The Mark of Zorro has been filmed so often that it seems to be a part of Latin folklore. In fact, it began life as a potboiler serial in the early 1900s and gradually won iconic status. There's even a company called Zorro Film, dedicated to making movies about the masked avenger—and it was their idea to ask the celebrated Chilean author

Isabel Allende if she'd like to write a novel around Zorro. Astoundingly, she was keen on the idea of attaching a literary work to the story, and her

Zorro will invent a childhood and background for the character who has been played by actors ranging from Tyrone Power to Antonio Banderas. Allende's editor,

Terry Karten at HarperCollins, conducted a complex negotiation with the movie people and Allende's agent,

Carmen Balcells of Spain, to nail down world English (and North American Spanish) rights. There's now a rush on to translate it for publication as soon as next May. Another Zorro movie the film company plans for next fall will be unrelated to Allende's work, but the publicity won't hurt.