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CBS News

CBS/The Early Show

Lemony Snicket And His Dreadful Day

NEW YORK, Oct. 29, 2002

(CBS) Lemony Snicket was attacked by an alligator while swimming across the river to get to The Early Show, so his representative Daniel Handler talked about "The Carnivorous Carnival" in his place. It is the latest installment of "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

"There are always unfortunate events, which can delay even the most noble of authors on the most noble of morning shows from making an appearance to stop people from reading these nasty books," explained Mr. Handler to 5th graders from two New York City public schools who visited The Early Show Plaza. "There are all sorts of terrifying creatures! Whether it is an alligator, whether it is a bug, whether it is lip balm," he added.

As in all the other books, the main characters in this work are the Baudelaire orphans who are once again on the run from the vicious Count Olaf. They have to disguise themselves in Madame Luluís House of Freaks. This time, Violet, Kaus and Baby Sunny have been accused of a murder Count Olaf committed.

The Lemony Snicket books have been described as gloomy but humorous tales. They don't have happy endings and they don't have happy beginnings or middles either. These books were not an instant hit with parents and teachers who were turned off by the dark images of orphans dodging death at every turn. But kids, it appears, like this kind of scary stuff and got the joke all along.

Each one of the eight previous books has reached The New York Times list of children's bestsellers. More than 5 million Snicket books have been sold since the release of the first book. There are a total of 13 books planned for the series. Mr. Snicket is already working on number 10, which is called "The Slippery Slope" and is due out late next year.

Lemony Snicket is the pen name of author Daniel Handler. Long before success as Snicket, Handler wrote two well-received novels for adults, "The Basic Eight" and "Watch Your Mouth."

It was while researching his novel "The Basic Eight" that the name Lemony Snicket was created.

Handler says he was calling around to right wing conservative organizations asking them to send him information, but when someone at one of those organizations asked for his name, he thought, "What if someone thinks I am a member of these groups.' And so he quickly blurted out "Lemony Snicket" He says he has no idea where the name came from.

Down the road a bit, when a friend convinced Handler to rework a failed neo-Victorian novel for adults into a kids' book, the name surfaced again.

Handler doesn't do live appearances as "Lemony Snicket" instead he shows up as himself, a representative for the author. He explains that Mr. Snicket has met with some ghastly misfortune and can't make his scheduled appearance. Handler, in his persona as the representative for Snicket, tries to convince the public that these are horrible books that should be locked away and never read.

"The Carnivorous Carnival" is available in bookstores Oct. 29, so publishers in the same tongue-in-cheek sentiment have declared the date, "Lemony Snicket Day" and are encouraging fans to "avoid bookstores everywhere on this dreadful day."

The Lemony Snicket series of kids' books are set to make it to the big screen. Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Films bought the rights to the series. Director Barry Sonnenfeld has signed on for the first film, which is expected to be released late in 2003. Scott Rudin will produce the project.