THE OLD FIRM
There's still plenty of life in the old Godfather franchise of Mario Puzo. The jury's still out on whether there'll be a new (fourth) movie, involving Leonardo DiCaprio and Andy Garcia, but there will definitely be a new book, to be called Omerta, and Random's Jonathan Karp has it. It will be published next summer, four years after Puzo's last outing, The Last Don, and like that one, it will look at a new, contemporary Mafia family. Agent Neil Olson at Donadio and Ashworth sold Karp North American rights, and has made British and German deals. Karp said entertainment lawyer Bert Fields is handling dramatic rights, but won't consider offers before the fall.
Agent David Black was busy luring editors into his net last week with some of the luscious chocolate fudge cookies created by Claudia Fleming of New York's super-hot Gramercy Tavern, where she is the pastry chef. Several publishers who asked to see her proposal, written with Melissa Clark, were sent the goodies, with more to come for those who followed up with a personal meeting. In the end, the sweet teeth of Courtney Hodell and Pamela Cannon at Random prevailed with a pre-empt, and they will publish The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern in 2001.
Just often enough to keep the hopes of would-be writers and vigilant agents and editors alive come stories of discovery -- like that of Christina Schwarz, who until a few days ago was a Los Angeles schoolteacher in her mid-30s who wasn't sure she could afford to send her manuscript to New York by FedEx. The agent who received it, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh at the Virginia Barber Agency, asked for it urgently after receiving an "irresistible letter and first few pages," and has since parlayed it into sales, including foreign, totaling at least a million dollars. The book is Drowning Ruth, about two sisters and a mysterious drowning, and Deb Futter at Doubleday was sufficiently eager that she tried to pre-empt. Then, when the book went to auction, she took the floor and topped the other bids when the time came; the deal is hard-soft with Ballantine. Futter said the exciting thing about the book was its "utter obsessiveness." Schwarz's novel has also been pre-empted, for very healthy money, by publishers in the U.K., Germany, France and Italy, and Miramax has bought it for Wes Craven.
MUCH MORE 'DON'T KNOW MUCH'
Kenneth C. Davis's Don't Know Much About... series of books, designed to reassure scholastically challenged Americans, is about to become a very big franchise, across several age groups. His agent, David Black, has signed a deal with HarperCollins for no fewer than 20 future titles in a variety of formats for adults, YAs and kids, in a series launching in 2001 and extending for years beyond that. Titles about history, geography, the Civil War and the Bible have sold more than two million copies for Davis's first publisher, Crown, later for Morrow and Avon; Harper president Jane Friedman disclosed that the plan was to "create a program that will maximize Ken's brand potential." This program, under the supervision of associate publisher Cathy Hemming, will launch in 2001 with children's titles on the states, the presidents, the solar system and pilgrims; two YA books, on geography and space; and an adult book, Don't Know Much About the Universe.
That's what St. Martin's Press is hoping for with its purchase of William C. Harris's novel Delirium of the Brave. Unlike John Berendt's perennial Savannah bestseller, it presents itself purely as fiction. Originally published by a small local press, Beil Books (see Book News, May 17), the novel, a lusty tale of guilt and ambition embracing what locals see as some clearly recognizable Savannah families, has been bought by SMP's Heather Jackson as part of a six-figure, two-book deal signed with Harris's Connecticut agent Nancy Stauffer. SMP, which bought world rights (except the U.K.), plans to publish next January.
SANDRA SAILS ON
It's no secret that the megaselling Sandra Brown, whose prolific outpouring of bestsellers over the past decade has made her one of those money-in-the-bank authors, was being shopped around, but following a best-bid auction conducted by agent Maria Carvainis among her old publisher, Warner, and S&S, HarperCollins and St. Martin's, it was Warner that hung on to her, with a $16-million offer for North American hard-soft rights to her next three books. Maureen Egen will continue to be her editor.
First sales from two new agents formerly on the salaried side: Brian DeFiore, formerly of Hyperion and Villard, has sold to Hyperion, at auction, The Fourth Mega Market, 1994-2006, an account and projection by ace Wall Street analyst Ralph Acampora. It was acquired by editor Will Schwalbe for publication in fall 2000.... Wendy Sherman, who recently joined the Aaron Priest agency from Holt, has sold Rescuing Jeffrey, a true story by Rhode Island attorney-journalist Richard Galli of his son's near-fatal accident, and how Galli coped with the decision whether to keep him alive. It was bought by Algonquin's Antonia Fusco and Elisabeth Scharlatt at auction, for publication next spring.... Another within-the-business deal is the sale of The Curing Season, a first novel by Hyperion executive editor Leslie Wells, which went for a mid-six figures to Warner's Amy Einhorn, in a deal brokered by Julie Rubinstein, a former executive editor at Pocket Books, who now works for the Linda Chester agency.
Hot Deals is on vacation next week.