Christopher Mason, Jeff Long, and Alain de Botton made news this week

STITCH IN TIME Writer Christopher Mason was as shocked as anyone by the death of Gianni Versace, but the blow was probably cushioned by Little, Brown’s rumored $1 million preemptive bid for his bio of the designer the morning after the shooting. The Zachary Shuster Agency had started shopping Mason’s concept a mere week beforehand. The book, Undressed, is scheduled for early 1998.

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN Crown has just paid $450,000 for The Descent, the latest novel by Jeff Long, a climbing buddy of Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air. Long, whose book Angels of Light was considered by some to have been the basis of the Sly Stallone movie Cliffhanger, turns his climbing skills upside down for this new thriller, which concerns ”the geographic discovery, exploration, and exploitation of hell,” says Crown senior editor Karen Rinaldi. The novel will be the publisher’s lead title for fall ’98.

PAST PERFECT Marcel Proust is getting a boost — from young novelist Alain de Botton’s mock self-help book How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel (Pantheon). When Random House espied its sister imprint’s book creeping onto best-seller lists, it, uh, lost no time in offering a cut-rate $110 deal for its Modern Library six-volume edition of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time — or as it’s better known but less accurately translated, Remembrance of Things Past. Whatta deal — then again, who among us has made it past Swann’s Way?

DUNNE DEAL Better hope Dominick Dunne is too engrossed in working on his account of the O.J. Simpson trial — a novelcum-memoir entitled Another City, Not My Own — to pick up Gary Indiana’s latest novel. Resentment: A Comedy (Doubleday) seems designed to incite plenty of it in the silver-haired scribe, who (along with brother John Gregory Dunne and his wife, Joan Didion) appears to be thinly disguised: ”Fawbus Kennedy’s dream in life…is to become more famous than his brother Sean, whose novels are considered more literary. And Sean Kennedy’s dream in life is to become more famous than his wife Cora Winchell, whose novels are considered more highbrow than Sean Kennedy’s novels….” Indiana denies that he’s written a roman a clef: ”I certainly don’t know these people.”