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John F. Baker -- 7/24/00

Webb G s to Bantam | Studs Terkel and the Afterlife
'Miracle' Novel for BlueHen | The Kid Who Invented TV
PB Lands Sexy Shanghai Novel | Short Takes

Webb G s to BantamJames Webb, former assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy, has been carving out an equally illustrious career as a novelist, and has just sold his latest book, Resurrection,to Bantam's Katie Hall for what agent Nick Ellison describes as a "substantial" six-figure sum. The deal is for North American rights only, and was the culmination of a three-day auction. The new book, according to Ellison, is a suspense novel that also invokes comparisons to Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The author's previous outings have gone on to considerable screen fame, with Rules of Engagement as a vehicle for Tommy Lee Jones, and The Emperor's General having made a two-million-dollar sale to Paramount. Filming is also set to begin on Webb's first book, Fields of Fire.

Studs Terkel and the Afterlife

Talking about death.
The elderly and feisty Chicagoan, who has made a habit of bestsellerdom by inviting ordinary folk to talk about what they do and think, will write his next book on a subject not often visited in his previous outings: death. A book to be called (after the old hymn) May the Circle Be Unbroken, with an appropriate subtitle, is to be published in fall of next year by Terkel's longtime publisher, Andre Schiffrin at The New Press. According to Schiffrin, who made the world rights deal directly with the 88-year-old author, the book arose out of Terkel's sudden interest in the subject after the recent death of Ida, his wife of more than half a century. He decided to revisit some of his previous interviewees, as well as some new ones, to see what they thought about death and what happens thereafter; a surprising number of them, said Schiffrin, believe in some form of afterlife or reincarnation.

'Miracle' Novel for BlueHenThe new Putnam Penguin literary imprint run by Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson, formerly of MacMurray & Beck, has just bought world rights (except Germany, which is already sold) to a first novel by California writer Susann Cokal. It's called Mirabilis and is, said Ramey, something "that lifts the reader into that sweet air between the ridiculous and sublime." Agent Liv Blumer at Barney Karpfinger had already sold German rights, to Aufbau Verlag, when BlueHen got to see it, and snapped up remaining rights. Ramey describes it as a story set in a French village in 1372, about a woman, Bonne Tardieu, of miraculous capacities but surprising innocence. She becomes the succor of the villagers at a time of siege in a "dark comedy of appetites, miracles and madness." Blumer said the Berkeley, Calif.-based author, who has published a number of short stories and edited for Harcourt on the West Coast, was plucked from the slush pile on the basis of a strong letter. She tried a European publisher first, Blumer said, because she thought the book too strange and unconventional for most American publishers.

The Kid Who Invented TVThat's the next book project for Daniel Stashower,who won both the Edgar and the Agatha awards for last year's Holt biography of Arthur Conan Doyle, Teller of Tales. His agent, Donald Maass, has just sold his proposal for A Gleaning of Light for a six-figure bid (including bonuses) for world rights to Charles Conrad at Broadway. Conrad narrowly beat out Holt in a four-way auction among the only publishers to whom the notion was submitted. Stashower's tale centers on Philo T. Farnsworth, a 15-year-old technological genius who built the first prototype of a TV set in his San Francisco garage some 80 years ago, and on the long patent battle with RCA's David Sarnoff that eventually followed. The agent retains movie and TV rights, in which there has, not unexpectedly, been interest already.

PB Lands Sexy Shanghai NovelA Chinese novel that was withdrawn and destroyed by Chinese authorities for its graphic sexuality and depiction of the contemporary lifestyle of young people in Shanghai has been bought for the U.S., Canada and the open market by president Judith Curr at Pocket Books for editor Kim Kanner. Shanghai Baby is by 27-year-old Zhou Weihui, whose four books have a cult following among Chinese readers. The sale to Pocket was made by London's Toby Eady,via a Chinese subagent in the States who prefers to remain anonymous because she wants to continue to be able to travel to China. Pocket, which also bought audio and first serial rights, expects to publish in October next year.

Short Takes

Schomperlen: A
visit from the Virgin.
Laurie Walsh at Viking has bought U.S. rights to a novel by Canadian award-winner Diane Schomperlen, about a visit paid by the Virgin Mary to a writer. It's called Our Lady of the Lost and Found, and was bought from agent Bella Pomer; it's scheduled for publication next summer.... Ethan Mordden, whose huge multivolume work on the history of the Broadway musical has been published so far at Oxford U.P., is moving to the new upmarket Palgrave imprint at St. Martin's, under a four-book deal arranged by agent J Spieler with Palgrave editorial director Michael Flamini.

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