Chuck Palahniuk, whose nihilistic homage to fisticuffs, “Fight Club,” became an overnight video and DVD sensation, grossing $55 million in rentals, has just delivered a one-two punch to the book world.In a deal that could be worth a substantial six figures, Palahniuk has sold his next novel, “Choke,” to producer Beau Flynn’s Bandeira Entertainment. In a simultaneous six-figure deal, Doubleday, which will publish “Choke” this spring, has bought Palahniuk’s upcoming novel, “Lullaby” – a book that agent Edward Hibbert describes as “the Satanic love child of Steven King and Fay Weldon.”Another Palahniuk book, “Survivor,” was in development at Fox 2000, with Jake Paltrow – Gwyneth’s brother -adapting, but it’s future remains uncertain. “Choke” is a story of sexual compulsion and Alzheimer’s disease that turns on a med school dropout’s get-rich-quick scheme, in which he pretends to be choking in restaurants; “Lullaby” is a supernatural thriller about the discovery of a poem that has power to kill people if it’s spoken aloud or even imagined. Palahniuk is a classic case of an author who, under the nurturing wings of one editor, Doubleday’s Gerald Howard, and one agent, Donadio & Olson’s Hibbert, has steadily gone from cult status to commercial success. He’s cleared more than 150,000 copies of “Fight Club” in paperback and he’s now published in 22 countries. UTA brokered the film deal for “Choke”; an essay collection, which is part of the Doubleday deal for “Lullaby,” will include Palahniuk’s meditations on celebrity and off-kilter travel pieces, including an account of his visit to the real-life Montana Testicle Festival.
DONALD WESTLAKE IS A PULP FICTION writer in the classic mode. He’s written more than 100 crime, Western and kids novels, under four different pen names. He even snagged an Oscar nom for his adaptation of pulp king Jim Thompson’s “The Grifters.”But Westlake’s last suspense novel, “The Hook,” is destined for the arthouse. Paul Kohner Inc.’s Stephen Moore has just optioned the novel to French director Erick Zonca, best known Stateside for his 1998 Cannes breakout, “The Dreamlife of Angels.” With financing from UGC Images, the production arm of French distrib UGC (which made “Stealing Beauty”), Zonca will write and direct the pic. “The Hook” is the story of two novelists, one down on his luck, the other enjoying smashing success but beset with writer’s block. The two make a Faustian pact to revive each other’s careers. The pact also requires that one kill the other’s wife. Said Ben Said, who last produced “Terminus of Angels” for UGC, will produce. Westlake, who’s sold several books to Hollywood, has long been admired by directors with serious artistic ambitions. His novel “The Hunter” became John Boorman’s hallucinatory 1967 thriller, “Point Blank.” Westlake also has a huge following in France, where three of his novels have been made into films. Jean Luc Godard’s 1966 feature, “Made in U.S.A.” was allegedly based on a Westlake novel – a question that led to a lawsuit that’s prevented the film from seeing theatrical distribution on these shores.
ROBERT COOPER’S LANDSCAPE Ent. has recently positioned itself as an active buyer of serious, sometimes offbeat, literary material for development in various media.The latest pickup is Nicholas Flokos’ first novel, “Nike,” a romantic comedy about a Greek man’s scheme to steal the famous winged statue of Nike from the Louvre and return it to the island of Samothrace. The man’s plans come unraveled when he falls in love with a museum guard. The book, which is riddled with mythological elements, is told in the voice of village denizens who serve as a Greek chorus. “The idea is to maintain the magic of it,” says Landscape senior veep Marc Rosen, who brought the project to the company. Landscape will develop “Nike” as a feature as part of its mandate to produce commercial fare in any budget range, in partnership with Canadian broadcast giant CTV. Cooper and Landscape prexy David R. Ginsburg will produce the pic with Jordi Ros. Landscape recently optioned two novellas by sci-fi fabulist Harry Turtledove.
A NEW GENRE OF SELF-HELP BOOKS has emerged recently, written by creative execs drawing on their own travails in the lower ranks of the Hollywood food chain.In the wake of Bill Robinson and Ceridwen Morris’ “It’s All Your Fault,” which HBO is considering setting up as a half-hour miniseries, Jason Anthony, a VP of creative affairs at Laura Ziskin Prods., has sold a book to Amanda Patten at Plume based loosely on “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – a volume that’s sold 10 million copies over the years. Anthony’s book, based in part on interviews with people in Hollywood under the age of 35, will prescribe methods – beyond the usual Machiavellian deal-making and back-stabbing – for ambitious young people to get ahead in the world.