That's what Peter Cox, who heads London's comparatively new and innovative literary agency, Litopia, claims to have found. In a nutshell, Cox claims the woman, whom he identifies only as Judith, was the lover of Lee Harvey Oswald at a particularly crucial time in his life: in the months leading up the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Cox told PW he is bringing Judith, who has been living in seclusion in northern Europe for many years, to see a selected group of "top American publishers" this week. Her book, which Cox says is a finished manuscript, describes how Judith, a married woman and a Mormon, met and had an affair with Oswald, beginning in April 1963 and only ending with his death following the November 22 assassination. Cox insists he, too, was skeptical at first, since no hint of her existence had ever emerged, despite the intense scrutiny to which Oswald's every move has been subjected, but Cox was won over by what he calls "an incredible amount of convincing detail and documentary evidence" she offered. Why has she come forward now? According to Cox: "She wants finally to put the record straight, and feels she no longer has to fear for her life, as she did for many years." A woman mistaken for Judith, Cox said, was murdered in Mexico City 11 years ago, but Judith is unaware of any further JFK-connected murders (of which, according to assassination buffs, there have been about 40 over the years). "Judith's story will give a very different impression of Oswald from the one we usually get," Cox said. "It's an extraordinary love story that gives him a human face." Litopia, formerly known as Altavista, has a Web site, Let's see who bites.

Morrow editor-in-chief Betty Kelly stepped in last week to halt an auction Lane Zachary, of Boston's Zachary &Schuster agency, was about to hold for a first tell-all Hollywood novel by Dori Carter. The author knows whereof she speaks, for she is the wife of X-Files creator and writer Chris Carter. The book has the irresistibly zingy title Beautiful WASPS Having Sex, and is, said Kelly, a "wonderfully satirical take" on the current Hollywood scene, and the ways in which the movie capital's largely Jewish culture creates WASPy images for national consumption. "She's a brilliant writer, with a very sophisticated inside knowledge of the world of agents and writers," said Kelly, who bought world English rights for a healthy six figures. The book, which took five years to write and is currently being edited, is scheduled as a lead title for summer 2000. Meanwhile, Kelly was also cheered by news that none other than Madonna had bought movie rights for another one of her titles, Fires, by Renee Steinke, due later this month.

If it takes a Hollywood agent to sell a New York writer's first novel to a New York house, so be it. That's what happened to Quickening, a Wally Lamb- style tale of coming of age in upstate New York, by Manhattan graphic artist Laura Catherine Brown, whose agent, B.J. Robbins in North Hollywood, made the sale to Susanna Porter at Random House, in a joint hard-soft deal with Maureen O'Neal at Ballantine. Porter found the writing and characterization "exceptionally rich and satisfying." Other good news for Robbins last week included word that Please, Please, Please, by Renee Swindle, which Susan Kamil at Dial Press is publishing in July, was the subject of a hot auction between BOMC and Literary Guild, conducted by Dial's Robyn Forkos, which the Guild won. First serial went to Essence magazine and the book has also made sales in Germany and Japan. Robbins also sold a book about the late Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X, by her daughter Ilyasah, co-authored with Mulaika Adero, formerly an editor at S&S and Amistad. This was bought by Tracy Sherrod at Pocket Books.

No shortage of claimants to such a title, but young Amy Gutman, a Harvard Law School honors grad whose first book is Equivocal Death, seems, according to both her editor and agent, to be well placed to achieve some of that superstar's readership. Little, Brown's Judy Clain beat out eager bidders from four other houses with what agent Nicholas Ellison called "a serious six-figure advance" for North American rights on this and a yet-to-be-written novel that may or may not be a sequel. The first novel stars a young lawyer, much like the author, whose colleague at a powerful white-sh law firm is murdered, and who has to find the killer before she becomes a victim herself. Warner's Jamie Raab came in on the deal for that house's paperback participation.AMONG FRIENDS
This is a story about book people who help each other. Stuart Bernstein, former buyer and v-p at New York City's Endicott Booksellers, became an agent after the store closed, and one of his clients and great friends was Arturo Patten, a brilliantly gifted portrait photographer who mostly lived (and published) in Europe. Among the many American writers Patten shot, usually for their European publishers, was celbrated novelist Russell Banks, and the two became friends. Eventually they collaborated on a book, The Invisible Stranger: The Patten, Maine Photographs of Arturo Patten/B>, featuring text by Banks and a series of indelible portraits by the photographer, shot in a Maine hamlet that shares his name. HarperCollins is publishing the book in July, but sadly, Patten killed himself in Sicily a month ago. An old friend and colleague of Bernstein's at Endicott, Susan Bergholz, now also an agent, is helping Bernstein get the word out, and Harper is hosting a show of Patten's work in its lobby gallery on East 53rd Street beginning in June.