Over at Pocket Books, executive editor Emily Heckman is particularly excited about her preempt (d sn't anyone do auctions any more?). This is of an untitled book by young (31) New York journalist Richard Rubin, now a contributor to journals like Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times Magazine, who cut his journalistic teeth 10 years ago as a cub reporter in Greenwood, Miss. An oddity in Greenwood -- a white, Jewish New Yorker -- Rubin found himself welcomed, while still being aware of the town's dark tide of racism. One of his subjects there was a rising young black football star, Handy Campbell, and when Rubin went back to Greenwood this year, it was to attend Handy's trial for murder. According to Heckman, the same racism that had frustrated the boy's rise as a football player had, ironically, saved his life. Although he confessed to the murder, "black-on-black crimes still aren't taken too seriously in Greenwood" and he was acquitted. All this is told in Rubin's book, which, as a portrait of an American town, is being compared to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In-house enthusiasm was so high that when Steve Malk (in his last sale before he left the Sandra Dijkstra agency) sent Rubin along with his detailed proposal, they took it off the table with a mid-six-figure offer for world nondramatic rights. "It could be a bleak book, but Richard is such a funny and captivating storyteller that it's exhilarating," said Heckman, who plans to publish late in 2000, after Rubin has been back to Greenwood yet again.