Coen cooks up book deal

Rob Weisbach Books has struck a deal to publish a collection of short stories by Ethan Coen, the Academy Award-winning producer and co-screenwriter of “Fargo.”

According to Colin Dickerman, Weisbach’s senior editor, the book will display Coen’s “razor-sharp wit, and appreciation for life’s dark and disturbing underbelly, and more than a hint of compassion. Ethan manages to bring to the page the complex tone, great characters and wild plots that have made his movies such critical and commercial successes.”

The as-yet-untitled collection will be published by the Morrow imprint in fall 1998.

Dickerman is credited with snagging the book, which was the object of bidding by at least five other publishers. Lit agent Anthony Gardner repped Coen on the deal.

War journo hunkers down for novels

Translating his time “in country” into fiction, former CNN and NBC journo Charles Jaco has signed a two-book publishing deal with Ballantine. The first, “Dead Air,” is described as a techno-thriller/murder mystery about chemical poisoning of U.S. troops during the Gulf War. Although fiction, the book is largely based on his first-hand experience covering the Gulf War for CNN.

Jaco, who began his career as a print journalist, has covered nine wars (from Saudi Arabia to El Salvador to Ethiopia) since joining NBC in 1979.

Next up will be “Live Shot,” which Jaco says is 40% finished. Set in Cuba, Miami and Key West, the story spins around a threat of a nuclear attack on the United States.

During his time as a correspondent Jaco says he has dodged Scud missiles while covering the Gulf War; was almost beaten to death by Noriega’s security forces in Panama; and survived two military helicopter crashes in Central America and one plane crash in Africa. While the adventures have slowed him down — he currently is anchored in St. Louis with a two-hour daily news-based talkshow for CBS Radio — he says they have afforded him “enough material to fill seven or eight books.”

Jaco’s deal was negotiated by his St. Louis-based attorney Maryanne Wymore. Film rights are still available.

FBI agent shares expertise

After a spirited auction, Pocket Books has paid a reported $600,000 for the pub rights to “No Heroes,” a nonfiction book by an FBI agent who is an expert in domestic terrorism. The author — who will strive to remain anonymous because he is still employed by the FBI — is using the pseudonym JMR and will pen the book with Pulitzer Prize-winner Elaine Shannon.

Said to be a high-ranking FBI insider and hostage negotiator, the author promises to discuss the rise of domestic terrorism in addition to such recent FBI hot buttons as Waco, Ruby Ridge and the Oklahoma City bombings.

JMR was repped on the deal by Boston-based lit agent Todd Shuster. Pocket plans to release the book in fall 1998.

Wiring up the great American novel

Despite the much-publicized funk in the publishing world, the Internet is fostering a burgeoning literary community whose denizens often buy and now write books online.

The Microsoft Network has assembled a group of marquee names, including Spalding Gray, Arianna Huffington, Mark Leyner, Sandra Tsing Loh, Christopher Buckley and Michael Chabon, to participate in its new Web show “Great Stuff.”

In “Great Stuff,” an online audience will collaborate with the pros to create online works of art together, including a venue for the Great American Novel.

In each of the areas, the audience will be offered four different options created beforehand by four pros. In the Great American Novel, the four options will be four short paragraphs of narrative prose, each of which will advance a continuing story in a different direction.

MSN online members can access “Great Stuff” on MSN’s channel 4 at (http://greatstuff.msn.com).

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