Shannon Ravenel at Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill signed a new novel by Lee Smith called The Last Girls, the story of a group of contemporary Southern women on a cruise down the Mississippi; she bought U.S. and Canadian rights from agent Liz Darhansoff and plans to publish next fall.... A biography of Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar (for her role in Gone with the Wind) was bought at auction by HarperCollins associate publisher Carie Freimuth, on behalf of new Amistad editorial director Dawn Davis. It's called We Wear the Mask: The Life and Times of Hattie McDaniel, and is by California professor Dr. Jill Watts. Freimuth beat out four other publishers in an auction conducted by agent Victoria Sanders.