Publisher’s Credo: Heads Will Roll

By Lilit Marcus

Published November 24, 2006, issue of November 24, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Last Monday, News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch announced that he was pulling the plug on O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical murder tale, “If I Did It,” and on the television interview that was to accompany it. Though many both inside and outside the company breathed a sigh of relief, some were left wondering how the misbegotten project had come into being in the first place. A possible explanation comes from Tom Kane, founder of the Web site www.commontales.com. In the 1990s, Kane spent a year working for Judith Regan, the fiery publisher who bought the rights to the Simpson book and who conducted the interview that Fox now won’t air.

As one of his odd jobs, he said, Kane was asked to look into the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. Regan had become obsessed with the tale, particularly the part where Judith decapitates the drunken Assyrian general. Regan sent Kane on missions to find images of the beheading scene for her office. Famous for working on books about scorned and mistreated women — she has said that her interest in the Simpson project stemmed in part from firsthand experience in an abusive relationship — Regan saw the biblical Judith as a feminist before her time. According to Kane, Regan took Judith’s lesson a bit too much to heart. “She threatened to cut off my head if I didn’t do [something she’d told me to do],” he said. “I believed her.”

Publishers make their living telling stories. What matters at ReganBooks, though, is the version of the story that Regan wants you to know. And here, the story that she wanted people to know was that she was a woman warrior, too, a half-Irish, half-Italian spitfire who’d gone from being a National Enquirer reporter to being one of the most powerful people in publishing, and she wasn’t afraid to cut off your head if that was what it took to get ahead. She perhaps missed the part of the story where Judith killed Holofernes in order to save the Jewish people. Or the part about how the community held Judith in high esteem.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.