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Lynch book fails to excite on first day


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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Despite a media blitz, the biography of America's best-known soldier from the Iraq war, Jessica Lynch, appeared unlikely Tuesday to translate into big cash as the first day of sales fell short of expectations.

After days of magazine covers, TV movies, tabloid tales and television interviews, first-day sales of her authorized biography, "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story," fell well short of other high-profile books like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's memoir, which had buyers lining up around the block.

Not a copy had been sold by midday Tuesday, Veterans Day, at a Barnes & Noble store on Chicago's North Side, said an employee who declined to be identified. The store would not disclose how many of the books sold.

"I've yet to have anyone ask about it," the employee said.

At a Manhattan Barnes & Noble, an employee described interest as "moderate. It certainly has not been exceptional." Another nearby store sold one copy by lunchtime.

On online bookseller Amazon.com, the book ranked 21st in sales, well short of top-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code" and the latest get-slim-quick fad, "The South Beach Diet."

A spokesman for the Lynch family could not be reached for comment, while her publicist at publisher Alfred A. Knopf did not return calls.

Praying to God

Lynch, who joined the Army to get an education and become a teacher, was captured in Iraq in March and held for over a week there. When her story broke, some painted her as a "Rambo" who went down shooting -- an image Lynch herself debunked in the book, saying her rifle jammed and she went down on her knees praying to God.

Her story captured the hearts of many Americans. Author Rick Bragg, formerly a reporter at The New York Times, wrote in "I Am a Soldier, Too" that her public appeal was apparent from the start.

"She was a pretty, blond American soldier and would look good on television," he said.

Knopf offered Lynch and Bragg a $1 million advance. How the money was split was not made public and although Lynch will also earn all the book's royalties, sales would probably have to top 275,000 for her to see more money.

Knopf is a unit of Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann AG.

Lynch, who appeared at a Glamour magazine award ceremony Monday using two crutches to walk as she continues her rehabilitation, has appeared in television interviews and on the cover of Time magazine to coincide with the release of the book. She was also the focus of the NBC TV movie "Saving Jessica Lynch," which aired Sunday night.

Public relations expert Lou Colasuonno, who handles celebrity crisis management, gave Lynch high marks for trying to dispel myths about her capture and rescue.

"She stood up and said she thought she had been used, that her story had been manipulated," Colasuonno said, referring to charges the Pentagon used the story of her rescue to bolster patriotic feelings during the war in Iraq.

Some soldiers who also risked their lives in Iraq seemed uncomfortable with Lynch being singled out for celebrity.

Pfc. Patrick Miller, awarded the Silver Star for saving the lives of Lynch and others in her capture, was asked by CBS' "60 Minutes" if he was bothered by her fame. "Mmm, somewhat," he said.



Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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