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John F. Baker -- 3/13/00

Sheldon: A New/Old Lineup
Sometimes, in these days of conglomerates, you can acquire new publishing relationships just by hanging on to the old ones. That's what has happened to veteran bestseller author Sidney Sheldon, whose new novel, The Sky Is Falling, will be published by his old house, Morrow, this September. The difference is, of course, that since his last outing, Morrow has become a part of HarperCollins, and as he had previously been published by HC in the U.K. anyway, he is now a worldwide Harper author. The deal for the new book (he signs them one at a time) was done with Jane Friedman at Harper and Larry Kirshbaum at Warner, who has always been his paperback publisher, by way of agent Mort Janklow. There's another bow to tradition in the form of Sheldon's editor, who is, as he has always been, former Morrow president Lawrence Hughes. The new book, Sheldon's 17th, concerns a popular Washington TV anchorwoman trying to establish a link among a series of murders, and who then finds herself being pursued by the killers.

Life Advice at 23

Northern California artist Sabrina Ward Harrison is only 23, but thought she already knew enough about self-discovery to put it all in a book. She did, and a little California house, New World Library, sold a very respectable 20,000 copies of Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by word of mouth. That kind of thing attracts East Coast attention, in this case that of agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of the Writers Shop, who sold it as part of a two-book, world rights deal to Pamela Cannon at Random for publication by Villard in September. Harrison's book is a combination of journal and art about growing up female today. It has become the basis of a course she now runs, and she will be conducting workshops around the country on a tour she'll do for the book in the fall.

The Unexpected in Japan

That's the essence of a first novel that is "my first buy of the new century" for Marian Wood, now with her own imprint at Putnam. The book is American Fuji by an Oregon-based writer, Sara Backer, who spent some years at a Japanese university and has written what Wood calls "an amazing revelation of the Japanese character, which proves, as her heroine says in the book, that in Japan you must always expect the unexpected. It's funny, and touching and true. She's a real writer." The story, a combination of satire, romance and mystery, is about an American woman in Japan who works in sales for a bizarre funeral service called Gone with the Wind, and her involvement with another displaced American, a middle-aged man trying to find out how his son, an exchange student at a Japanese university, came to die suddenly. Backer's agent, Barbara Braun, received a handsome advance in which the rights are split, with Putnam getting Western Europe (the house is taking it to the London Book Fair), and Braun retaining the Far East and Eastern Europe. Wood plans to publish next spring.

Dad Was a Mob Killer

First we had the kids of Mafia whistle-blower Henry Hill planning to talk about their life in the witness protection program for Warner. Now the same West Coast agent, Alan Nevins at AMG/Renaissance, has come up with an equally remarkable story. Albert DeMeo was 16 years old when his father, Roy, a Mob executioner with more than 100 murders to his discredit, was found dead, stuffed in the trunk of a car. The boy decided to break away from gangland, went to college and eventually wound up on Wall Street. From there he is to tell the tale for Gerald Howard and Charlie Conrad at Broadway Books, who, having heard his story, preempted on the spot for a mid six figures. They bought world rights for The Sins of the Father and hope to publish in late summer 2001, with help from an appropriate writer.

Short Takes

Yolanda Young is a popular columnist whose syndicated column for Essence magazine, "On Our Way to Beautiful," is read by millions. She's now turning it into a book with the same title for Villard, where Courtney Hodell will edit. Bruce Tracy made the six-figure North American deal with agent Joanna Pulcini at the Linda Chester agency. In her book, an inspirational memoir, Young will tell of growing up in a church family in Louisiana, and the trauma of a murder in her childhood.... In the wake of the recent success of Letters of the Century, edited by Lisa Grunwald and Steve Adler, Dial Press's Susan Kamil has bought another collection planned by the same duo: an anthology of American women's letters, from Plymouth Rock times to e-mail, which will take two years to put together. The North American deal was arranged with the editors' respective agents, Liz Darhansoff for Grunwald, Kathy Robbins for Adler.
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