That's what got Little, Brown's Michael Pietsch highly interested in a new novel called Jake and Mimi, which West Coast agent Jillian Manus of Manus Associates recently sold him for " a very solid six figures." His offer beat those of several rival publishers for a world rights deal. The author is a young writer with an erotic eye, Frank Baldwin, whose previous outing, Balling the Jack (S&S), is under development as a movie at Miramax. According to Manus, the concept of his new book could be described as "a young 9 1/2 Weeks meets Sliver"; it concerns a young man with erotic gifts who first lures, then falls for, a virginal young woman whose apartment has been extensively wired by an older, obsessive Peeping Tom. "It's both erotic and literary," said Manus, who sent out the manuscript wrapped in silk scarves as a symbol of Jake's seductive approach. Creative Artists in L.A. is handling movie interest. Who said publishing g s to sleep in the summer?


America is full of mini-cultures, perhaps none stranger than the one portrayed in the provocatively titled Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer, which Crown's Steve Ross has just preempted, before it could go to auction, from agent Elyse Cheney at Sanford Greenburger Associates, for what she describes as "a substantial six figures." It's a first book by a notably trendy writer, Warren St. John, who, after spells as media columnist for the New York Observer and a "Talk of the Town" writer for the New Yorker, is now a columnist at Wired. His book ventures into the odd world of well-heeled Southern football enthusiasts who live in million-dollar mobile homes and follow their chosen teams around the South, most notably, for the book, in Alabama. In doing so, said Cheney, they "create a peculiar kind of camaraderie. It's at once a study of fanaticism, community and family upheaval." Ross, who said he admired the book as a study of obsession, has North American rights, and will publish in time for football season 2001.


Of the current craze for books about ill-fated British explorations there seems no end, and Pocket Books' Jason Kaufman has just signed up the latest of them. It's a nonfiction narrative about Captain James Cook, who is credited with discovering Australia and mapping much of the South Pacific. He eventually ran afoul of a crowd of Hawaiian warriors who had originally taken him for a god and then, realizing that he wasn't, butchered him. The book will be called Endeavour, after Cook's vessel, and it is by Martin Dugard, who recently made publishing history of a sort by releasing Knockdown, his account of the disastrous Sydney to Hobart yacht race last year, as an e-book before its hardcover publication, thus beating his rivals to market, in a sense. The agent was Scott Waxman, who sold Kaufman world rights; Endeavour should be out next year.

Kaufman, who boasts that he's still in action while most editors are on vacation, also recently snapped up John Gilstrap (Nathan's Run and At All Costs), who was parting company with Warner. He and agent Molly Friedrich at Aaron Priest made a two-book, six-figure deal after Kaufman had seen only 100 pages of his new novel, Even Steven; this was followed soon thereafter by a big offer from Penguin U.K. for just the one book.


The indestructible multimedia comic book hero will rise again in two new novels, one for adults and one for the YA market, which Pocket Books' Judith Curr has just acquired from DC Comics, the creator and owner of the character. The adult title, to be written by experienced thriller writer Greg Rucka, will be Batman: No Man's Land, a study of Gotham after an earthquake, when the bad guys will take over unless Batman, who has disappeared, can be found in time. The YA version will be penned by comics writer Alan Grant, and both books are scheduled for release next January.


Donald E. Westlake has signed another three-book contract with Bill Malloy at Mysterious Press, in a deal brokered by agent Knox Burger that will include a new Dortmunder book, his first in some years. Meanwhile, his latest, The Hook, due next March, has a story line bound to grip publishing folk: a million-dollar author with writer's block will let a failing midlist writer write and take the credit (and half the proceeds) for his new book, on one deadly condition.... Ann B. Ross, whose tale of Southern eccentrics, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, was a recent success for Morrow, has sold her next three novels to Viking executive editor Pamela Dorman in a six-figure deal worked out with her agents, Delin Cormeny and Peter Miller at PMA. She plans a series of books featuring the loquacious Miss Julia. Meanwhile producer Chris Knight has optioned movie rights, via CAA.... Ballantine's Elizabeth Zack has bought a true-crime account of the recent murders in Yosemite National Park by Dennis McDougal, a Los Angeles Times reporter who has been nominated for an Edgar for his crime writing. The agent was Alice Martell of her own agency, and publication is expected early next year.... Ken Atchity at AEI in L.A. has made a two-book, six-figure deal for Steve Alten (Meg) with Tor Books' Tom Doherty for two new titles described as terrestrial SF thrillers, called Domain and Resurrection.... On a more serious note than all of the above, Norton vice-chairman Ed Barber has signed Nell Irvin Painter, an American history professor at Princeton, to a pair of challenging books: one, called Whiteness, will examine questions of color and class in a historical perspective; Beauty will look at the concept from many angles -- as a perception, a business and a science. Agent for both books was Charlotte Sheedy.