When he came over from Dorling Kindersley to become CEO at St. Martin's Press, it was rumored that John Sargent wanted to build the house's frontlist with some big-ticket fiction authors. Here's the first: a seven-figure, two-book deal for techno-thriller writer Stephen Coonts, last published by Pocket Books. Although he conceded that Coonts achieved his best sales for his first novel, Flight of the Intruder, Sargent maintained that Coonts has "had a good, consistent sales record" worth backing. Sargent will publish two novels by Coonts (who has done some nonfiction); the first, due in January, is "an intense political and combat thriller" involving present-day Russia, Japan, China and the U.S. It will be SMP's lead winter title, with an ambitious 200,000-250,000 first printing. Coonts was represented in the deal by William Morris agent Robert Gottlieb.