December 30, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

With his seething novel about the hunt for a murderer in late-19th-century New York, The Alienist author Caleb Carr proved that history-aided by sex and violence-can make for great reviews and huge sales. Carr, 39, who studied military history at NYU, hoped only that ”the book would be successful enough that they would let me write another.” Seven printings later, publishers are racing to make offers; producer Scott Rudin has snapped up movie rights for $500,000; and Carr is writing a pilot for ABC, ”a post-Star Trek Star Trek.” If friends are surprised that the brooding Manhattanite is lapping up West Coast culture, he shrugs it off. ”TV is the only medium where a writer has power. There’s still no bigger schmuck in Hollywood than a screenwriter.”

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