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Leadership, Navy Style | Here Comes Bernie!
Ethics and Old Guys | Halloween Buy for a Witch
Short Takes

Leadership, Navy StyleThere's no lack of management and leadership manuals around, but it's quite a stretch to get one out of the military. At Warner Books, however, executive editor Rick Wolff just paid a "handsome" six figures to preempt such a book by a navy destroyer captain, D. Michael Abrashoff¸ whose leadership of the USS Benfold has made him something of a poster boy for the service. Captain Abrashoff runs his ship just like many CEOs wish they could run their companies: he has cut costs, raised morale (100% of his crews reenlist), he listens to crew members and gives them a sense of empowerment. Naturally, he has conducted seminars, was written up in Fast Company magazine and thus came to the attention of agent Helen Rees, who took him around recently to meet publishers. There was a flurry of offers, but Wolff got in first with the most and bore off the prize, for North American rights only. He expects a finished manuscript of the untitled book next spring and hopes to publish before the end of next year. Anchors aweigh in the boardroom!

Here Comes Bernie!
Bernie Mac
is an African-American comic who has been touring with great success with the Kings of Comedy team, but only really hit national attention with Spike Lee's recent movie of the troupe. Agent Richard Abate at ICM had him in his sights all along, however, and kept telling Bernie it was time to cash in with a book. The comic finally agreed, and Abate showed the proposal exclusively to Tracy Sherrod at Pocket Books, with a tome under the MTV imprint in mind. Sherrod agreed, paying out a high six figures for world rights plus audio (all-important with an act like Bernie's). The book will be called I Ain't Scared of You! and will have its share of rants, by a performer Abate aptly describes as "a sort of black Archie Bunker." It will be timed for fall next year, about the time Mac has a new TV show with Fox.

Ethics and Old Guys
Harry Stein
made a big stir with his Esquire column "Ethics" a while back, and has since written several books, including, most recently, How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace). Executive editor David Hirshey at HarperCollins had always wanted to publish him, and when agent Joy Harris sent around a long letter from Stein outlining a new book he wanted to write, Hirshey was first in line among several eager editors, checkbook out. He managed to preempt for a "significant" six figures the day after receiving the proposal. The title is The Girl Watchers' Club, and it revolves around a group of elderly men, accomplished figures all, who meet regularly for lunch in their California hometown, and talk about the world as it is and as they have known it. Several of them were WWII war her s; they have all been professionally successful; and the book will be both an account of their get-togethers and a distillation of their sometimes rueful wisdom. As Hirshey puts it, "It's Tuesdays with Morrie meets The Greatest Generation, with perhaps a dash of Garrison Keillor." Hirshey bought world rights, hopes to have a manuscript in time to publish for Father's Day 2002.

Halloween Buy for a WitchIt was, appropriately, on October 31 that executive editor Lauren Marino at Broadway Books acquired a new book by the woman who is probably America's preeminent witch: Phyllis Curott, the Wiccan high priestess whose Book of Shadows was a big bestseller for the house three years ago--the first time a Wiccan author had achieved mainstream publication. The new book, for which Marino paid an "outstanding" six-figure advance for world rights, is Making Magic: A Practical Guide to the Spirituality of Witchcraft, and she bought it from agent Joanna Renee Pulcini at the Linda Chester agency. In her first book, Curott told how she, a graduate of Brown and NYU Law School, was initiated into the Wiccan religion. Now, says Pulcini, this very prominent practitioner, who has been widely profiled and interviewed, is offering a primer on "living an empowered, divinely guided, magical life."

Short Takes
Gary Fisketjon
at Knopf bought a first novel by Canadian author Dennis Bock called The Ash Garden--the tale of a Hiroshima survivor and one of the scientists who helped create the atomic bomb, who meet 50 years later and discover what effect that event had on both their lives. The quarter-million-dollar deal, for U.S. and translation rights, was made with Toronto agent Denise Bukowski.... Random's Daniel Menaker bought a first novel by African-American author Maxine Clair, a period piece about a schoolteacher in trouble in 1950s Kansas, called October Suite; once again, six figures, from agent Molly Friedrich at Aaron Priest; young editor Melody Guy drew Menaker's attention to it.... Editorial director Tracy Behar at Pocket Books has signed a new title by the Dalai Lama for world rights from agent Anne Edelstein.