NEW YORK – Experts say that in writing a book about how he hypothetically could have committed murder, former football star O.J. Simpson may be trying to recapture the limelight. Or maybe, just maybe, he is trying to get something off his chest.
Even his own publisher, Judith Regan, has pronounced the book Simpson's confession, saying in a statement Friday that she has been told by experts that killers often confess first in hypothetical fashion before they come clean.
"For many of them," she said, "it is the only way to tell the truth."
The book, "If I Did It," is due out Nov. 30, and Regan will interview Simpson in a two-part, sweeps-month showcase on Fox television Nov. 27 and 29. The interview is billed as a hypothetical discussion of how Simpson might have killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994. The crime and subsequent trial, at which he was acquitted, created a media sensation.
The strangest publishing sensation of the year has raised the question: Why would Simpson write such a thing?
Psychologists and criminal justice experts said the reason is almost certainly deeper and more complex than money.
While financial details of the book and interview have not been made public, Regan said she had been told the money would go to Simpson's children. And the victims' families can try to go after the proceeds to help cover the still-unpaid $33.5 million judgment against him in the wrongful-death lawsuit he lost in 1997.
Instead, the experts said, the book may amount to narcissism: A man who dodged tackles in the National Football League, dashed through airports in car-rental ads for Hertz, laughed it up in movies like "The Naked Gun," and starred in the U.S. trial of the century may be hungry for attention again.
Whether Simpson committed the murders or not, "he's trying to get back some of the limelight," argued James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston. "And this is the only way he can do it."
"It's a tease," Fox added. "In the end, I doubt that he's going to say, `This is how I did it.' It's always a tease. He'll stand behind his facade of innocence. He just wants the crime of the century to span more than one century."
At the same time, experts said, the book could really be the truth -- carefully veiled, but the truth nonetheless.
Saul Kassin, a professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said it is true that interrogators trying to coax confessions from suspects sometimes ask them to reconstruct crimes hypothetically.
He said it is possible Simpson is offering a false confession. People in criminal cases, guilty and innocent alike, have been known to confess to things they did not do, for all sorts of reasons, including coercion or a guilty conscience. Or, Kassin said, Simpson could be offering a true confession, couching it just in case.
"People sometimes do this just to get it off their chest, as a means of release, as a catharsis," Kassin said. "We'll just never know."
The National Enquirer quoted a source familiar with the book as saying Simpson writes of angrily confronting his ex-wife over an alleged affair, blacking out and then coming to with a knife in his hand and the two bodies nearby.
If Simpson's goal was to return to the national conversation, he appears to have achieved it. Word of the project brought down abuse on Simpson and disgust for his publisher.
In a long statement Friday, Regan defended herself, suggesting she was honoring the memories of Simpson's ex-wife and her friend, looking out for his children and seeking "closure" from her own history of being abused.
W. Keith Campbell, a University of Georgia professor of psychology who has studied narcissism extensively, noted the attention Simpson got over the slayings was far from negative.
"He has a lot of supporters," Campbell said. "People were cheering him on the freeway. He's been away from that for a long while. It could be an opportunity to get some more of that."