Coming Out Ahead

It's refreshing news when, once in a while, a smaller house beats out the big guns in an auction, and that's what recently happened when Walter Bode at Harcourt Brace came out ahead of four considerably larger houses to win two books by award-winning Chinese-American author Laura Glen Louis. The North American rights deal, for considerably more than Harcourt usually pays, was orchestrated by agent Elyse Cheney at Sanford Greenburger Associates and involved, she told PW, elaborate promotional plans by Harcourt. The first book under the deal will be a collection of stories, Talking in the Dark, described as subtle, spare, sexually charged tales of Chinese-American relationships. The second book will be a novel. Louis, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., won a Katherine Ann Porter award for an early story and another was included in Best American Short Stories five years ago.

Calling Latin Women

Editor Becky Cabaza, who recently made the move from Simon & Schuster to Crown, is convinced that there's a strong book market among Hispanic women in the U.S. and, in fact, helped create S&S's Spanish-language line with that in mind. Now, for the Three Rivers imprint at her new home, she's signed her first big book. It's The Latina Bible: The Hispanic Woman's Guide to Love, Sex, Beauty and La Vida, and the author is an expert: Sandra Guzman, formerly editor-in-chief of Latina magazine and about to head up a new Web site aimed at the same market, to be called Cyberchicas. Cabaza and Guzman's agent, Tanya McKinnon at Mary Evans, are convinced Guzman has the kind of style--and platform--to bring in a whole new reading audience. Cabaza bought world rights, though whether the house will do its own Spanish-language edition or sell the rights remains to be seen.

Murder in the Hamptons

No, we're not talking about real estate prices, but about a killing among a bunch of tony country clubbers in the exclusive playground; a first novel called Misfortune, centered on just such an occurrence, is part of a million-dollar, two-book deal just signed by Warner's Jamie Raab. She preempted, after a fast read, beating out several other publishers eager to be in on what agent Nick Ellison is convinced will be a stellar new career for first-time author Nancy Geary. Geary is on a fast track, having been born into New England society, graduating with highest honors at Brown and Harvard Law School and then serving briefly as an assistant state attorney general for Massachusetts--all before settling down to write. Ellison and Raab concur that Geary's style combines a narrative pace that "rips along" with social insights of the kind managed by Edith Wharton or Louis Auchincloss.

Million for a Castaway

The latest bizarre game show, which will begin airing on CBS next spring, is a doozy. The concept g s like this: 16 volunteers will be "cast away" on a South Sea island, with TV cameras capturing their every move. For each episode, the gang will vote to send one of them back home as an undesirable until only two are left. The "rejects" will vote one up, one down, and the winner will get the now-traditional million bucks. It's yet to be seen what kind of viewing this will make, but it will certainly make a book, to be called Survivor, and Peter Kaufman of--what else?--TV Books has signed it up for an unusual (for him) six figures. It will be jointly written by TV producer Mark Burnett and the lucky winner and will be part adventure story and part inspirational, addressing the question of how people learn to survive under extreme conditions. Kaufman did the deal with agent Scott Waxman and Burnett's manager, Conrad Riggs. The book will appear in late summer, to coincide with the climactic episode.

The Coalwood Franchise

Homer H. Hickam Jr. has secured a niche as a chronicler of small-town boyhood, and his publishing relationship shows equal solidity. Agent Frank Weimann of Literary Group International has just made another two-book deal for the author of Rocket Boys and Back to the Moon with his longtime editor, Tom Spain, at Bantam Dell, reportedly for seven figures. It will cover two books, A Coalwood Christmas, about the Hickam family's last Christmas together in the little West Virginia mining town and the boy Sonny's realization of the key role his mother plays in the town's life. An as yet untitled fourth book will take the boys to the summer after graduation. Rocket Boys, of course, became the popular movie October Sky, and Back to the Moon has also just been sold to the movies, with Michael Frieberg of the Artists Agency joining Weimann in making the deal with Beacon Pictures.