Ace New York Yankees slugger Darryl Strawberry, just reinstated with the team after yet another suspension, has been thinking about his life, its rough edges (alcohol and drug problems) and its tough times (recent treatment for cancer), and is putting it all in a book, to be coauthored with his wife, Charisse. And the book is going not to one of the big commercial publishers, but to Plough Publishing, which specializes in philosophical and spiritual titles. Thereby hangs, of course, a tale. One of Plough's execs, Christian Domer, was acquainted with Rev. B.J. Weber, the Yankees' chaplain, who introduced him to Strawberry. The player had been much impressed by an inspirational Plough title, Cries from the Heart (he had even planned, before his cancer diagnosis, to write a foreword to it), and decided he would like to do a book with his wife about the travails they had been through together. The pair wrote it themselves, without any "ghosting," and, according to Plough editor Chris Voll, it will appear in the form of a dialogue between them, and will be called Recovering Life. "It's very forthright about the issues in Darryl's life and the insights he's gained as a result," said Voll. Plough's plans for the book, which will be lavishly illustrated with Toshi Kazama's photographs of the couple, are ambitious: a first printing of 100,000 copies for the mid-November publication, and a promised tour by the Strawberrys .


Two recent deals suggest there is great strength in small towns that are beautifully written about. Haven Kimmel, who now lives in Durham, N.C., where she is a contributor to NPR's All Things Considered, wrote about Mooreland, Ind., where she grew up in the 1960s. Agent Stella Connell of Southeast Literary Associates in Oxford, Miss., sold her Mooreland memoir, Qualities of Light, to Doubleday editor-in-chief Bill Thomas and senior editor Amy Schiebe, in a six-figure, two-book deal that will also include a novel. Schiebe, who said she comes from a similar small town, marveled at the grace and quality of Kimmel's writing, "the way she captures that caught-in-amber quality of little towns then, remote from all the changes going on around them."

Meanwhile a recent Algonquin book, The Jew Store by Stella Suberman, has been optioned by none other than Dolly Parton through her own Southern Lights Productions. The book tells of the sort of small Southern town in the 1920s where the dry-goods store was often run by the only Jews in town, as was the case with Suberman's parents in tiny Concordia, Tenn. Bill Contardi at William Morris brokered the movie deal for Algonquin's Elisabeth Scharlatt.


When Playboy Enterprises called and asked if he wanted to be its man on the bus as it toured the country in search of the "Playmate of the Millennium," Leif Ueland actually hesitated. He wasn't exactly a ladies' man, and according to Warner's Rick Horgan, had even been in therapy to try to sharpen his sexual skills. Eventually, he figured out that someone was going to have to do it, and it might as well be him. He chose well; according to Horgan, the next six months saw Leif's transformation into a swinging kind of guy who would be thoroughly at home with Hef. Ueland chronicled his adventures on the bus in a series of vastly popular dispatches back to, and has now put it all forth as a book proposal. Agent Laura Dail shopped it around, and four houses were hot in pursuit when Horgan spirited it away with a six-figure bid for world rights. He describes the book Ueland plans, to be called Accidental Playboy, as "the book you'd get if Howard Stern had a backstage pass to the Playboy Kingdom and had the writing ability of a Hunter Thompson or David Sedaris." Dail is co-agenting the film rights with UTA in Los Angeles.


That's what St. Martin's editor Elizabeth Beier found out when she battled for the rights to a book by controversial talk show host Larry Elder, with the provocative title The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. As that suggests, the book is often politically incorrect, but Beier said that although some of it is certain to shock readers, "Larry brings an extraordinary intelligence to his show, along with a terrific sense of humor." She paid six figures to agent David Vigliano of Vigliano Associates, and plans publication in fall 2000.


A nice "insider" deal was struck by Tanya McKinnon at Mary Evans on behalf of two friends in the entertainment business, Jason Anthony, who heads the New York office of Sonnenfeld-Josephson and Karl Cluck of Lee Hunt Associates. They coauthored Debt-Free by 30: Practical Advice for the Young, Broke and Upwardly Mobile ("which we were," noted Anthony), and McKinnon sold it in a preempt to Jennifer Dickerson-Kasius at Dutton Plume.... Zena Collier's A Cooler Climate, which has been made into a Showtime movie coming out later this month starring Sally Field and Judy Davis, was published nine years ago by British American. But when Collier's agent, Harvey Klinger, tried to find a publisher to bring out a new edition to tie in with the movie, the only one that could do it in time was t xcel, a new digital outfit specializing in on-demand, which will make it available both online and through bookstores.... Hollywood's Renaissance Agency, run by J l Gotler, Alan Nevins and Irv Schwartz, will become the literary division of Mike Ovitz's new AMG empire, where it will continue to rep its noted list of authors, but, said Gotler, with new access to AMG's stable of well-known actors and directors.

Hot Deals is on vacation next week.