That's the idea behind a Romeo & Juliet -- style tale set among the senior set and penned by a first novelist who herself will not see 60 again. She is Jeanne Ray, a nurse from Nashville, who also happens to be the mother of novelist Anne Patchett (The Magician's Assistant). Patchett had got to know Harmony editor Shaye Areheart, so when her mother's novel, Romeo and Julie, was being sent around, Patchett told Ray's agent, Lisa Bankoff at ICM, to be sure to send it her way. Areheart and her colleagues loved the book, and so did newly arrived Harmony chief Linda L wenthal, and their six-figure bid won the book at auction. There was swift Hollywood action, with Barbra Streisand's Barwood company snapping up movie rights. The book is about rival florists in Boston, Italian and Jewish, whose families have always hated each other. When elderly family scions Romeo Cacciamati and Julie Roseman fall in love, their families are aghast and try to break up the romance. "It's fast, funny, exceptionally well written, and a page-turner," exulted Areheart.


Martin Cruz Smith is the latest bestselling author among the large number who have been switching publishers this year. The author most recently of Havana Bay, and the creator of the indelible Russian police detective Arkady Renko, Smith is taking his act from Random House to Simon & Schuster, where David Rosenthal and Judith Curr made a joint hard/soft buy that will also include audio versions for two new novels. The first of them, for fall 2001, will be a World War II thriller set in Japan, and not a Renko story. Smith's agent Knox Burger, who shares his representation with Andrew Nurnberg, said the author's relations with Random and his editor there, Bob Loomis, had been excellent, but that in talking about his future publication with the house, they had "reached an impasse."


This is a story about serendipity -- and how it pays to watch the right TV programs. Agent Richard Abate at ICM was watching Nightline some time ago when he saw an amazing segment about two brothers who were reinventing the shopping cart from the ground up. The show highlighted the revolutionary principles of team creativity on which their 25-year-old Palo Alto, Calif., company, Ideo, was built. Abate instantly thought there was a book in it, got in touch with Tom Kelley and Dave Kelley, Ideo's cofounders, and Tom then put together a proposal about the principles that guide their work. Meanwhile, he had talked it up among editors and found that Roger Scholl at Doubleday's Currency imprint had seen a rerun of the program and been equally impressed. Scholl was therefore primed when the book was ready for auction (the proposal was sent out in a pizza box, "to keep it hot") and promptly pre-empted for a solid six-figure sum. The book will be called The Deep Dive (after Ideo's method of tapping inner creativity) and will be a lead Currency title in fall 2000.


Barbara Fister is a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. She is also, as of last week, a first-time mystery author with a mid-six-figure two-book deal under her belt, courtesy of Dan Mandel at Sanford Greenburger, who picked her submission letter out of the slush pile only three months ago. She had already written On Edge, the first book in a series that will star a Chicago cop called Slovo -- on a case that takes him to coastal Maine -- and she has a second one on tap. It was editor Katie Hall at Bantam who pre-empted, within five days of receiving the manuscript. Meanwhile, Fister is planning to take a sabbatical next year. She will not, however, commented Mandel, be sitting around counting the shekels; she will be making a study of the publishing industry. Just what we need.


When Chicago Sun Times columnist and author Bob Greene was growing up in his small town just outside Columbus, Ohio, his father, a WWII veteran, would sometimes point out one of their neighbors to him and tell him: "That's the man who helped end the war." The man was Paul Tibbets, the pilot who dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, and for years Greene wanted to interview him. Finally, after his father died, he got to talk to the 85-year-old Tibbets, and the result will be a joint portrait of the pilot and Greene's father, a book to be called Duty, that will tell of some of the men who fought the war and its impact on their later lives. Greene's agent, Eric Simonoff at Janklow & Nesbit, sold it, in a six-figure, two-book deal, to Lou Aronica at Avon, where Hamilton Cain will be its editor; pub date is set for around Father's Day next year. The second book will be a novel set in a Florida resort.


Nicci French, author of the strong-selling Killing Me Softly (and who is in fact Sean French and Nicci Gerrard) has been signed up by Sara Ann Freed at Mysterious Press for two new thrillers for a "healthy" six figures, in a deal made with agent Joy Harris.... You don't often hear of crashing a play into print, but that's what Overlook Press's Tracy Carns did with bash by movie writer/director Neil LaBute, buying world rights from agent and producer Stephen Pevner and getting it out in two weeks, while the off-Broadway hit was still running.... Crown is rushing out a book, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, by Lt. Col. (ret.) David Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano, for October publication. It will demonstrate, said the publisher, the relationship between teen violence and violent imagery on TV and in the movies.... William Clark, who had been a partner at the Vines Agency, is going off on his own, as Wm. Clark Associates, and can be reached at 325 W. 13th St., New York, N.Y. 10014; (212) 675-2659, fax 675-8394; e-mail: