Skipping ChristmasBooksellers are in for an early Christmas present from John Grisham. The bestselling author has penned a modern Christmas story, published by Doubleday, that will ship to stores in early November. The book, entitled Skipping Christmas, arrived too late for inclusion in Doubleday's fall catalogue, but "has already had strong orders," according to executive director of publicity Suzanne Herz. Doubleday sees the small, $19.95 hardcover as "an unexpected gift from Mr. Grisham," and opted for a 1.5-million—copy first printing. Herz added, "It's a nice time to put something out like this: a lighthearted but meaningful fable that will give a little bit of cheer."

Skipping Christmas describes a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge, aptly named Luther Krank, who convinces his wife, Nora, to forgo a traditional (read: expensive) family Christmas for a Caribbean cruise departing on Christmas Day. Unfortunately for the Kranks, skipping all the shopping, office parties and decorating isn't quite as easy as they imagine it.

The story is based on a long-standing fantasy, according to Grisham's agent, David Gernert: "It started several years ago," he said. "John and I would have conversations on the phone in the fall, usually after he'd finished a manuscript. As the months leading up to Christmas filled up with work, he would say, 'Well, we could always just skip Christmas.' My wife and I have four kids and sometimes I would tell John about some of nightmares we have. It became kind of a theme between us. Then one day he called to say he had something to send me. When I opened up the package, I just about fell out of my chair to see that he'd actually written it."

Skipping Christmas is Grisham's second excursion outside of genre fiction, following on the heels of last summer's A Painted House. Gernert said it's merely "coincidence more than anything that the two came right after another." Grisham's next legal thriller, The Summons, is due in February. In the meantime, Skipping Christmas arrives in stores November 6.