Ex-con plans art world expose

TOD MICHAEL VOLPE, former art dealer to the stars, has emerged from federal prison and plans to blow the lid off his former business. The man who delivered international treasures to the homes of Jack Nicholson, David Geffen, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, Barbra Streisand, Joel Silver, Bob Daly, Terry Semel and Don Simpson was indicted in 1997 for defrauding his celebrity clientele of $2.5 million. Now he’s penned a proposal, “Eye of the Fox: Glitz, Glamour and Corruption in the Art World and in Hollywood,” which agent Sterling Lord, of Sterling Lord Literistic, is shopping to publishers.

“Catering to Penny Marshall’s needs, hanging out with Barbra till wee hours of the morning, shopping for Jack was endless work that seemed like a non-stop party,” writes Volpe, who promises to “show the charades of the contemporary art market and how it flourishes with wildly inflated prices, under-the-table trading, price rigging (and) false bids.” Dana Giacchetto’s got nothing on this guy. Sterling Lord agent Jodie Hotchkiss is shopping film rights.

PETER ARNETT AND ED TURNER may not have left CNN under the happiest of circumstances, but they’re collaborating on the official history of the news cabler. Escorted by agent Jennifer Gates of the Zachary Shuster agency, the two have met with 10 publishers to discuss “All the News, All the Time: The CNN Story,” a proposal for a history of the network, tracing its rise from inauspicious beginnings to one of the world’s most recognizable news brands.

A founder of the network who oversaw CNN’s coverage of the Gulf War and other major international events, Turner was the subject of a sexual harassment suit brought by a news assistant, and was stripped of his newsgathering responsibilities in 1997. Arnett, whose reports on the Gulf War helped put the network on the map, left in the wake of the Tailwind controversy, in which CNN retracted its allegations that the U.S. military used sarin nerve gas against AWOL soldiers in Vietnam.

The authors, said Todd Shuster, an agent working with Gates, “are not going to be affected by anything’s that’s happened to them, career-wise.”

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A FRESH FACE to drive an auction into the stratosphere, as authors ZZ Packer and David Schickler learned this week after being selected, with Marisa Silver and Akhil Sharma, to grace a New Yorker summer fiction issue devoted to literary debuts. Packer’s agent, Eric Simonoff at Janklow & Nesbit, and Schickler’s agent, Jennifer Carlson of Henry Dunow Literary Agency, closed deals for their clients’ short story collections with Riverhead and Dial worth a jaw-dropping $300,000 and $500,000, respectively.

But are these writers really making their debuts?

The New Yorker neglected to mention that Silver has already sold the short story collection “Babe in Paradise” to Norton, and Sharma, who has previously appeared in the magazine’s pages, has a novel, “An Obedient Father,” out this month from Farrar Straus & Giroux. Packer’s work was previously deemed by other editors unready for publication.

Last summer’s fiction issue, which featured the work of 20 writers under the age of 40, accompanied by a big publicity campaign and readings, would have been hard to upstage, but the New Yorker may have done just that by quietly claiming to have discovered four writers and creating a domino effect among publishers, who scurried to sign them up.

Few short story collections sell well enough to repay a $300,000 advance, but that doesn’t bother New Yorker editor David Remnick. “It allows those writers to make a living. And I see nothing wrong with that.”

It also allows the New Yorker to make a living. There were 110 and 108 ad pages for the summer fiction issues in 1999 and 2000, respectively, up from 82 in 1998.

A VERY DIFFERENT DEBUT — a nonfiction account of a secret U.S. counter-terrorism unit – earned another of the week’s highest advances, prompting several producers to call the agent, Frank Weimann of the Literary Group. “Delta Force: Inside the Wire” is Eric Haney’s history of the Delta Force division of the Army’s Special Forces. Haney was a founding member of the unit in the 1970s, and plans to include anecdotes from his own missions in the book, which went to Bantam for mid-six figures on the basis of a 15-page proposal. Katie Hall is the acquisitions editor.

IN A SHUFFLING of top executive positions at Random House that highlights the company’s growing interest in e-publishing, Richard Sarnoff has been named prexy of the Random House New Media and Corporate Development Group, a newly created position.

Sarnoff was instrumental in both the Bertelsmann acquisition of Random House and in Random House’s most recent new-media ventures, including the purchase of a stake in the Internet businesses Xlibris and Audible. The move, said Random House spokesman Stuart Appelbaum, “underscores our oft-told interest in potential expansion through acquisition or spinoff growth of the company. Bertelsmann Book Group chief financial officer Stephen Naumann will assume Sarnoff’s previous job as Random House exec veep and CFO.

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