October 20, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Life really does seem to be a cabaret, at least for Alan Cumming, the celebrated star of the recent Cabaret revival: The actor has just sold a first novel, called Tommy’s Tale, to ReganBooks for $125,000, according to industry sources. Cumming’s first book looks to be as wild as its author: Insider reactions have ranged from ”highly self-indulgent” to ”postmodern ironic hip London drugged-out fantasy” to ”a bisexual Bridget Jones’s Diary.” A spokesperson for ReganBooks confirmed the acquisition, but said the publisher would have no comment.

Last night I dreamt… that there’d be another sequel to Rebecca, the Daphne du Maurier novel that became the great Alfred Hitchcock film. In fact, we will go back to Manderley: After a spirited auction that drove the price past the half-million dollar mark, HarperCollins has acquired Rebecca’s Tale, a sequel written by romance novelist Sally Beauman with the blessings of the du Maurier estate (a first sequel, Mrs. deWinter, was published in 1994). The new novel, which picks up 25 years after Rebecca’s mysterious death, includes the testimony of people who knew her. ”It’s a Rashomon sort of story,” says Carolyn Marino, the Harper executive editor who won the auction. ”You don’t have to have read Rebecca, since it stands as a wonderful novel in its own right.” Harper will publish the book next fall under its Morrow/Avon imprint, which still publishes Rebecca.

The Manhattan underground of the late ’60s and ’70s will come into the light with a memoir by ur-punk rocker/poet Patti Smith. Tentatively titled Picturing Robert, it will recall her days living and working with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe when they were poor and unknown. ”There’s an amazing evocation of the Chelsea Hotel, of the scene at Max’s Kansas City, of all the stuff going on,” says Daniel Halpern, editorial director of Ecco, the HarperCollins imprint that bought the book.

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