LOST NO LONGER
First he was simply A Boy Called It, then A Lost Boy. Now Dave Pelzer, who became a major bestselling author nationwide in paperback for Florida's Health Communications Inc. with those books, is moving on to a New York publisher and hardcover for his latest, tentatively titled A Man Named Dave. It has been acquired by Dutton's editor-in-chief, Brian Tart, for what Pelzer's agent, Jeff Herman, described as an $800,000 advance, with bestseller bonuses that could add a further $200,000 to the pot. For this Dutton gets world English, translation and serial rights; Herman has already sold the audio rights separately to Harper for $65,000. Pelzer's memoirs, describing how he survived a highly abusive childhood, have already sold more than a million copies in the HCI paperback editions. The new book, Herman said, will take Pelzer up to the present, as a mature and functioning adult who helps people overcome similar hurdles. For Tart, moving Pelzer into hardcover is "important and exciting for us. He's been amazing at promoting himself and his books, but now we'll be able to put a big push behind him." A Man Named Dave will be a lead title for the fall. The first two books, Tart added, left many questions unanswered about Pelzer's subsequent life, "and this will answer them all." After this third memoir, he expects the author to move into the self-help field, "and have a long life with us."
BEYOND THE 'MOUNTAIN'
In a story that at first seems like déjà vu but really isn't, Grove/Atlantic's Elisabeth Schmitz has signed what she calls an "epic" first novel that begins with a wounded soldier at the end of the Civil War -- and she has been selling the heck out of it in foreign rights deals. Schmitz herself is the first to admit that In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent, a Vermont writer she has never met (more shades of Charles Frazier), begins not unlike Cold Mountain. "But after a few pages it's totally different, about a wounded Union soldier nursed back to health by a runaway slave woman. They marry and go to live in Vermont, where people have never seen black skin before. It's the story of their family and their descendants over the next two generations." The book, which Schmitz preempted from agent Kim Witherspoon, was bought in a world rights, two-book deal; the house, with Schmitz wielding the gavel in her rights capacity, has already more than made its money back with healthy sales to Vintage for paperback and to England (six figures to Picador), France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Schmitz, who will also edit the book, plans publication in early spring 2000.
GRANDDAD OF 'JAWS'
Long before Peter Benchley, there was a real live great white shark lunching on people off the Jersey shore, and Broadway's Charlie Conrad has snagged a book about the beast for what is understood to be a high six figures. He paid on the basis of a 30,000-word proposal from veteran and award-winning reporter Mike Capuzzo for a book he is calling Close to Shore. It's about an extraordinary shark rampage, in 1916, that left four people dead and another injured, before a local fisherman managed to do what armadas of new-fangled motorboats armed with explosive charges had failed to do -- execute the shark. "It was an amazing time, a time when people thought they had got the better of nature -- despite the Titanic a few years before -- and here was this shark causing terror along the beaches where a lot of top people, including members of Woodrow Wilson's Cabinet, summered," Capuzzo told PW. The shark attacks occurred at Long Beach Island, Spring Lake and Matawan; Capuzzo, who has hitherto written a handful of well-received books on animal subjects, unearthed the forgotten story in an old book and backed up his first try at narrative nonfiction with contemporary newspaper accounts. David Vigliano agented the deal.
There seems to be no end to the attempts to make crossover authors out of people high in the regard of the Christian readership. The latest example was announced by Doubleday, whose publisher, Steve Rubin, and Dan Rich, who leads its religion imprint, WaterBrook Press, have jointly acquired hardcover and trade paperback rights to the next two novels by T. Davis Bunn. Bunn currently has three titles on the Christian Booksellers' bestseller list, one from Bethany House and two from Thomas Nelson. The first novel under his new contract, which was negotiated by Eric Major, Doubleday's v-p for religion publishing, will be called The Great Divide, and will appear simultaneously from Doubleday (for the secular market) and WaterBrook (for the religion market) in August of next year. A trade paperback will come out a year later, along with an as-yet-untitled second hardcover novel. Rubin said he thought Bunn is an ideal choice for an author who could join the two markets, and Rich described him as "a rising star," who he hoped would represent the first of a number of joint projects with the parent company in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, over at Word Publishing, there are plans for a book they hope will break big into the ABA marketplace: a new title by former Vice President Dan Quayle, to be called Worth Fighting For. It is described as a discussion of the significant issues Quayle believes the country is facing as we enter the new millennium -- in which some believe he may be a Republican presidential candidate. Word is planning a 200,000-copy first printing, a quarter-million-dollar marketing campaign and a multicity tour for Quayle on publication in June.