At least it’s not another O.J. trial book. Last week, HarperCollins editor David Conti struck a mid-six-figure publishing deal with an attorney without having to stripmine the latest “Trial of the Century.” He locked up the rights to “The Plundering of America” by San Diego securities attorney Bill Lerach.

Depending on your sources, Lerach is either the most hated lawyer in America or Robin Hood. Having sued more than 500 companies — and other such figures as the pop group Milli Vanilli for lip-synching its songs — for deceit and fraud in the past 20 years, Lerach has made it his personal mission to make corporate behemoths accountable to their shareholders.

The book, which will be co-authored by journo Patrick Dillon, is tentatively scheduled for a spring ’98 pub date.

Joel Fishman, Lerach’s literary agent at Bedford Book Works, negotiated the deal, based on an 80-page proposal. The project soon will make its way to filmmakers as a star vehicle because of Lerach’s over-the-top persona: Lerach, who sports an immense afro, was described in a recent GQ magazine profile as “loud, profane, sarcastic, cloyingly intelligent and shamelessly bold.”

Scorsese scores in print

Although he has been busy with his helming/producing duties, Martin Scorsese has managed to contribute to at least three upcoming books about film.

Random House recently acquired two books by the filmmaker, “A Director’s Diary: The Making of Kundun” and “The Magic Box: 201 Movie Favorites” (written with former Time magazine film critic Jay Cocks).

“A Director’s Diary” is Scorsese’s account of making “Kundun,” the upcoming Disney film about the early years of the Dalai Lama. RH will try to publish the book simultaneously with the film’s January 1998 release.

“The Magic Box” is based on Scorsese and Cocks’ conversations about their favorite films. Tentatively slated for publication in 1999, the book will devote two pages to each film, including photo still, credits, synopsis and availability.

In December, Miramax/Hyperion Books will publish “A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies,” described in the publisher’s catalog as “an absorbing and informative look at the evolution of American film, and how the medium shaped Scorsese’s artistic vision and influenced the whole of American culture.”

Scorsese penned the tome, which contains 100 full-color and black-and-white photos, with Michael Henry Wilson.

Writers seeing double

While the distinction between novelists and screenwriters continues to blur, more of the hyphenates who write for both mediums are striking pub and film deals for their works at about the same time.

Recently, screenwriter Walt Becker set up a treatment of his story “Link” at Live Entertainment with Wesley Snipes’ Amen Ra Films and Gregg Davis’ Parkwood Pictures producing.

Soon afterwards, Becker’s lit agents Alex Smithline and David Vigliano struck a $550,000 pub deal with William Morrow for a novel about the discovery of the missing link, which turns out to be an alien.

Film and literary reps for screenwriter Steven Pressfield — whose first novel, “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (Morrow), is being developed by producer Jake Eberts (“A River Runs Through It”) as a Robert Redford directing project — are simultaneously shopping the rights to his latest novel, “Thermopylae.”

Described as “Braveheart” meets “Spartacus,” and told through the eyes of a young squire, the book is a fictionalized tale of the men who fought a legendary battle in ancient Greece.

Pressfield’s Gotham lit agency Sterling Lord Literistic is sending the manuscript to publishers, while his manager Rich Silverman at 3 Arts Entertainment soon will be going out with “Thermopylae” to filmmakers.

PAGES IN PREVIEW

“Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life”

Laurence Bergreen (Broadway) Pub date: July

:”This is the first biography I have written in which my opinion of my subject kept improving as I worked,” says Bergreen, who has also completed works on Irving Berlin and Al Capone. This strong admiration is apparent throughout his meticulously researched, vibrant biography, which has the potential to become the definitive word on Armstrong’s life and remarkable career.

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