Gary Susman
July 10, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It hasn’t even been two weeks since Katharine Hepburn died on June 29, and already, A. Scott Berg has written a biography of the screen legend that will be published on Friday. But Berg’s bio, ”Kate Remembered,” is not an instant quickie. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author (he won for his 1998 bio ”Lindbergh”) was a friend of Hepburn’s for 20 years and had chronicled their conversations with her blessing, under the condition that he not publish them until after her death.

Putnam, Berg’s publisher, had long had the book all but ready to ship, Putnam president Carole Baron told the New York Times, even though fewer than 10 people at the company were aware of its existence. ”We basically called it the ‘secret book,”’ she said. ”It had all been written, edited and set in type in 2001, and then we locked it in a drawer. When we received word of Ms. Hepburn’s death, Scott wrote the end and then we pushed the button.” Putnam plans a first run of 530,000 copies.

In a statement, Berg said the hasty publication was not an effort to make a quick buck but was, in fact, Hepburn’s own idea for setting the record straight. ”Kate often suggested the importance of publishing a book right away because she presumed there would be many books about her over the years. She presumed they would be filled with the same misstatements of facts that have appeared for years,” Berg said. ”With this book, I think, she imagined there would be at least a foundation of truth, of what she actually said and thought about things, in many cases things she felt should not be printed until she had died.”

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