Yesterday, Daily News columnists Rush & Molloy speculated that maybe, just maybe, the novel from the wife of comedian Denis Leary (above, right) is autobiographical, since it's about a wife whose famous husband is good friends with a hot Australian movie star, sort of like how Leary is friends with hot English actress Elizabeth Hurley (above, left). In the novel, the actor's wife is upset by his "schoolboy crush" on the friend. We wrote that Ann Leary had "sadly channeled her frustrations into a thinly-veiled 'novel.'" But she replies that Gawker is "crazy," and told Choire Sicha of the LA Times that we're just clawing for cheap attention. Well, that last part is true. But at least we can admit it!

While Ann Leary may not be genuinely upset at Hurley, it's impossible to believe she didn't see the PR value of writing a novel so seemingly parallel to her own life. And, as Sicha's story shows, she has not been shy about exploiting the opportunities that have arisen from the book: appearances on The View, Today and, if she chooses to accept, entertainment magazine Extra.

And Leary is clearly PR savvy. She wove a subplot into her novel about planting false rumors on the Web:

[Leary] wasn't angry about [the Gawker item], she said — in fact, she was validated.

You see, in her book, the angry wife sends in cruel and fake sightings of her cheating husband to none other than Gawker. "I think it's too bad that they're so desperately looking for this kind of thing," she said. "But it actually fits with the plot of my novel — how easy it is to place a rumor online and then to have it spin out of control."

Wait, so someone intentionally placed the false rumor about the Ann Leary/Elizabeth Hurley feud? Who would that be, exactly?

Noting, perhaps, that the chief beneficiary of any gossip column buzz around Leary's novel would be Leary and her publisher, Sicha asked if they didn't plant the Daily News item. Heavens, no, the publisher said.

But they didn't have to. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the life of Denis Leary could pluck it right from the pages of the novel on his own. Setting things up that way was (perhaps incidentally) smart — the book gets buzz, cheap or not, and the hands of Leary and her publisher remain clean. It's a fine, if not particularly original, publicity strategy, and it's probably a mistake — don't I know it — to mistake it for vengeful axe grinding.

[LA Times]