John F. Baker -- 2/21/00
Big Money for Volcano Adventure
Dan Conaway at HarperCollins paid a sum that, with escalators, came close to $1 million for world rights to a book about a trip inside a Colombian volcano that went terribly wrong. Victoria Bruce, a NASA writer and geological expert, has woven an account of the ill-fated 1993 expedition to the Galeras volcano, in which nine people died, into a study of Colombia and its uneasy relationship with the Andean volcan s that form its spine. Both Conaway and Bruce's agent, Peter McGuigan at Sanford Greenburger, stress that the book, to be called No Apparent Danger, is a "rich and far-ranging study" that takes account of the country's uneasy politics and economics as well as its sometimes hostile geography. Another book on the Galeras eruption was sold last year to Houghton Mifflin. No one knows who will be out first, but Conaway hopes for a finished manuscript at the end of the year, with a view to late spring 2001 publication.
The Vietnam Brotherhood
Sixteen years ago Wallace Terry had a big success with a book called Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. It led to a career of speech-making and public appearances that all seemed to lead him in the direction of a sequel: a study of how closely the various races that made up the services in Vietnam bonded in the face of danger and death. Now Terry's Heroic Hearts, that long-awaited sequel, has been bought at auction for six figures by Warner executive editor Rick Horgan. It is a collection of stories and oral histories that follow this hopeful theme, and will have an introduction by General Colin Powell. The agent was Richard Abate at ICM.
A High-Volume Audio Sale
We're accustomed to thinking of sales for audio rights as usually in the upper four or lower five figures, but we've just heard of one that's almost six figures, and with certain escalators, would actually go into six. It's a forthcoming Putnam thriller called 24 Hours by Greg Iles, and agent Lisa Erbach Vance at the Aaron Priest agency made the high-level sale to Brilliance Corp.'s Eileen Hutton, who bought both abridged and unabridged North American rights. There was actually a hard-fought auction that lasted two days, and Random House Audio was the underbidder. The book was sold to Putnam about 18 months ago, where David Highfill is its editor. It tells the story of a team that has worked out a perfect kidnapping/ransom scheme that has succeeded several times, and how, on a new try, everything falls apart in the period of the title. Pub date (and audio release) is set for August.
Movie First for First Novel
A book called The Rich Part of Life by Jim Kokoris is not only his first novel, but also the first represented by his agent, Lynn C. Franklin, who normally deals in nonfiction. What's more, it has made a movie sale, and a sale to Heyne in Germany, before American publishers have had a chance to consider it (it's only just going out on submission). The author is a Chicago public relations man and former humor columnist for USA Weekend, and his tale is about a small boy and his brother, whose dour widower father wins millions in the lottery, and tells of the effect, "both humorous and poignant," said Franklin, that this has on the little family. Bill Contardi at William Morris optioned the movie rights to Sony on behalf of Cathy Konrad and Jim Mangold to produce, write and direct.
Living in a Nazi World
The notion of what life might have been like if Hitler had won WWII has inspired writers before, but not, swear agent Nick Ellison and Pocket Books executive editorial director Emily Bestler, to pen a novel with the kind of depth of research and authenticity of The Children's War, for which they just concluded a North American rights deal. The author, J.N. Stroyar, is an American particle physicist living in Germany with her husband, and she spent 10 years researching the book and another five writing it. The manuscript, which comes in three boxes, is 1,400 pages and 550,000 words, but Bestler is convinced that it deserves its length and hopes to publish next year. Stroyar examined actual contingency plans in Germany, England and the U.S. should the Third Reich prevail, and the result, Bestler said, is "utterly believable." Ellison has already had expressions of interest from overseas -- and, knowing him, can a movie deal be far behind?
Chicago fitness guru Jim Karas has penned a new-style guide called The Business Plan for the Body, which agent Gillian Manus sold to Becky Cabaza at Crown's Three Rivers imprint for world rights.... The Free Press's Stephen Morrow pre-empted a book by British-born genetics scholar and journalist Kevin Davies on the race to track the human genome. The agent was Jennifer Gates at Zachary Shuster.
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