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IN THE AFTERMATH of his two-year battle with prostate cancer, Michael Korda's already eclectic career has taken a surprising twist. As the editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster since 1968, he has brought more glamor and visibility to trade publishing than any book editor since Maxwell Perkins. Yet in Man to Man, his unflinching cancer memoir, out next month from Random House (Forecasts, Apr. 1), he sheds his flamboyant public persona, revealing himself as frightened, vulnerable and hostage to the unpredictable ravages of a disease that few men are willing to discuss with candor.
Self-help guru, globetrotting memoirist, commercial novelist, editorial wunderkind. The chameleon-like Korda has courted these roles, making it abundantly clear he's no commonplace book editor. The nephew of legendary filmmaker Alexander Korda, educated at Oxford, veteran of the Royal Air Force and the Hungarian revolution of 1956, he's raced Ferraris, is an active NRA member and hosts an annual cross-country event on the Hudson Valley horse farm he shares with his wife, Margaret, a former model. Deal-maker and pitchman par excellence, he has edited Larry McMurtry, Graham Greene, Jacqueline Susann and, for a brief but demanding stretch, both Jackie and Joan Collins.
But in Man to Man, Korda emerges as a proselytizer and poster boy for an illness that, experts estimate, will afflict one in five men. Fluid, compact and matter-of-fact, this book recounts the physical and emotional devastations of his cancer, unabashedly inviting the reader into his bedroom, bathroom and hospital room, spanning the prostate troubles that preceded his diagnosis and the slow convalescence that followed his radical prostatectomy in 1994.
It is a gutsy departure for Korda, until now best known as an author of light-weight, commercial blockbusters, who has long projected an image of adventure and cosmopolitan sang-froid. In fact, the book did not began to germinate until weeks after after his surgery, Korda explains. "I found myself shut in and brooding about what happened," he says. "As I got into it, I thought to myself, this is really a story that ought to be told." In particular, he was compelled by the paucity of literature on the subject and the difficulty men found in discussing it. Among those with prostate cancer, he writes in Man to Man, "to the fear, which is perfectly natural, of death, loss of virility, and incontinence is therefore added a dreadful lonelineness; for unlike women, who tend to bond together in distress, men--certainly in the face of this …