More than 25 years after Robert Wise blew up the Hindenburg in an all-star disaster pic for Universal, the studio plans to do it again.U has optioned “The Phoenix,” a historical novel by Henning Boetius, for studio-based producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. Boetius is the son of a Hindenburg elevator operator who survived the crash. His novel is about a man who escapes the doomed zeppelin and becomes obsessed with uncovering the cause of the crash. The six-figure deal is the latest in a spate of high-profile book acquisitions by the Kennedy/Marshall Co. The shingle recently optioned a couple of other historical novels, “A Cloud of Sparrows” and “Across the Nightingale Room,” both of which are set up at U. It’s also the latest co-agenting venture of CAA and Susanna Lea, a Paris book agent who has rattled the conservative French book world with a slew of big foreign rights and film deals (Daily Variety, Dec. 11). “The Phoenix” was just issued in hardcover by Doubleday. GOTHAM HAS A NEW LIT BOUTIQUE. Longtime publishing scout Nina Collins and book agent David McCormick have launched the Collins McCormick Literary Agency. From 1993-1999, Collins ran Nina Collins Associates, a foreign and film scouting outfit repping such clients as MGM, Village Roadshow, Davis Entertainment, Jaffe/Braunstein and a slew of foreign publishers. McCormick was an editor at the New Yorker and Texas Monthly before becoming a senior agent at IMG Literary, the book division of sports marketing company IMG. It’s McCormick who’ll initially deliver most of the clients to the agency when it opens Feb. 1. His list at IMG consisted chiefly of novelists and journalists such as Randy Cohen and Julie Hecht. The highly decentralized Gotham agenting biz is hopping with small boutiques run by agents who’ve left the ranks of corporate publishing. Some are former editors squeezed out by the consolidation of the big houses. Others have abandoned big percenteries. Many are enjoying the autonomy that independence affords. And judging from the experience of two new boutiques on the scene — Carlisle & Co., launched by former William Morris agent Michael Carlisle; and Burnes & Clegg, run by former Robbins Office agent Bill Clegg and former Little, Brown agent Sarah Burnes — small agencies can still wrangle big advances. That’s less true in Hollywood, where packaging plays a bigger role in book deals, and size often carries more clout. SCOTT TUROW’S LATEST NOVEL, “Reversible Errors,” has been picked up by Farrar Straus & Giroux. Turow, who helped create the modern legal thriller with 1987’s “Presumed Innocent,” has always published with FSG, but he negotiates a contract with every book. Most writers prefer, or are required, to sign multibook deals. The agency Brandt & Hochman didn’t divulge financial terms, but it’s likely to have put a dent in the windfall created by FSG’s major fall bestseller, Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections.” Turow is one of a handful of FSG brand-name authors who turn out major bestsellers, book after book. Turow’s last novel, “Personal Injuries,” is in development at Disney with Hyde Park and Dustin Hoffman’s Punch Prods. producing. Hoffman plans to direct and star in the project. DOZENS OF AUTHOR TOURS were abruptly canceled after Sept. 11. But with the new year, a busload of screen and lit celebrities are hitting the road for readings with worthy causes attached. Stephen King, John Grisham, Peter Straub and Pat Conroy will share the stage at New York’s Town Hall in a benefit for acclaimed audio books narrator Frank Muller, who was gravely injured in a recent motorcycle accident. And Todd Field, Justin Ashforth, William Mapother and writers Aimee Bender, Tobias Wolff and Andre Dubus III are providing readers with a glimpse into the often esoteric process through which the written word is transfigured for the screen. They’ve been stumping for “In the Bedroom,” and for the work of Andre Dubus pere, whose short story, “Killings,” was the basis for the Miramax pic, by reading Dubus’ work in bookstores in New York, Boston, L.A. and San Francisco.
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