‘Striking Back’ at Miramax

Returning to the war-torn era of its Oscar-winning “The English Patient,” Miramax recently inked a deal for the feature film rights to Peter Masters’ WWII memoir, “Striking Back: A Jewish Commando’s War Against the Nazis.” Sources say filmmaking brothers John and Rick Dahl are attached write, direct and produce.

The book is published this month by San Francisco-based Presidio Press.

“Striking Back” tells the real-life story of Masters (ne Arany) — a retired graphic designer and TV art director — and 87 other Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe who volunteered for hazardous duty with the British army during WWII. As members of the elite British unit, they were picked for their intelligence, motivation and fluency in German. With their dog tags stamped “Church of England,” the commandos served as front-line interrogators, intelligence operatives and raiders.

William Morris’ Bill Contardi brokered the deal on behalf of Masters and Presidio.

She was meant for HarperCollins

After an eight-publisher auction last week, HarperCollins emerged the winner, paying $2 million for the publishing rights to two books by singer-songwriter and budding actress Jewel. The first book, which is expected to be published in June, is a volume of poetry by the former Alaskan, whose 1995 debut album, “Pieces of You,” has sold 6 million copies in the U.S. Then in the fall, HarperCollins intends to publish the 23-year-old’s memoir, which is expected to be released in conjunction with her second album.

The Jewel deal came just days before HarperCollins announced Jane Friedman as president and CEO of the News Corp. publishing division. Friedman takes over the executive office recently vacated by Anthea Disney, who was bumped up to chairman and CEO of News America Publishing Group, a recently created U.S.-based publishing division of News Corp. Friedman previously worked at Random House as executive VP of Knopf, where she began her career in 1968.

Pages in preview:

“Booth”

David Robertson (Anchor) Pub date: January

With its Civil War backdrop and its presentation (including period photographs) of a heinous crime involving real-life figures, Robertson’s first novel brings to mind two other fiction debuts, Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” and Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist.” Book deals with John Wilkes Booth and the plot to assassinate Lincoln.

Rights: available

“Rhonda the Rubber Woman”

Norma Peterson (Permanent) Pub date: January

Peterson’s first and only novel takes place in the working-class world of Pennsylvania between 1930 and 1947. The “town floozy,” Georgia Sayers, has always been a neglectful mother to her daughter, Nancy, who was born out of wedlock. It’s when her latest boyfriend, club-footed carnival novelty salesman Eddie Jeffers, moves into their tiny house that Nancy feels acutely unhappy about her mother’s unfettered lifestyle. After Eddie notices that she’s double-jointed, Nancy enjoys a brief stint as Rhonda the Rubber Woman in the Magic Midway traveling circus. She eventually lights out to escape her past and find her real father.

Peterson died after her manuscript was accepted for publication.

Rights: available

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