This week: Playwright kills trees—makes $2 million; a Townhouse in a seller's market; and Robert Crais hopes Hollywood pays him another Hostage-size ransom.

From Stage to Page

That sound you heard echoing around New York on Friday, September 9, wasn't your imagination. It was the collective groan coming from publishing houses as The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, a 1,300-page manuscript by a relatively unknown Manhattan playwright, Gordon Dahlquist, hit editors' desks just before the weekend. However, once Bantam's Bill Massey plunged into the sprawling fantasy epic—about three strangers in Victorian England who battle a mysterious cabal that brainwashes innocent people to do their bidding—whatever misgivings he may have had about jettisoning his weekend plans were quickly forgotten. That Monday, the presumably bleary-eyed Massey rushed in with an aggressive two-book, $2 million offer to Baror International's Danny Baror and the E.J. McCarthy Agency's E.J. McCarthy. Of course, nothing raises producers' antennae like a publisher throwing around Hollywood-style cash, so soon New York scouts were pulling their own version of Massey's lost weekend. By press time there was no film offer on the table, but don't expect that to last. A certain heavyweight producer is rumored to be pursuing the novel, which Baror describes as "Philip Pullman for adults." Bantam has set a September or October 2006 pub date. CAA's Matt Snyder is handling film rights.

How to Be Hornby

Agents, take note: if you pitch a book to editors as "Hornby-esque," film scouts will come sniffing. Daniel Lazar of Writers House quickly discovered this when, almost immediately after submitting Tish Cohen's Townhouse to publishers, the manuscript started making the Hollywood rounds. Cohen's manuscript, about the agoraphobic son of a dead '70s rock star who falls for the incompetent real estate agent hired to unload his childhood home, blends two of Nick Hornby's favorite themes (music and relationships) and has somehow managed to achieve the ultimate rarity in Hollywood—universal praise. Within a week after leaking, Fox 2000 took it off the market for Ridley and Tony Scottto produce. Fox 2000's N.Y. head, Drew Reed, brought the project into the studio. Brillstein-Grey's Kassie Evashevski did the film deal.

Elvis Has Left the Building

Robert Crais, the author of the bestselling mystery series featuring private detective Elvis Cole, scored one of 2001's splashier film deals with MGM's seven-figure deal for Hostage (Doubleday, 2001), the author's second stand-alone novel after Demolition Angel (Doubleday, 2000). (The pricey film version of Hostage starring Bruce Willis was dumped into theaters this March by Miramax and quickly vanished.) Now Crais is back with another non-Cole thriller, The Two-Minute Rule (S&S, 2006), out from Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silberman's Emile Gladstone. The story follows a middle-aged man who, on his first day released from prison, discovers his son was murdered and enlists an FBI agent—the same one who put him away 10 years before—to track down the killer. The book has reportedly been submitted to all of the studios. Aaron Priestrepresents Crais for lit.