Crown has picked up world rights to Greg Mitchell’s new work of nonfiction, tentatively titled The Tunnels: JFK vs. CBS & NBC, which chronicles the story of how the American news networks helped young West Germans attempting to get loved ones out of Communist-ruled East Berlin. Film rights have already sold to FilmNation Entertainment, with Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips; United 93) directing, and Mark Gordon (The Messenger, Saving Private Ryan) producing.
At Crown, Rachel Klayman, v-p and executive editor, picked up world rights from Gary Morris at the David Black Agency. Klayman will edit the book, which currently has no official publication date.
Using recently-declassified documents in both the U.S. and Germany, and new interviews, Mitchell revisits the, as Crown put it, "magnetic and highly dangerous time in history," captured in the moment by Berlin correspondents of the two major networks.
The "timeless drama" of East German attempts to flee to West Germany underground made for "gripping television," said the publisher. Unbeknownst to each other, NBC and CBS, hearing rumors of tunnelers around Berlin, funded separate tunnel attempts and "vied to be the first to air a triumphant documentary of the human will to escape Communism." The book toggles between the tunnelers, the network reporters and executives, the White House and State Department and the East Germans awaiting the completion of the tunnels.
Mitchell, the former longtime editor of Editor & Publisher, is the author of The Campaign of the Century, and Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady. He writes regularly for Huffington Post and wrote a daily column for The Nation from 2010 to 2014.