John F. Baker -- 10/9/00
Gertrude Stein's Cook?
A novel that imagines a male Vietnamese cook working for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris in the 1920s intrigued Random's Susannah Porter sufficiently to persuade her to preempt it from agent Elaine Koster for what was reported as a substantial six figures. The Book of Salt is by a Vietnamese-American intellectual-property lawyer named Monique T.D. Trong, and the buy was made on the basis of an uncompleted manuscript. This is her first novel, but Trong has written a number of widely anthologized stories and essays, and she was recently hailed in a magazine as one of the top five Asian-American writers. Porter bought world rights, as well as audio and first serial, but Koster retains film and TV. Publication will probably be in spring 2002.
Bill Russell's Rules
The legendary NBA star and coach, named by Sports Illustrated as the century's greatest champion, is doing a book for Dutton editor-in-chief Brian Tart, who bought world rights, first serial and audio, and plans to publish as soon as next May. The book will be written with David Faulkner, who has recently done books on Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Robinson; Frank Weimann at Literary Group International was the agent. The book, said Tart, will be centered on the qualities of leadership and teamwork that Russell exemplified in his remarkable basketball career, during which he led the Boston Celtics to the NBA title in 11 out of the 13 seasons he played with them. In drawing on his own experiences, Russell will offer, said the editor, lessons for business and life.
E-Business Guru Signs Up
Mohabir Sawhney may not yet be a household name, but he was recently named by Business Week as one of the 25 most influential people in e-business. That's obviously catnip to publishers, and McGraw-Hill publisher and editor-in-chief Jeffrey Krames and editor Ela Aktay lost no time in signing him up. Dr. Sawhney, who is a professor of electronic commerce and technology at Northwestern, had no agent, and the deal was for world rights. His book will be called The Seven Steps to Nirvana: Strategic Insight into E-Business Transformation and will offer, said the publisher, insights into how bricks-and-mortar operations can transform themselves into e-businesses. Jeff Zabin of nMinds will be the co-author, and McGraw hopes to publish next April.
Posthumous Tales Preempted
A collection of short stories their author never saw published in her short lifetime was enthusiastically preempted by Lee Boudreaux at Random House, for North American rights. Author Mary Ladd Gavell died more than 30 years ago, at age 48, and after her death one of the stories, called "The Rotifer," was published in Psychiatry magazine, where she had worked as managing editor. It found its way into the Best Short Stories of 1967 volume, and John Updike chose it for his recent compilation of Best Short Stories of the Century. This made agent David McCormick at IMG wonder if there were more where that one came from, and when he contacted Gavell's husband, he found that indeed there were--and, according to Boudreaux, "they are classic stories, written with great skill and style." She plans to publish next fall.
Hot from the Kitchen
There's still big money for cookbooks by people with the right platforms, and a long-running TV show and an exclusive Beverly Hills restaurant provide the latest examples of just such profitable perches. St. Martin's senior editor Marian Lizzi shelled out six figures for a book by Mary Ann Esposito, whose PBS show Ciao Italia has been around for 10 years and who has already written five strong-selling cookbooks. The new one, named after the show, is Ciao Italia: Bringing Italy Home and will offer a culinary tour as well as lots of new recipes. It will appear next May, to coincide with the show's new season. The deal was made with Esposito's lawyer, Michael E. Jones. Sherry Yard is the executive pastry chef at Spago, and Rux Martin at Houghton Mifflin decided her Bake to Basics was a "must-have" for the house's cookbook list. He accordingly paid six figures, beating out two other houses, for North American rights. The agent was Janis Donnaud. Pub date is fall 2002.
The story that inspired Moby Dick, told in In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick, a bestseller for Viking, has been optioned by Intermedia for Baltimore Spring Creek Productions for six figures against a seven-figure purchase price. The deal was put together by literary agent Stuart Krichevsky working with Howard Sanders and Richard Green at UTA--the same team that brought Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm to the screen.... Will Schwalbe at Hyperion has signed world-class mosquito expert Andrew Spielman to do a book on the bugs that terrorize us all, to be written with author/journalist Michael D'Antonio;the agent was Nat Sobel, and publication is set for next May.