A first novel by an Australian former drug dealer who was finally caught and jailed in Germany, escaped from maximum security prisons five times and finally put himself back inside to avoid running for the rest of his life was bought by SMP's Tim Bent. The editor discovered book and author, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, at a writers' conference in Sydney and signed it up with agent Joe Regal, representing the author's Australian agent Jenny Darling. The book, which Bent likens to a cross between Midnight Expressand Siddhartha(and is 900 pages long), is coming out this fall from small Australian publisher Scribe and has already sold to Little, Brown in the U.K. Bent paid six figures for North American rights and hopes to publish early next year.