COUNTY RECORD After Robert James Waller‘s longtime publisher Warner passed on his new novel, he decided to sell A Thousand Country Roads, An Epilogue to The Bridges of Madison County to John M. Hardy Publishing, a tiny Houston-based press whose owners run a bookstore near his West Texas ranch. ”Money is not a major consideration to Robert,” says Waller’s agent, Aaron Priest, ”and we just figured we’d have more control over everything working locally with a small company.” A small company that’s just stumbled into something big: ”We said there’d be a 25,000-copy first printing,” says Hardy Publishing’s president, Mike Hardy. ”Everybody’s telling us that’s a laughably small number, so we’re revising it upward.” Roads will be out in the spring.
‘MO MONEY BLUES Score one for Penguin Putnam: The publishing house, which recently lost its longtime chief, Phyllis Grann, is holding on to Patricia Cornwell, though it may have had to pay an arm and a leg to do so. The mystery novelist has signed a two-book deal that is ”way above the deal she had previously,” crows her agent, ICM honcho Esther Newberg. Cornwell’s prior contract with Putnam was reported to be in the range of $24 million for three books.
MAIL BONDING Veteran celebrity biographer Wendy Leigh (Arnold: An Unauthorized Biography; Prince Charming: The John F. Kennedy, Jr. Story) is turning to the more delicate art of celebrity fiction. The British journalist is at work on the tentatively titled Private and Confidential: The Correspondence Between Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, a novel that imagines the two women as longtime pen pals. ”Jackie was very interested in Hollywood and celebrities, and Marilyn had more interests than just the movies, so it’s actually fairly believable—though completely fabricated—that they’dbe chatting,” says Thomas Dunne, publisher of his eponymous imprint at St. Martin’s, which will release the novel late this year.