Novel's odd obituary confounds publisher
by Constance Casey, Mercury News Book Critic

    WE GOT an unusual press release. Under the heading "Funeral Notice," Gustav Hasford wrote, "My novel, THE PHANTOM BLOOPER, was born dead this month . . . because my editor at Bantam Books, Greg Tobin, has, in my opinion, gone insane."
    Hasford says Bantam sabotaged his book by sending no copies to reviewers. "The motives for Greg Tobin's bizarre behavior," Hasford wrote, "will be explained in merciless detail in a news release I am currently drafting. It is a story which is complex, unprecedented, and scandalous."
    The Phantom Blooper, reviewed above, is a sequel to The Short- Timers.  Hasford, 42, shared an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay adaptation for Full Metal Jacket, the 1987 film.
    Hasford's name also rang a bell because he spent three months in San Luis Obispo County Jail, convicted of stealing library books.  Campus police at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo had found 8,816 books, from dozens of libraries, in Hasford's nearby storage locker.  Last April, Hasford was released early from his six-month sentence so that he could write and pay for the books judged to have been stolen.
    Editor Greg Tobin was not available for comment.  Barb Burg, Bantam publicist for The Phantom Blooper, told us that she sent out advance review copies as usual. "We've done everything that we do with all our other books." The Mercury News received a review copy in January and assigned a review.
    We asked Bantam chief publicist Stuart Applebaum what angered Hasford.  "Beats me," Applebaum replied. "Hasford is someone Bantam believes is a novelist of real talent, and we've believed in him through two books, notwithstanding the fact that he occasionally will exhibit bizarre behavior, the latest manifestation of which you probably have in your hand.
    ''We would do more for him if he were only reachable." said Applebaum.  Hasford, who lives in San Clemente, does not have a listed phone number.
    What will Bantam do if and when Hasford sends in the manuscript of another novel?
    ''We'd want to look at it seriously," Applebaum said.  "Though this kind of activity, especially when the accusations are untrue, documentably untrue, does give publishers reason to wonder why they're in the business they're in.
    ''But we would like Hasford to be apologetic to Tobin because Mr. Tobin has really broken his behind, so to speak, on this book.  Sometimes editing is a thankless task."

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