knox supporters tend to mud sling and use inflammatory foul language,not the kind of people I would want supporting me.


Posted by Melanie on 02/21/12 at 10:46 AM | #

Hi Believing and Melanie.

On calunnia, good question. Amanda Knox also is facing her own separate calunnia trial. The prosecution is not a party to these calunnia trials, and except as possible witnesses they wont even be in the courtrooms. Nor will Meredith’s family or their lawyer Maresca.

Knox supporters seem to consistently misunderstand who is bringing these charges. It is those individuals in the police who consider that they were defamed - their professional prospects and reputations damaged by Knox’s charge that she was forced by them into making the so-called confession that pointed the finger at Patrick (with herself present at the time).

Anyone who re-states those charges as fact to the media (as dozens of Knox supporters do) could in theory face the same charges. If HarperCollins repeat them, then they too will be in the cross-hairs. Jonathan Burnham doesnt seem to have a clue about this danger, and perhaps he thinks Knox can shoot her mouth off excitingly about anyone she encountered in the police, prosecution and especially prison. She just cant.

Dr Stefanoni and Mr Mignini could in theory also inspire calunnia trials, along with for example the prison doctor who checked Knox for HIV, a standard procedure for new prisoners. She was warned false positives were not uncommon and a second test was done. We believe a misinterpretation of why she listed her sex partners was leaked by the family. It was her choice to write them up in her diary and we believe they leaked it.

Knox’s calunnia charges are why Knox’s lawyers have now appealed against her conviction and three-year sentence for falsely implicating Patrick Lumumba. They really had no choice. If they get that annulled, then her way forward at the calunnia trial gets easier. If they dont, she loses.

Mignini and Comodi got her to admit on the stand in mid 2009 she was treated well and offered refreshments, and that she came in on the interview night of her own volition. She was not under oath on the stand mid 2009 and Mignini and Comodi were facing strict ground rules, But she still managed to blab a lot of things she really shouldn’t, which will now be used against her.

To win her appeal and calunnia trial it seems to us she will HAVE to get on the stand with no ground rules and face withering cross examination, because she is her own only witness.  This really is a slow-motion train-wreck (along with the book now) and maybe the way, finally, in which it all unravels.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/21/12 at 01:41 PM | #

Hi Melanie. Yes it looks like Mr Gumbel and Knox’s ghost writer are in for many sleepless nights as the cold hard truth dawns on them that they will have to somehow work around.

As you say it seems now to have dawned on most well-read people.

Ironically a new Polanski movie called Ghost or Ghost Writer in different countries has been repeating frequently on cable here (Showtime).

The ghost writer also figures out a very inconvenient truth and, well, I wont ruin the ending, but I dont recommend Mr Gumbel or his Knox counterpart to watch it or they could REALLY have sleepless nights!

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/21/12 at 02:12 PM | #

A few comments:

If I hear a false story and repeat to public with a sincerely belief that the story is true, it is possible that I may be excused (ignorance is not really an excuse but can be a mitigating factor). On the other hand, if I repeat a false accusation in public knowing full well that it is false (Amanda has clearly indicated so in a recorded telephone conversation), then it is a solid basis for a defamation charge. It may be considered more so when the charge is against a public official on duty- then the honour of the state is at stake.

The question that begs answer again and again: she had the most high profile lawyers (in Italy) but she did never complained formally in the court. One thing is very important: they (the police) were just doing their duty- they had no personal interest for or against one or the other.

One lie needs a dozen lies to cover up. I understand RS did pursue some studies while in prison but AK continued her cartwheels! She could have finished some course and even got some respectable degrees in the four years.

Take a lesson from the whale; the only time he gets speared is when he raises to spout.

Posted by chami on 02/21/12 at 05:02 PM | #

Hi Chami. AK as the dog that didnt bark!! The famous Sherlock Homes tale. A dog that doesnt bark when one expects it to can be powerful evidence too.

Amanda Knox had every opportunity to tell her parents that she was whacked about when they were sitting together at their first two meetings in Capanne.

Instead she began saying in effect she was there at Meredith’s death and would be unable to deny it.

Her parents shushed her (as the Supreme Court ominously noted) and they later tried to excuse that away by claiming she was saying she was there… at Sollecito’s house!

So why shush her?

Thereafter it became a mantra of the parents that AK was whacked about. But WHEN precisely did she tell them? Question #1 at their calunnia trial.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/21/12 at 05:20 PM | #
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