Lynch agrees to book deal

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

NEW YORK -- Jessica Lynch has struck a $1 million deal for a book that will tell the story of her capture and rescue in Iraq. But questions remain over how much she remembers.

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced Tuesday that the former prisoner of war will collaborate on "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story" with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Rick Bragg.

The book is scheduled to come out in mid-November, with a first printing of around 500,000 copies.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but a source close to the negotiations said Lynch and Bragg will split a $1 million advance, with any royalties going to Lynch. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Many folks have written, expressing their support for me and for the thousands of other soldiers who serve their country," Lynch said in a statement issued by Knopf.

"I feel I owe them all this story, which will be about more than a girl going off to war and fighting alongside her fellow soldiers. It will be a story about growing up in America."

Bragg has been granted exclusive access to Lynch and her family. Knopf spokesman Paul Bogaards said any authorized film adaptation would likely have to be based on the book.

"I feel a kinship with Jessica and her family, and am thrilled at the prospect of bringing this story to the wider world," Bragg said in the statement.

It is unclear how much Lynch will be able to tell Bragg. Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington have said it is unlikely Lynch will remember the events of her capture. Knopf spokesman Paul Bogaards, who visited with Lynch last week, said the state of her memory is "excellent," but declined to say what he and Lynch discussed. Bragg also declined comment.

Lynch's grandmother, Wyonema Lynch, who lives across the street, said she looks forward to reading the book. "We don't talk about what happened to her over there," Mrs. Lynch said. "When she wants to tell me, she will."

Nothing has been set for a television interview. Networks consider it likely that TV appearances will be timed to the book's publication in November -- which also happens to be a television ratings "sweeps" month.

ABC's Diane Sawyer and NBC's Katie Couric are believed to be the most aggressive suitors for a Lynch interview.

CBS News has also tried for an interview, but was embarrassed when it was revealed in June that the Viacom-owned network had hinted at publishing and MTV deals.

Lynch, 20, received a medical discharge last week from the Army, making her eligible to pursue book or movie deals.

She suffered broken bones and other injuries when her 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23.

Her rescue on April 1 made her a celebrity, and she returned home to Palestine, W.Va., in July to a hero's welcome after a long stay at Walter Reed.

"I am feeling better every day, and all the good wishes of the many who have written have certainly kept my spirits up," Lynch said. "I am walking with crutches, but my doctors tell me that as I gain strength I will be able to walk on my own again soon. I am looking forward to those first steps."

Bragg has written several books, including the memoir "All Over but the Shoutin'," and won the Pulitzer for feature-writing in 1996, two years after he began working for The New York Times. He resigned from the Times in May after the newspaper suspended him over a story that carried his byline but was reported largely by a freelancer.

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