How do you sell a serious, literary novel with an incestuous relationship at its center to Hollywood? You don't. ICM's Ron Bernstein is out with Envy (Random House, July), the provocative novel by acclaimed—and controversial—author Kathryn Harrison, but the big studios won't be reading it. "Adult dramas are moving into the indy area and being pushed off the main stage," says Bernstein. So instead he's taking the project to independent darlings such as Steven Shainberg (Secretary), who don't shy away from tough subject matter. In the novel, a married man suspects the much younger woman he's having an affair with may be his biological daughter. Harrison famously wrote about her extended affair with her father, who abandoned her as a child, in her 1998 memoir, The Kiss. Amanda Urban reps Harrison for lit.

Another book destined to bypass Hollywood for the independent world is first novel Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Know the Way by Bryan Charles. The emotionally honest story, set in 1991, follows an 18-year-old Midwesterner as obsessed with the first Gulf War as he is with his best friend's girlfriend. Anything about teens gets Hollywood's attention, and it wasn't long before the manuscript leaked and the calls started coming in to Charles's agent, PJ Mark of Collins McCormick. Mark cautions, however, that this isn't the typical teen comedy Hollywood grinds out. The novel's multidimensional, character-driven story suggests an early River Phoenixor Leo DiCaprio film—more Gilbert Grape than American Pie. Charles received an M.F.A. from Brooklyn College, where he studied with Michael Cunningham. His essay "Numbers," an account of his escape from the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, appeared in Before and After: Stories from New York(Norton, 2002). HarperCollins has set a spring 2006 pub date for the novel.

The race is as heated as ever to bring the NYPD Mafia hit scandal to the screen, but the players have changed. Warner Bros. and Spring Creek Productions got an unexpected break when rival Universal dropped its pursuit of film rights to Louis Eppolito's 1992 memoir, Mafia Cop. However, the studio, which holds the life rights to former detective Tommy Dades, a key player in the investigation (see Hollywood Reader, Apr. 18), will still be watching over its shoulder for A Cop Between, Columbia's competing—and fictionalized—take on the case.

Each project brings considerable strengths—and risks—to the table. Columbia's Cop has Nick Pileggi, Hollywood's go-to guy for all things Mafia; Pileggi authored and co-adapted Casino and Wiseguy (both S&S), the basis for Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. However, by straying from the actual events, the project may forfeit the appeal—and marketing hook—of a true story. (Would Erin Brockovich have become such a cultural phenomenon had she sprung entirely from a screenwriter's imagination?) Warners is sticking to the facts and banking that a jury will convict the two retired cops—a reasonable, even likely, assumption, but no sure thing. Two words: Robert Blake.