Lit picks

Schiller’s rich pageant

It was just a matter of time before publishers began making deals for books stemming from the sensationalized murder of 6-year-old beauty pageant winner JonBenet Ramsey.

Larry Schiller – who co-authored “I Want to Tell You” (Little, Brown) with O.J. Simpson, and “American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense” (Random House) along with James Willwerth – is in talks with Random House to write an expose on the child pageant industry.

Schiller says he’s discussing the project as his next book, following “Chernobyl: The Final Day.”

He points out that if he does write the book, Ramsey’s murder in Boulder, Colo., “would only be used as a window to get into the story.”

“There is definitely something to be said about this,” Schiller says. “I would really spend six to nine months interviewing families, children, divorced parents and the underbelly of all this – from there I would find my themes.”

St. Martin’s Press also has inked a deal for a quick turnaround paperback about the murder, “Death of a Little Princess” by Carlton Smith (“The Search for the Green River Killer”). A St. Martin’s rep said no publishing date has been set because they are waiting for an indictment in the case.

Trying to book O’Donnell

While the feeding frenzy for celeb memoirs continues unabated – Jenny McCarthy, Jon Stewart and Drew Carey have all recently signed or are rumored to be in the process of signing book deals- fans anticipating talker Rosie O’Donnell’s tell-all will have to wait.

With a hit talkshow and young son taking up much of her time, Warner Books – which reportedly offered her $3 million – has no idea when it will receive O’Donnell’s tome.

“Due to the success of her show, she can only deal with what she can deal with,” says an understanding Jamie Raab of Warner Books, who describes the project as “embryonic.”

Knopf found itself in a similar situation with Oprah Winfrey. In 1994, Knopf signed a deal for the talk diva’s memoirs but had to settle for “In the Kitchen With Rosie: Oprah’s Favorite Recipes” by Rosie Daley, Winfrey’s personal chef.

Of course, Warners wouldn’t be crushed if O’Donnell’s book – memoirs, cookbook or whatever – sells as well as the Oprah-inspired cookbook, which has moved nearly 5 million copies to date.

(Birch Lane Press has its own O’Donnell book, and as it happens, “Rosie O’Donnell – Her True Story” was written by George Mair, who also wrote “Oprah Winfrey – The Real Story.”)

‘Bella’ deal

Tossing caution to the wind, publishers are continuing their free-spending ways into the new year.

In a preemptive bid, Warner Books’ executive editor Jamie Raab paid $1 million for the pub rights to “Belladonna,” a revenge thriller by Karen Moline.

Hyped as the first big thriller of the year, “Belladonna” landed on the desks of producers and publishers eager for the next hot project. Raab, however, says she bought the book on its own merits. She happened to be out of the office when the buzz began and read the book over the weekend, oblivious to the heat it had been generating around town.

Raab says “Belladonna” will be Warner’s lead title in its spring/summer catalog of ’98.

ICM is circulating the manuscript to film producers, and rights were still available as of late last week.

Picks and previews

The following is a selection of upcoming books according to pre-publication lists supplied by Publishers Weekly.

“The View From Here”

Brian Keith Jackson (Pocket) Pub date: February

A womb with a view is the setting for Jackson’s debut novel, most of which is narrated by L’il Lisa, who begins speaking to us five months into her mother’s pregnancy. The action, set in the 1950s, centers on an African-American family isolated among the corn fields of Mississippi. With five sons already, her father can’t handle another mouth to feed and arranges to give Lisa to his barren, abusive sister.

Rights: available

“Killing Floor”

Lee Child (Putnam) Pub date: March

Detailed action scenes and fascinating arcana about currency and counterfeiting enliven this taut first novel by a British TV writer. Out of sheer restlessness, 36-year-old ex-military policeman Jack Reacher persuades a bus driver to make an unscheduled stop in a small Georgia town, where his brother, a U.S. Treasury official, just happens to have been murdered a few hours earlier.

Rights: available

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