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Hot Deals
John F. Baker -- 3/6/00

New Home for James Lee Burke

Bestselling crime writer James Lee Burke, whose laid-back Louisiana bayou country hero, Dave Robicheaux, has starred in 10 popular novels, is moving to Simon & Schuster on a two-book deal. Agent Phil Spitzer conducted a hot auction among several publishers for Burke, who was initially published by Hyperion before moving to Doubleday for his latest books. The new arrangement is a hard-soft deal for S&S and Pocket Books and was negotiated for the publisher by Chuck Adams and Michael Korda. The first book, Bitterroot, is set in the Montana mountains of the same name--a departure for Burke--and stars lawyer and former Texas Ranger Billy Bob Holland, first introduced in 1997's Cinnamon Rose. It is set for publication next spring. The second book will be a new Dave Robicheaux vehicle.

Into the Big Time

That's been the progress of San Diego author Susan Vreeland, whose brief but telling Vermeer novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, originally shunned by mainline New York publishers, is a still-ongoing seller for the little Colorado house MacMurray & Beck, which published it last September. (The title was endorsed by ABA's Book Sense as a handselling favorite, has made eight overseas sales, is on a number of regional bestseller lists, had a long run on the NY Times extended list and was bought by Penguin's Jane von Mehren for paperback for a price a dozen times what its original publisher paid.) Not surprisingly, her next outing has had quite a different beginning. Vreeland's agent, Barbara Braun, made a two-book world rights hard-soft deal with von Mehren in the mid six figures. In the negotiations, the two books were made out of one: the original submission was a novella and a group of short stories involving people in the arts or observers of artists at work. The novella, Artemisia, based on the life of a noted 17th-century Italian painter who was certainly the first significant woman artist, will be expanded into a novel; the short stories, also extended with the addition of more, will be broken out as a separate collection. The first book will appear as a Viking hardcover next May, the second probably a year later, both to be followed by Penguin paperbacks. Meanwhile, Vreeland is working on a novel about legendary Canadian artist Emily Carr. It looks as if she's hit on a new fictional vein.

Move for Higgins Clark Jr.

That's Carol Higgins Clark, Mary's daughter, whose lighthearted series of mysteries starring perky Regan Reilly has been a big hit at Warner. She's now moving over to Scribner, where editor Roz Lippell has taken her on in a two-book, hard-soft deal with Pocket Books. Agent Nick Ellison told PW he was paid well into seven figures, including bonuses for the North America-only deal. Like mom, Carol has been prolific, whipping out a series with such zingy titles as Snagged, Iced and Decked. First of the new ones, due next year, will be Fleeced.

The Word on Oppenheimer

The father of the American atom bomb, who lost his security clearance during the McCarthy era for allegedly giving away its secrets to the Soviet Union, will be the subject of a major new biography that Random House's Joy de Menil has just bought from London agent Toby Eady after long negotiations with Oppenheimer's son, who is giving his full cooperation. The book has an English agent because author Patrick Marnham comes from over there. According to de Menil, he's been given full access for the first time to personal files dealing with Oppenheimer's controversial relationship with avowed Communist Jean Tatlock as well as his much-dramatized hearings. Random bought world rights and has already sold the book, following an auction, to the U.K.'s Bloomsbury.

Short Takes

A book by TV's Valerie Harper (Mary Tyler Moore's longtime sidekick) has just been sold to Diane Reverand at Harper's Cliff Street imprint, for a mid-six-figure advance, by agent Jane Dystel. It's called Today I Am a Ma'am¦ and Other Musings on Life, Beauty and Growing Older, and is a collection of humorous reflections designed to cheer up women who aren't as young as they used to be... Tim Cockey, author of a new series of comic suspense novels, has sold three more to Hyperion's Peternelle van Arsdale before the first, The Hearse You Came In On, is even out. That title, which pubs this month, was first in a two-book deal; agent is Victoria Sanders.... The Mali Anderson series of Harlem-set mystery novels by Grace Edwards has been optioned by producers Lawrence Bender and Kevin Brown, and Queen Latifah has expressed an interest in starring. The deal was put together by Bill Contardi at William Morris, on behalf of literary agent Barbara Lowenstein; Bantam/Doubleday d s the books.
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