He's no Sebastian Junger, but he can fictionalize

To: Saddam Hussein,
Supreme Leader
and President for Life

I just want to tell you how thrilled I am to be handling publicity for your upcoming novel, "Report to UN Security Council on Iraqi Full Disarmament." I think it's dynamite - maybe even nuclear!

At 12,000 pages, it's a bit longer than our usual offering, but I couldn't put it down. Such imagination: vanishing Kurds, I love it! How do you authors do it? (The French are already eating it up. C'est magnifique!)

There are a couple things I'd like to take up with you, though, as we prepare to market your novel for the tough American audience:

1. Let's think together about a new title. I like the comedy in the one you've suggested ("full disarmament"!), but the rest of it sounds so heavy, so policy wonkish, you know what I mean? Books about being a single woman are really hot over here now. Can we position your book in that direction somehow? "Saddam's Diaries"? "Sects in the City"?

2. I want to get you involved in the dust- jacket design. We need something alluring, something that highlights the rich fantasy of your story: I see sand, lots of sand - with oil. Or maybe we should play up the science fiction theme from that section about disappearing missiles.

3. You're kidding with that author photo, right? Pleeaze! You look like some two-bit Middle Eastern dictator. I know how this goes: Your mom wants you to use her photo, but this isn't a family album - this is war, my friend, and author photos can make or break you. Remember "The Perfect Storm"? You think anybody would have picked up a book on weather if it hadn't been for that GQ shot of Sebastian Junger? Leave it to me. We've got photographers in your neck of the woods right now. Just relax and be yourself - let us see the hurt child, the inner tyrant.

4. What's your January look like? Whatever you've got planned, cancel it. We need you here. The "Today Show" is a definite already. (They love the mustache!) And we're working with Oprah's people, but they can be tricky. (Did you ever make fun of her book club or invade Chicago? If so, get back to me ASAP.) I want to get you moving around indie bookstores, too. Bring your body doubles - we can cover more stores.

5. Let me handle the reviewers. I've got the legal guys looking into it, but we probably can't kill the critics and torture their families - we just don't have the staff, but thanks for the suggestion.

Our people will be in touch soon. And I want to talk later about your second book. It's never too early to think about where you're going next.

Happy Holidays,
Jack Pepper
Adult Trade Publicity

Ron Charles is the Monitor's book editor.

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