Oprah’s book of the month

Oprah has spoken.

And the chosen one for May is … Maya Angelou’s memoir “The Heart of A Woman” — the seventh book, and the first work of nonfiction to be named an Oprah’s Book Club Selection.

Anticipating high book-buyer interest, Bantam Books is printing 1 million copies of the paperback edition of “Heart of a Woman,” which the house published in 1982. Given the phenomenal success of the previous six “chosen ones,” the large print run probably isn’t much of a gamble on Bantam’s part.

“Heart” is the fourth volume of Angelou’s autobiography. The book recalls her days as a singer-dancer and a budding writer in Gotham; working for Martin Luther King Jr.; her encounters with the likes of Billie Holiday and Malcolm X; and her relationship with her rebellious teenage son.

To celebrate Winfrey’s selection of “Heart,” Bantam will donate 10,000 copies of the paperback edition to schools and libraries nationwide.

Weisbach makes his bow

Rob Weisbach launches his eponymous, William Morrow-based imprint on May 14 with the release of Brad Meltzer’s legal thriller “The Tenth Justice.”

Meltzer is a 26-year-old Columbia Law School grad who initially embarked on the thriller for credit in law school. The book — optioned by Fox 2000, based on a partial manuscript, which then became the first of a two-book, mid-six figure publishing deal from then-Bantam editor Weisbach — is billed as a Gen X legal thriller dealing with a young Supreme Court clerk who inadvertently slips the confidential outcome of an upcoming decision to a blackmailer.

To promote the book, Weisbach will rely on reviews and media coverage rather than a huge print ad campaign. He has, however, recruited a film company to shoot a live-action TV spot to run during “The X-Files” and “Late Show With David Letterman.”

Weisbach has attracted the media spotlight since making his bones by initiating such celeb books as Jerry Seinfeld’s “SeinLanguage” and Ellen DeGeneres’ “My Point … and I Do Have One” as a cub editor at Bantam.

Parlaying the success of those books into his own imprint at 31 years of age, Weisbach admits the pressure is on to overcome the “Wonder Boy” label he has received from the press. “It’s important now for the books to speak for themselves. I think we’ve put together a catalog of fun, interesting reads. Hopefully, readers will agree.”

Among Weisbach’s other upcoming releases are a collection of short stories by CBS development exec Eugene Stein; a book on the musical “Rent”; and helmer Tim Burton’s “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories,” an illustrated book about misunderstood outcasts.

H’wood scribe a publishing phenom

Hollywood scribe Dan Gordon — whose screenwriting credits include “Murder in the First,” “Passenger 57” and “Wyatt Earp” — has hit the publishing trifecta, with three novels slated for publication this year.

The first book, “Davin,” is an adventure story for young readers that Gordon co-wrote with his 20-year-old son, Zaki. Delacorte Press has just published it.

Gordon’s original hardcover thriller, “Just Play Dead” — which he describes as a “menage a murder” — will be published by St. Martin’s Press in October. “Just Play Dead” marks the first of a series of novels featuring Maui police detective Denil (Dani) Kahana, a former Israeli Defense Forces recruit.

Later this year, St. Martin’s Press also will publish the novelization of Gordon’s political thriller “The Assignment,” based on the screenplay he co-wrote with Sabi Shabtai. The film version of “The Assignment,” starring Ben Kingsley, Donald Sutherland and Aidan Quinn, is scheduled to released by Triumph in the fall.

Gordon was repped by his agent Jerry Zeitman of The Agency.

Morrow crowns Queen Latifah

She’s already “Set It Off” on film, and she’s “Living Single” on Fox’s sitcom, now Grammy-winner Queen Latifah is set to pen a book on self-esteem and self-respect for William Morrow. Tentatively titled “From the Heart of a Queen,” Morrow will publish the book in hardcover in 1998. While not an autobiography, the book is said to draw from Latifah’s personal experiences.

World rights were acquired by Morrow editor Doris Cooper from Latifah’s lit agent Denise Stinson.

“Women With Men: Three Stories”

Richard Ford (Knopf) Pub date: June

Ford’s first book since his bestselling and award-winning “Independence Day” offers three long stories in which men try to come to terms, uneasily, with the countless imponderables of a woman’s heart.

“Walking Back the Cat”

Robert Littell (Overlook) Pub date: June

Two veteran publishing folk — espionage novelist Littell (“The Visiting Professor”) and former Penguin CEO Peter Mayer, now Overlook’s publisher — make a smashing debut at Overlook by way of Littell’s superb new spyfest. A deep-cover KGB network, dormant since the Cold War, is revived when a hit is ordered on a Russian woman in a small Texas town.

Rights: available

“In Awe”

Scott Heim (Harper Collins) Pub date: June

In Lawrence, Kans., three very different people comfort each other during and after the death from AIDS of a young man named Marshall — his mother Harriet, 62, Sarah, 32, a childhood friend, and Boris, 17, who lives at the same Sunflower Youth Home where Sarah once did. Fear of AIDS and homosexuality lead to victimization and escalating violence toward these three misfits of the American heartland.

Rights: available (Ellen Levine Agency)

“Eye on the World: Conversations with International Filmmakers”

Judy Stone (Silman-James) Pub date: June

Stone, former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, reprints interviews with 220 filmmakers in 40 countries that will be a valuable resource for cineasts and film journalists alike.

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