Producer Jerry Bruckheimer could find himself at the vanguard of a new book trend.The publishing and vidgame industries — two businesses that once had little in common — are exploring new ways to exploit each other, and a book that Bruckheimer has optioned with the Walt Disney Co., Michael E. Kersjes’ memoir, “A Smile As Big As the Moon,” could be an interesting test case. Kersjes, a football coach and educator, recounts in the book how he sent a group of neglected and handicapped children to NASA space camp in Huntsville, Ala., where they excelled at activities like mock takeoffs and flight simulations. Now Kersjes’ agency, ACME Talent and Literary, is creating a flight simulator vidgame based on the program he created in Huntsville. ACME, which launched an interactive division nine months ago, is developing vidgames from other books, including a selection of sci-fi titles by William R. Forstchen, who recently sold a series of time-travel Civil War novels to Cruise/Wagner and Paramount. Forstchen is among a relatively small circle of sci-fi writers who are also avid gamers. Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, is hoping for its own brand of vidgame synergy by recruiting some of those writers for a series of books it’s publishing in partnership with Microsoft’s Xbox vidgame system. Del Rey, which already published “Halo: The Fall of Reach,” based on an Xbox game, on Tuesday announced the creation of a fiction publishing program based on such games as “The Unseen” and “Crimson Skies.” Del Rey exec editor Steve Saffel said the partnership stems from a chance encounter at the 2000 Comicon convention in San Diego, where he began batting ideas around with Microsoft reps. Now, with the first “Halo” title selling in both computer and book retail outlets, he hopes to tap an audience that’s largely ignored by publishers. At a time of stagnant book sales industrywide, that could set a precedent for other publishers. As ACME’s Kevin Cleary and Josh Morris put it, such readers are “going to buy (the books) and read them because they’re ‘Halo’ fans. It’s like when somebody likes a car. He’s going to read Hot Rod and books about Dale Earnhardt. Is this the same reader who’s reading Danielle Steel? No.” VIVENDI UNIVERSAL’S JEAN-MARIE MESSIER was recently pummeled in the French press for suggesting his country’s cultural regulatory system is obsolete. So he may take some comfort in the fact that his subordinates at Universal Pictures are doing their part for French cultural literacy in Hollywood. The studio has optioned “Le Voyeur,” a novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet, father of the Nouveau Roman, and the screenwriter behind Alain Resnais’ quizzical New Wave classic, “Last Year at Marienbad.” U-based producer Kevin Misher is producing the project, a psychological thriller about a traveling watch salesman who may have murdered a teenage girl. The book was published in 1955, and a Grove Press English edition has remained in print since 1958. Grove paid less than $1,000 to acquire the book, but its value has matured. It will cost U a substantial six figures if “Le Voyeur” is produced. Robbe-Grillet, who turns 80 this year, has directed several French films based on his original scripts that Georges Borchardt, his U.S. agent, says are “fairly erotic and have a bizarre, suspenseful undercurrent.” But no films have ever been based on one of his books. Robbe-Grillet’s latest, as yet untranslated, novel, “La Reprise,” also just hit the French bestseller lists, a first for the author. “He called me and was concerned about it and I told him it was a lot better than being famous posthumously,” Borchardt said.
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