Hollywood loves to imagine big historical icons in their pimply adolescent youth (the WB's Jack & Bobby is one recent example), so it's no surprise that producers immediately sparked to Robert J. Harris's Leonardo and the Death Machine, out now from Curtis Brown's Holly Frederick. At least five producers have submitted the project to the major studios. The YA novel, published last month by Collins in the U.K., follows a young Leonardo da Vinci as a frustrated apprentice in Florence who takes over painting duties from his buddy Botticelli after "Sandro" (as he's called) injures his arm in a football match. The seemingly plum assignment entraps Leonardo in a high-level murder plot. Curtis Brown's Elizabeth Harding is handling the U.S. publishing submission.

Movie types looking for the perfect beach read for Memorial Day got an assist from William Morris's Alicia Gordon. Just before the long holiday weekend, Gordon gave directors, writers and producers John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels (Penguin Press, Oct.), the follow-up to his international bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Random House, 1994). Berendt's Savannah sensation is credited with single-handedly transforming that fading Southern town into a booming tourist destination and giving resident drag queen The Lady Chablis the role of a lifetime (that is, as herself) in the Warner Bros. movie of the same name. In the new book, Berendt travels to Italy to investigate the mysterious fire that destroyed the famed Venice Opera House in 1996 and once again befriends an oddball cast of eccentric local characters. Suzanne Gluck represents Berendt for lit.

Addiction isn't funny but the cure can be. That's the message of A Life in Smoke, a highly amusing and surprisingly emotional memoir by Julia VanTine-Reichardt. Reichardt, a 20-year smoker and health book editor goes cold-turkey by locking herself in her house with a 72-foot chain purchased from Home Depot and generally making her husband's life a living hell. ICM plans to pitch the book to studios as a springboard for a broad comedy or dramedy, although it could just as easily be one of those Fox reality shows you claim you never watch. Free Press's Amy Scheibe bought the book based on the first three chapters and a synopsis from agent Lisa Bankoff. Josie Freedman will handle for film.

Update: First-time author Thomas Mullen got a double-dose of immediate gratification last week courtesy of the publishing and film worlds. Random House acquired Mullen's novel The Last Town on Earth the day after DreamWorks took the film rights off the table and a week after agent Susan Golomb went on submission with it (see Hollywood Reader, May 30.) Golomb had seven houses clamoring for the novel, but Random's Jennifer Hershey triumphed with a mid-six figure offer. When he's not creating havoc on both coasts, the 30-year-old Mullen works as a writer-editor for a D.C. publisher of health policy newsletters. CAA's Rich Green did the film deal.

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