Pulp friction: 'Real Housewives' catfight creates a literary collector's item

Husband stealer? Stripper? Delinquent Neiman Marcus credit card holder? Danielle Staub, one of the housewives on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, has been called a lot of things on the show. Now she's spawning literary collector's items?

All season, Danielle has been the object of rumor, scorn, and behind-her-back derision on the Bravo TV show, as other participants on the quasi-reality socialite showcase repeatedly alluded to Danielle's appearance in something they called "the book."

Because of "the book," a supposedly non-fiction tell-all about the life of her ex-husband, an undercover cop, the other show's subjects had gathered that Danielle is a thieving, whoring menace who is dangerous to be around. "The book," we're told, refers to Ms. Staub as a "coke-sniffing stripper with an extortion conviction," and the mug shots, of her in 1986 before she changed her name and got Botox, don't help.
In the season finale, it all came to a head when Danielle produced "the book" at a dinner party at Lu Nello Italian restaurant in Cedar Grove, NJ, and demanded a moment to slap down the tongue-wagging, culminating in a table-flipping freak-out. Good for ratings? Hell yes. But even better for antiquarian book dealers, because once the cover of "the book" was finally revealed, anyone holding a copy found themselves with a sudden windfall.

It's called Cop Without a Badge: The Extraordinary Undercover Life of Kevin Maher, as told to Charles Kipps. I haven't read it. (I'm still watching my back from the time I interviewed the real Donnie Brasco.) And apparently I never will, because thanks to the show, this pulp crime potboiler has been catapulted to a bona fide collectible.

You can't judge by Amazon.com, where the sales rank has drooped to 46,787 from 60,806 in two days. The sales rank is deceptively low because there are no copies to sell; the book is out of print. No one wanted it for $23 when it was published, and until a month ago, it was propping up wonky tables, being passed over at garage sales and going for $3.91 on Half.com (really). But anyone with a spare edition is rushing it to market at a premium price, so it's suddenly number one with a bullet (and a shovel, and concrete shoes) in the crime confessional second-hand market.

On eBay, a copy will set you back from $175 to $195. On ABEBooks.com, a well-used marketplace for rare book dealers, expect prices to be about the same.

It's not exactly literature. Even Amazon's customer reviews, an amusing soap opera of personal vendettas unfolds, and what you'll read there won't do much to dispel stereotypes about Jersey mafioso coarseness.

"Try 'Cops without his facts straight'," blasts one review written in 2002. "You left out the part about how you got your Uncle Patrick kicked off the force and had the nerve to show up for his wake." Another one, which calls Danielle's ex a "rat fink," picks up the stalking-by-Amazon-review with the threat: "Your uncles want to have a 'word' with you." Who needs to blow $190 on a book when the reviews are this hot?

I wouldn't want to encourage anyone to keep more junk in their garage than they need. But every now and then, the book that you'd be embarrassed be seen reading on the bus ends up being one you can cash in on. Trash about trash can be treasure. All it takes is a little nudge from the mob. Um, allegedly.

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