McGinniss Hops Agents (Again), So What’s He Working On?

mcginniss joe McGinniss Hops Agents (Again), So Whats He Working On?Author Joe McGinniss has a new literary agent, having signed on with Dave Larabell of the David Black Agency after parting company with David Vigliano last spring.

According to several sources, Mr. Larabell has spoken with publishers about a book Mr. McGinnis has been wanting to write about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the subject of a cover story he wrote for an issue of the now-defunct Portfolio back in March. Mr. Larabell declined to comment on what Mr. McGinniss—best known for the 1983 true-crime thriller Fatal Vision and the groundbreaking campaign book The Selling of the President 1968—is currently working on, but said that at the moment, “there is no deal in place.”

The last time Mr. McGinniss was in talks with New York publishers, he was being represented by Mr. Vigliano, who shopped the author’s proposal for a book on the last days of the Bush administration and, more recently, for one about Alaska and the oil industry that was seen as a sort of spiritual sequel to his 1980 Going to Extremes. Sources said Mr. Vigliano was in talks with the William Morrow imprint of HarperCollins on this second book, but those talks were derailed when John McCain announced that Sarah Palin—who, as the governor of Alaska, would have been a character in the book—would be his running mate in the presidential race. Mr. Vigliano also discussed the project with Rodale Books, but could not come to terms.

Early in his career, Mr. McGinniss was represented by the literary agent Sterling Lord, before signing with Mort Janklow in the early 1980s and reportedly staying with him for 15 years. That relationship dissolved in 1996, shortly after Mr. McGinniss decided to abandon a million-dollar book he’d been planning to write about the O. J. Simpson trial, in favor of a much less commercial project involving soccer and a small town in Italy.

In 2001, Mr. McGinniss hired the lawyer Dennis Holahan, who helped him sell two books to Simon & Schuster over the next several years. Following the publication of 2007’s Never Enough, Mr. McGinniss went back to Mr. Lord, who unsuccessfully shopped a proposal by his on-again, off-again client for a book he wanted to write about the 2008 presidential campaign. 

“Look, he has a reputation for being difficult,” said Mr. Holihan, who continues to serve as Mr. McGinniss’ lawyer. “But that’s just because he’s passionate about whatever book he’s writing. Most artists who are really strong people have run-ins with their representation from time to time, and Joe is one of those. Anybody who has gotten to know him and has represented him for a long time loves him. Certainly Sterling loves him. I love him. We know he’s passionate and can be emotional about the things he’s working on, but you know, so what? I don’t care.”

Mr. Larabell indicated in an email that Mr. McGinniss’ track record with agents had not made him hesitant to work with him..

“Joe McGinniss is one of the most important authors of the last forty years,” Mr. Larabell said in an email. “My goal is to help him continue to write good books. My feeling is that Joe has confidence in me; I sure have confidence in him.”

Mr. McGinniss did not return a phone call or an email on Tuesday. Neither Mr. Vigliano, Mr. Lord, nor Mr. Janklow could be reached for comment.