— AT WHAT PRICE? Acclaimed screenwriter and novelist Richard Price (Mad Dog and Glory) is planning a new novel based on a real-life crime — the slaying of New York City high school teacher Jonathan Levin (the son of Time Warner chairman and CEO Gerald Levin). Price, who has left Broadway Books for Knopf, sold it Hollywood-style on a verbal pitch, the same way he did his 1992 social-realist thriller Clockers. ”He has very clear ideas about who the main characters are, and it’s going to be about a hero and what the price of heroism is,” says Robin Desser, the Knopf senior editor who acquired the book for a rumored mid-six-figure sum. Desser says that though Price will be looking at the Levin story and ”why it resonates for us…I imagine [the novel] is going to go in many other directions.” She hopes to have a first draft of the manuscript by the end of the year. Price’s last book, 1998’s Freedomland, was inspired by the Susan Smith double-murder case in South Carolina.
— QUICK PITCHES Warner Books has struck a rumored high-six-figure deal with New Yorker scribe Roger Angell and Yankee pitching ace David Cone for a book on baseball. ”It’ll be about everything from how Cone approaches the game — the mental side of pitching — to how the game has changed over the last 10 years,” says executive editor Rick Wolff, who is himself a former minor league second baseman…. Warner also just paid close to seven figures to the two children of ex-mobster Henry Hill (GoodFellas) for their memoir of growing up in the witness protection program. Neither their names nor their gender will be revealed, says Joel Gotler, the AMG/Renaissance agent who sold the book with Alan Nevins. ”The Sopranos may have contributed [to the book’s appeal], but this is a one-of-a-kind story,” says Gotler.