Revenge is sweetest when served between hardcovers.
At least that seems to be the operating principle of a handful of writers who’ve emerged from the media world to publish lurid novels about their old jobs, full of thinly disguised media industry figures.
The latest is “The Devil Wears Prada,” a novel by Lauren Weisberger, rumored to have once worked for Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Book — which was being auctioned Tuesday with bids reaching at least $200,000 late in the day — is about the assistant to a doyenne of the fashion world, the editor of a fictitious magazine called Runway.
Also under submission to publishers is “For Immediate Release” a book by Robert Rave, a former employee of publicist and tabloid fixture Lizzie Grubman. It’s the story of an earnest young publicist working at one of the town’s top PR firms, run by a peroxide-blond, chain-smoking, Xanax and coke-addled flak named Jennifer Weinstein.
Rave’s book is full of tips from the trade (e.g., “Let the interns do all your dirty work for you”); all that’s missing is a chapter in which Weinstein mows down a crowd of bystanders at a local nightclub.
There’s a rich legacy in Hollywood of adaptations of romans a clef about the literary world: these run the gamut from Jacqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls” to Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn.”
Film rights to Weisberger and Rave’s books have not been sold, but Film Four in the U.K. recently optioned a similar book: “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” a scathing account of the magazine world by former Vanity Fair contributing editor Toby Young.
What’s not clear is how well these stories play outside Manhattan. Young’s book may be a useful test case: It gained plenty of attention when a British edition appeared last year, but it will be published stateside by the boutique outfit, Da Capo Press.
NO AUTHOR HAS YET DARED write a novel about Mike Ovitz, but it’s probably just a matter of time before book proposals begin circulating in Gotham documenting his recent reversal of fortune and the rise of the Firm, the new Hollywood behemoth that just swallowed AMG.
Ovitz has already been the subject of two biographies, by Robert Slater and Stephen Singular, and figured prominently in dozens of other books about Hollywood.
But the latest chapter in his career has the earmarks of a genre of Hollywood nonfiction that never seems to go out of style: a morality tale about the fall of an industry titan, killed off by the young Turks who once were his apprentices. At least that’s how the story has been played in the New York Times, which has run at least 10 articles about Ovitz in the last six months.
The most reliable bellwether of the lit world’s interest in Ovitz and the Firm is the outpouring of solicitations from glossy mags and other news outlets. Clearly, the story’s appeal isn’t restricted to the traditional business press.
Hayley Sumner, a spokesperson for the Firm, says she’s fielded requests from such places as W, Details, Time, Vanity Fair and the various New York dailies.
Of course these outlets aren’t interested in cogs and wheels of the record, licensing and management business, but in the outsize personalities of the players involved. “A lot of people are sensationalizing the story, instead of focusing on the business model and what this type of merger will represent for the business landscape,” Sumner said.
THE RUDDY MORGAN ORGANIZATION has optioned “The Rape of Nanking,” Iris Chang’s bestselling, highly controversial account of the Japanese occupation of China before World War II.
Published in 1997, it tells of the atrocities performed by the Japanese Imperial Army in Nanking in 1937, where, according to Chang, roughly 300,000 civilians were massacred. Chang’s story, set in the first three months after the Japanese occupation, champions a small group of Europeans and Americans who faced down the Japanese and staked out an international safety zone around the city.
Producer Andre Morgan said he plans to shoot the project on location in Nanking, and at his company’s production and post-production facility in Shanghai, Hweilai Studios.
“This is truly one of the most tragic and heroic events of the 20th century, and Iris’ book covers it completely with great accuracy and passion,” he said.
Project will be financed by Ruddy Morgan’s production fund. Shingle just produced “Flatland,” a 22-episode TV series starring Dennis Hopper — the first American TV series produced completely on location in China.