Heller parodies pubs; Murphy scores book deal

Heller parodies pubs; Murphy scores book deal

The son of author Joseph Heller has written a first novel — and it’s a skewer of the magazine world.

Literary agent Chuck Verrill of the Darhansoff & Verrill Literary Agency has just sent book editors “Slab Rat” by Ted Heller, offspring of the scribe who penned the classic World War II novel “Catch-22.”

The junior Heller draws on what one hopes were less harrowing experiences working at Spy, Details, Premiere, Vanity Fair (as a two-week sub for someone having a sex-change operation) and currently Nickelodeon.

In the book, protagonist Allen Zackary Post, a blue-collar kid from Long Island, fakes credentials to work at Versailles Publishing, a glitzy conglomerate publishing such titles She, Here, It and Zest. Insiders will be wondering just who might be the inspiration for fictional editors Jeanne LeClerque (“she had painted-on yellow eyebrows that resembled the McDonald’s Arches”) and Mark Larkin (“about 27-years-old but looks like the older presidential Teddy [Roosevelt]).

“I envisioned myself writing Joseph Mitchell-style New Yorker pieces about the lost and forgotten,” says the protagonist. “These hopes were dashed when I fully absorbed the typical It cover: MICHELLE (Pfeiffer) MY BELLE! (Ethan) HAWKE SOARS!, GOLDIE (Hawn) GIRL!, A LOAD OF (Sandra) BULLOCK!, MEL (Gibson)-IFLOUS! etc.).”

“It is very funny,” said one editor who received the manuscript.

* * *

Parents editor-in-chief Ann Pleshette Murphy already has her book deal: In a recent auction held by agent Kathy Robbins, Knopf editor Susan Ralston acquired “The Seven Stages of Motherhood,” a nonfiction book by Murphy to be published by the year 2000.

The rumored low-six-figure advance and commitment to do the book no doubt factored into Murphy’s decision, announced Wednesday, to leave her post as editor-in-chief at the Gruner & Jahr publication. She’ll continue to contribute as editor-at-large and do publicity for the Parents books series just launched by Golden Books.

That deal was directly with Gruner & Jahr and Parents magazine, and both parties confirmed that the proposed dozen-or-so-book series is still in place, despite Golden’s financial woes.

* * *

Film rights to Suzanne Finnamore’s first novel “Old Maid,” previously mentioned in The Write Stuff, have been sold to 20th Century Fox, with Deborah Schindler attached to produce. The book, about a 35-year-old woman between the period of time between her engagement and marriage, was acquired for a rumored six-figure advance by Knopf.

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