Spit and Polish

A manuscript that caused a bit of a stir at BEA has been sold, and with it, a big publishing name turns novelist. Doug Stumpf, the Vanity Fair editor who while at Morrow helped discover Michael Chabon, has written a novel about Wall Street and sold it to Claire Wachtel at Harper. Warner Bros. has picked up the film option.

Stumpf (also the partner of FSG honcho Jeff Seroy) has reportedly turned in a mostly finished novel, which, according to Stumpf's agent Mary Evans, is "very much a story of human beings." The hook: that the story's told in part from the point of view of a Brazilian shoe-shine boy, whose naivete and syntax sounds to us a bit like the foreign narrator in Everything Is Illuminated.

In other Harper news, as we went to press perhaps the biggest deal of the Jonathan Burnham era at Harper had just gone down. Burnham and exec ed David Hirshey have negotiated to buy the next two books by Sandy Koufax biographer Jane Leavy—the biographies of Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. "Koufax, Mantle, Ruth, Leavy—it's a pretty decent lineup," said Hirshey, "though I'd probably let Ruth bat fourth."

The Business of Friendship

They won't quite admit it, but Jen Gilmore and Emily Chenoweth are nearly doppelgängers. The early 30-something publishing people (Chenoweth's a reviews editor at this magazine; Gilmore's publicity director at Harcourt) have been friends, and friendly competitors, for a long time, skating figure-eights that have had them intersecting in all sorts of ways.

They met through a KGB reading series. They formed a writers' group together. Their careers each just got a jolt when their essays appeared in the same collection. (The collection's topic was... fraught female friendships.) So it's fitting that they've sold novels so close to each other.

"We probably each think the other is competitive. But neither of us really is," said Chenoweth. Really? "Well, maybe a little." Gilmore: "Do you really have to put us together?" laughing (a little).

Both books sound compelling. Gilmore's, which agent Harriet Wasserman sold to Scribner's Alexis Gargagliano, is a historical epic, Golden Country, about several generations of American Jews: a gangster, a traveling salesman and the man who brought TV into living rooms, among them.

Chenoweth's two-booker, via Henry Dunow to Random's Dan Menaker, includes a story collection and a novel based on a true event (a family vacation before the death of the author's mother).

Yes, Chenoweth got a twofer. But, chill, Jen, neither of her books are written yet. "I guess, but when I finished I relaxed for a week. Now I'm like, 'What am I going to do?' A two-book deal could be better."

So is a joint book tour in the works? Mmm, maybe not.

A Little Relief

A happy turn in a sad story, as a book proposal by the late aid worker Marla Ruzicka has been optioned by Paramount/ MTV for a feature. Marc Platt and David Gale bought the story, co-written with Elle writer Jennifer Abrahamson, about the 20-something dynamo. Ruzicka was killed in April in the line of duty in Iraq. The project is called Sweet Relief; literary agent Joe Veltre will soon be submitting to publishers.

The Briefing

As '80s nostalgia junkies can tell you, Michael Tucker was the nebbishy tax attorney on L.A. Law. Now he's a memoirist. His book, about buying a home with wife/co-star Jill Eikenberry, went to someone now learning a little about domesticity himself—Morgan Entrekin.... Speaking of domesticity, and title magic, Viking has And God Created the Au Pair, a novel about motherhood.... The was-he-gay genre gets a new entry when Barricade pubs Surviving James Deanin Jan.... As Random makes headlines, Jane von Mehren makes her first buy: a home-investment title by CNN's Gerri Willis.