Scribes fashioning Versace books

While the suicide of Andrew Cunanan removes the most famous name from the FBI’s Most Wanted list, it also leaves unanswered many questions about his motives and psyche. The questions should prove, however, a boon for at least two publishing houses that recently struck deals for books based on Gianni Versace and Cunanan.

Dell Publishing has struck a deal with Vanity Fair special correspondent Maureen Orth for the worldwide publishing rights to a book on Cunanan. For months, Orth has been researching a piece about Cunanan for the mag, which is scheduled to run the piece in its September issue.

Since she had been researching the spree killer well before Versace’s murder, Orth became the media expert on Cunanan, receiving widespread coverage in print and broadcast outlets.

“From the first moment two months ago when I read news reports about the ‘gay party boy’ in San Diego suspected of killing four people, I sensed this might be a fascinating story,” Orth said in a statement about the book. “Then, as I crisscrossed the country reporting while the media glare faded, my instinct was confirmed. I found a horrifying yet titillating tale of sex, drugs and murder.”

Orth’s untitled tome is slated for spring ’98 from Delacorte Press, the hardcover imprint of Dell. ICM’s Amanda Urban brokered the mid-six-figure deal on Orth’s behalf.

Just a few hours after Versace’s death, Todd Shuster, a lit agent with Boston’s Zachary Shuster agency, finalized a $500,000 deal with Little, Brown for “Undressed: The Life and Times of Gianni Versace” by Christopher Mason. While the book had been proposed to editors just a week earlier, the murder of the designer accelerated the deal for a book originally intended as a bio with Versace’s cooperation. Mason was scheduled to meet with the designer in Italy next month.

In his proposal for the book, Mason promises to “portray the passion, drama and fatal glory of the man tragically killed on July 15, assessing his unrivaled contributions to fashion and 20th century popular culture.” He also will include “the chilling psychopathy of the serial killer, their initial meeting in San Francisco; their ultimate encounter.”

William Morris is representing the film and TV rights for Mason’s bio.

And a third publisher, St. Martin’s Press, inked a deal the day after the murder with writer Wensley Clarkson for a quick turnaround paperback.

Chef whips up thriller

Finding time to put pen to paper in between his regular gig as a chef in Manhattan, Tony Bourdain has written a second novel, “Gone Bamboo,” a political thriller-crime tale to be published by Villard in September.

“Bamboo” — which receives a starred review in this week’s Publishers Weekly, and follows Bourdain’s debut, “Bone in the Throat” (Villard) — takes place in New York and St. Martin. A CIA-trained assassin and his smart, gorgeous, gun-toting wife — described as Nick and Nora packin’ firepower — must outwit a gaggle of bad guys, including a cross-dressing mobster, a hitman, the feds and French spies in order to hang onto their luxe lifestyle.

The book has been adapted for the screen by Gotham scribes Web and Rob Stone, the brothers who previously conceived and are exec producing “The Negotiator” for Warner Bros. Endeavor, which represents the squid ink-stained scribe and the Stone duo, is expected to shop around the screenplay to coincide with the book’s publication.

During his 20-year culinary career, Bourdain has hung his toque at such upscale Gotham eateries as the Supper Club, the Rainbow Room, Coco Pazzo Teatro and now at Sullivan’s.

New novels from big names

John Irving’s latest, “A Widow for One Year,” has landed on the editor’s desk at Random House and at foreign publishers. The book is described by one active scout as “a female Garp for the ’90s, and Irving’s best work in years.” “Widow” is the first of a high-profile list of upcoming books with film rights being handled by CAA’s Bob Bookman. Contributing to the agent’s busy fall will be Richard Preston’s “Cobra’s Eye,” also in at Random House and scheduled for an October publication.

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