Break out the fava beans and chianti: serial killer Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter returns in Hannibal, Thomas Harris's long-awaited sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, the blockbuster bestseller that has sold some 10 million copies worldwide since its 1988 publication. On March 30 Delacorte announced it will publish the new book, a 480-page, $27.95 hardcover, on June 8 in a one-day national laydown. Based on just one day's response from accounts, Dell, which holds U.S. and Canadian hard/soft rights to the book, projected that a 500,000-copy first printing is likely and "will probably go up," said president and publisher Carole Baron. The book is a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and an audio version will be published simultaneously by Random Audio.

According to Delacorte, the new novel opens seven years after Dr. Lecter's stunning escape from the authorities, the climax of the earlier book, as one of his earlier victims uses FBI agent Clarice Starling, also featured in Silence, as bait to draw the doctor out in the open to wreak revenge.

Baron received Hannibal from the reclusive Harris on March 23. It was quite a wait for Baron; more than a decade ago, she signed Harris to a reported $5,750,000 two-book deal, of which this sequel is the first book (BOMC's deal was also made at that time). Harris's first two books, Black Sunday (1973) and Red Dragon (1981) were published by Putnam in hardcover, then reprinted by Bantam; Baron acquired the paperback rights for these books for Dell at the time of her new deal with Harris. St. Martin's is the U.S. publisher of Silence both in hardcover and paper; with the news of the sequel delivery, SMP has announced a 300,000-copy re-release of a mass market edition of the book, to feature a new cover, and a yet-undetermined new printing of a trade paperback edition.

According to Harris's literary agent, Mort Janklow, all those involved in the Academy Award-winning 1991 film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs -- director Jonathan Demme, actors Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster -- have been sent copies of Hannibal so that film rights discussions can formally begin.