Despite Hollywood and the publishing world’s far-reaching network of scouts, all hungering to find the next “Horse Whisperer,” an occasional piece of material gets seen only because of the sheer tenacity of its author.
Such was the case of 34-year-old Texan David Marlett, a former attorney who chucked his day job two years ago to focus on “Fortunate Son,” his debut historical novel based on a real-life character.
“Son” tells the story of James Annesley, the reputed son of the English Earl of Anglesea and the grandson of the Duke of Buckingham — an aristocratic Protestant who grew up in Ireland, best friends with Sean Kennedy (one of the forefathers of the Kennedy clan). During the course of one of the most celebrated trials in English history, Annesley discovers his true identity and heritage.
Marlett self-financed the work of editors in New York and London to line-edit and fact-check the book, and then conducted a blind mailing of the manuscript to 10 Hollywood producers.
“I had been reading that it is a recent trend to sell manuscripts on the West Coast before selling them to publishers on the East Coast,” he explained. “And I’ve always seen ‘Fortunate Son’ as a film, so it seemed natural to come to the filmmakers first.”
After several nibbles, but no firm money offers, producer John Davis, who runs Fox-based Davis Entertainment, optioned the rights to “Fortunate Son” — the only previous time he has done so was for another attorney-scribe, John Grisham, and his book “The Firm.”
Davis and his former assistant Josh Kesselman, who brought the book to his boss, will produce the project with Kesselman’s partner, Josh Silver.
After being courted by several high-profile literary agents, Marlett has signed with the William Morris Agency, where he will be repped in New York by Owen Laster and Marcy Posner and in L.A. by Amy Schiffman and Michael Sheresky. He also is managed by Kesselman and Silver.
William Morris will submit “Fortunate Son” to publishers within the next few weeks.