Novelist Lisa Reardon’s career is catching fire in Hollywood.

Ethan Hawke will star in and co-produce the screen adaptation of her first novel, 1998’s “Billy Dead.” Optioned by Maverick Entertainment in 1999, the project will be adapted and directed by Keith Gordon (“Waking the Dead”), and produced by Maverick partners Madonna and Guy Oseary, and by Maverick exec Gary Ventimiglia who brought the project into the company. Erwin Stoff of 3 Arts is executive producing.

Reardon’s recently published second novel, “Blameless,” has also just been optioned by Gotham-based David Singer Entertainment. Vet Broadway producer Singer is producing and Beth Henley is a candidate to pen the script.

“Billy Dead” is a literary murder mystery that portrays a troubled, working-class Michigan family and the long pent-up secrets of violence and incest that emerge in the aftermath of a brother’s death. “Blameless” is about a school-bus driver whose life changes after she discovers the body of a murdered child and falls in love with the father of one of the children who rides her bus.

Reardon, who has always been repped by agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh at the Writers Shop, and edited by Courtney Hodell — first at Viking, then at Random House — received an MFA in drama from Yale.

That training is reflected in writing that’s well suited to the bigscreen, Hodell said. “She moves scenes along with tremendous alacrity and style and is a master at dialogue,” Hodell said. “It’s just great, visceral writing.”

STREET’ PUB: The Syndicate Media Group, a trailblazing L.A. publishing house that bundles its books with hip-hop CD soundtracks from Def Jam, is discussing a joint venture with Crown, an imprint of Random House.

There are 50,000 advance orders for Syndicate’s first book, “Street Sweeper,” a gritty urban novel about a black hit man. But those orders aren’t coming from traditional book outlets. “Street Sweeper” will be sold at music, lifestyle and clothing retail chains like Tower Records, Warehouse, Transit, Federated Department Stores and Macy’s, and in military barracks and prisons.

Those sales venues appeal to Crown, said the imprint’s editorial director and senior veep Steve Ross, as Crown boasts one of the strongest music books list in the business. Crown is among the top-selling publishers at music retailers such as Virgin and Tower. The imprint sold several hundred thousand copies of a four-color Tupac Shakur autobiography in 1997, the first in a series of books done in conjunction with Vibe magazine. It has published best-selling books on Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, and in fall 2001, will issue the autobiography of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons co-written by Nelson George, author of the National Book-Award-nominated “Hip Hop America.”

Syndicate, in turn, would benefit enormously from Crown’s sales clout in traditional book outlets, a market that Syndicate has yet to crack.

Syndicate was founded by actor Wesley Snipes and Mark Gerald, former editor of Old School Books, an imprint of Norton that issued reprints of vintage black pulp paperbacks.

“Mark seems like somebody with his fingers on the pulse of a culture, but also somebody we may look back on and see as a visionary,” Ross said.

Directing Syndicate’s sales force is Lea James, who came to the company from Interscope and Priority Records, where she helped create a sales strategy for Master P that involved placing videos in record stores.

“Bookstores are the least sexy place on earth to sell books,” said Gerald, who notes that Old School Books, available only in traditional bookstores were lucky to advance 5,000 copies.

Syndicate is now closing a second round of financing with an investor group led by Mel Kline, former chief financial officer of Interscope.

Syndicate is repped by Andrew Hurwitz of Gotham-based Epstein, Levinsohn, Bodine, Hurwitz & Weinstein.

COURT’ CASE: Gary Greenberg, a vet entertainment attorney and head of the newly formed Sterling Road Prods., has optioned “Contempt of Court: The Turn of the Century Lynching That Launched 100 Years of Federalism.”

Sterling Road, which aims to set up the project as a feature, paid a high five against mid-six figures for the option. The book, by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips, recounts a landmark case in American legal history, in which two black lawyers intervened in behalf of a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1906. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, but the man was lynched before his case was heard.

The authors are repped by Judi Farkas at AMG and Kevin Lang at Bedford Book Works.

HIKE FOR A PRICE: “Over the Edge,” Greg Child’s real-life mountaineering yarn about hikers held hostage by militant rebels in Central Asia, which was recently acquired for six figures by Villard, has just been optioned by Kennedy/Marshall for Universal.

The option price could reach seven figures. Childs was repped by Susan Golomb and UTA’s Richard Green and Howie Sanders.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more