Michael Flatley, dynamic dancing star of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, is said to hold the world record for taps in a single second (35 -- try it!) In between taps and world tours of his award-winning dance productions -- of which the latest, Feet of Flames, will tour next year -- he has written an inspirational memoir, tentatively titled Victory, and Warner's Rick Horgan has bought it for publication next fall. Born in poverty in Chicago, Flatley had to struggle against demanding parents and overcome his small stature in order to succeed in sports and, later, dance, and to pull together a troupe of 85 dancers for Riverdance, the Gaelic extravaganza that brought him world fame. His book will not only recount a surprising life, according to Horgan, but it "stands out as a testament to what can be accomplished if one always keeps the goal in sight." He bought the book from Frank Weimann at the Literary Group International and Sheryl Shade at Shade Global.


...but not for the kids, is the word on a first novel, The Toy Collector, which Richard Pine of Arthur Pine Associates has just sold to Karen Rinaldi at Bloomsbury USA. Rinaldi was so keen on the book by James Gunn, a screenwriter in Hollywood, that she is making it Bloomsbury's lead title for next spring. "Right from the first line I knew I had to have it," she explained. It is the story of a young man who collects toys as a child, comes to obsess about them and later, as a hospital orderly, finds his childhood fantasies controlling his life. "It's dark, and funny, and utterly compelling," said Rinaldi. Pine added: "It takes you where fiction d sn't usually go. I'd call it brilliant, challenging, even sick, and completely original." Several publishers bid on it, according to Pine, but he chose Bloomsbury for its enterprising marketing plan. This consisted, said Rinaldi, of the whole staff of five, including managing director Alan Wherry, putting their heads together over a plan, then packaging it with an antique toy robot and delivering it personally to Pine's office. "You can do that sort of thing when you're small."


A first novel by Canadian author Bonnie Burnard called A Good House won a spectacular review from Carol Shields, which helped propel it to the top of the Canadian bestseller list. It also secured a very quick sale in the States, where new Holt editor Jennifer Barth bought it with a swift preempt the day after receiving a copy from Burnard's Toronto agent, Jan Whitford of Westwood Creative Artists. "It's the warmest, least cynical piece of writing I've seen in ages," she said, adding that she plans to make it the house's lead fiction title for next fall. The book follows a small-town Canadian family for 40 years, from the mid-'50s to the late '90s. Burnard, who lives in London, Ontario, has published two books of short stories, so far only in Canada, both of which won prestigious awards. The novel was snapped up for a six-figure sum in Germany and is currently eliciting excited bids in the U.K.


A saga of African-American womanhood in Louisiana, which is being described as a women's Roots, by Lalita Tademy, an executive at Sun Microsystems, has just been preempted for half a million dollars by Jamie Raab at Warner. It is called Miss Emily's Place and was brought to Raab's attention at the recent Maui writer's conference by West Coast agent Jilliam Manus of Manus & Associates. Tademy traced the five generations of women, her forebears, from the days of slavery through the Civil War until a time, at the close of the century (and the book), when members of all five are living together under one roof. They had finally become free women able to rejoice in family pride -- a fact, as Manus pointed out, exemplified by the author, who spent nine years of exhaustive genealogical research and burrowing through family archives.


A crowded news week, so here are several stories briefly: agent Donald Maass concluded a seven-figure deal with Ballantine's Leona Nevler for five new titles by bestselling author of Victorian mysteries Anne Perry, acting on behalf of her British agent, Meg Davis of MBA Literary.... A new novel by Brad Meltzer (The Tenth Justice), which involves a young White House lawyer who's having an affair with the president's sexy daughter, has just been sold -- for big money -- to a major house that agent Jill Kneerim at Boston's Palmer & Dodge said she can't identify just yet. (Could the problem have something to do with Rob Weisbach's departure from Morrow?) Foreign rights agent Elaine Rogers will be handling queries in Frankfurt.... Crown's Ayesha Pande, with the house's editorial director Steve Ross, has signed Life and Def, a quirkily titled memoir by hip-hop icon Russell Simmons, to be written with Nelson George for publication next fall. Pande pursued both Simmons and George, and no agent was involved in making the deal.... Today show anchor Katie Couric has signed with Doubleday to write her first book, an illustrated book for children on tolerance. ICM's Esther Newberg was the agent.... Before Harry Potter, there was a bestselling series about a young boy, called The Great Brain, published by Dial and written by John Fitzgerald Jr. Now agents Andree Abecassis and Lettie Lee of the Ann Elmo Agency have sold the rights to all eight titles to Jim Henson Television.... Tina Bennett at Janklow & Nesbit has sold, for a substantial six-figure sum, a book called The Melancholy of Abraham Lincoln to Ric Kott at Little, Brown. It's by Joshua Shenk, a historian who's fascinated by aspects of mental health.