THE BARD &BUSINESS
Not content with shoving his way into the Oscars, Shakespeare is being treated big-time as an influence on current management practices. No fewer than two six-figure deals for management books inspired by his works were made in New York last week. One, to be called Movers and Shakespeares, has in fact been signed by Jonathan Burnham as one of the first books for his Talk list under the aegis of Tina Brown and Miramax. The book, for which Burnham bought world rights in the low six figures from Washington agent Gail Ross, is the joint work of former U.N. ambassador Ken Adelman and Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed. It's about how to run a business according to the psychological lessons taught by the Bard, and is constructed of five business scenarios set out in five "acts." Burnham read the proposal on the train coming back from Washington, and hastened to place his bid. He expects to publish very early in 2000. Instant competition is at hand, however, in Shakespeare on Leadership, also a joint authorship effort, by former Pathmark CEO John Whitney and director Tina Packer of Shakespeare &Co., which puts on Shakespeare plays (of which she has directed many). This was sold by agent James Levine at James Levine Communications to Fred Hills at Simon &Schuster in a hotly contested auction that ended in a $300,000 deal. Whitney, says Levine, used Shakespeare as a guide throughout his career "to help him analyze some of the key dimensions of management." S&S too aims to publish early next year, "if not sooner."
LIFE AFTER IRIS
In the wake of Iris Murdoch's death last week, it's good to know that her widower and eloquent chronicler in Elegy for Iris (still hovering just below bestseller lists here after foreign sales to seven countries), former Oxford professor and literary critic John Bayley, has plans to continue publishing. His editor in the U.S., Bob Weil, has moved from St. Martin's to Norton since Elegy was published and is taking the author along to his new home. A memoir by Bayley about his early life in Oxford is on its way to Weil now. "I think writing it has been the only thing that has kept him sane in the past few months, as he struggled with Iris's illness," said Weil. Also due soon from the prolific Bayley, who at 74 is six years Murdoch's junior, is a study called The World According to Leo -- the Leo being Tolstoy, on whom Bayley is a world-class authority.
PHYSICS AND SALT
Those are at the heart of new ventures into highly readable scientific writing, by two previously successful practitioners, and both involve smaller publishers. For John Oakes at Four Walls Eight Windows, the return of Amir D. Aczel, well launched by that house with his bestselling Fermat's Last Theorem, but who then went off to Harcourt for his next, is like that of "a prodigal son, and we're delighted to have him back." In God's Equation, said Oakes, Aczel, who is currently unagented, has translated some of Einstein's letters for the first time in order to prepare his book, which will investigate the hot topic of cosmology. Oakes will go out in September with a large printing (for him) of 25,000.
Meanwhile, at Walker, home of Dana Sobel's Longitude, the granddaddy of such books, publisher George Gibson reports a two-book deal with Mark Kurlansky, whose Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, was a surprise bestseller in 15 countries (Walker sold paperback rights here to Penguin). Kurlansky's follow-up to Cod is a study of the people who were the greatest cod fishermen; The Basque History of the World will be issued by Walker in September. His next book will be a full-length study of salt, a natural tie-in to cod. That will be along in 2000. Charlotte Sheedy is his agent.
LAND OF HOPE &COSBY
College graduates marching down the aisle to the traditional strains this summer will have a savvy companion in their knapsacks. Hyperion senior editor Maureen O'Brien has signed none other than TV dad Bill Cosby to utter words of wisdom to the new grad. His Congratulations: Now What?!: A Book for Graduates will be out in May, with a first printing of 200,000. Cosby, who has five college-educated kids and is a sought-after commencement speaker who d s at least half-a-dozen such ceremonies a year, said his book was "designed to give young people a chance to hear the important ideas they plan to ignore." It will be, said Hyperion v-p and group publisher Bob Miller, a perfect graduation gift. The deal was negotiated by William Morris chairman Norman Brokaw, Cosby's agent for 38 years, and Morris literary agent Mel Berger. Cosby's spokesperson David Brokaw said the material came out of the keen interest in college education of Cosby and his wife, Camille, and although some of the material was based on commencement speeches he has made, "most of it is quite fresh."
That sequel being written by Frederick Forsyth to the worldwide musical hit Phantom of the Opera has found another buyer. Forsyth's agent, Ed Victor, who had originally sold it (Hot Deals, Nov. 2, 1998) to Michael Viner of New Millennium Entertainment in Los Angeles (the former czar of Dove), has now transferred it, because of Viner's legal problems with his former company, to Tom Dunne at St. Martin's Press, who as the underbidder had been patiently in the wings all along. The book, called The Phantom of Manhattan, takes our macabre hero across the Atlantic, where he sets up a new opera house to rival the Met. "It's a rollicking melodrama," Dunne said of the novella-length manuscript, which he aims to publish in late fall-around the same time that Forsyth's longtime English publisher, Transworld, brings it out over there. Although the name Andrew Lloyd Webber is not directly associated with the book, the two have worked closely together, and if Lloyd Webber should decide to do a sequel to his celebrated musical, this, said Dunne, would be the basis of its libretto.