The inside scoop on the book world

CASH AND CARRE After nearly 30 years with Knopf, John le Carré has left the publisher out in the cold, defecting to Scribner (where he’ll join former Viking Penguin loyalist Stephen King) following a spirited auction that left at least three other suitors limp with disappointment. Apparently Le Carré’s motive for the switch was simple: flagging sales for his recent books, particularly his last novel, The Tailor of Panama. “He hasn’t been happy with his American publisher and just wanted to wipe the slate clean,” says one industry exec. Scribner wouldn’t reveal the winning bid, but sources say Le Carré’s lawyer Michael Rudell was demanding $3.5 million for Single & Single, an “international-banking thriller” the triumphant house plans to publish next March. “It’s post-Cold War Russia, the territory he knows best…. There’s the same sort of father-son betrayal that was in The Perfect Spy,” reports Scribner editor in chief Nan Graham. Scribner must be feeling awfully flush of late: They’ve also dropped half a million dollars for noted Yalie deconstructionist Harold Bloom‘s next magnum opus, How to Read and Why (tell us, Harry, tell us!).

HEP TO HIP-HOP Publishers are apparently salivating over a proposed autobiography by Sean “Puffy” Combs that would pair the producer and hip-hop honcho with Shot in the Heart author Mikal Gilmore—even though Puffy is by no means promising to tell all. Rather, the project leans toward being more inspirational, aimed at the Gen-X crowd. “The emphasis is on becoming a business phenomenon,” says an insider. According to sources, TV producer Sue Pollack, who’s agenting the project, has already turned down a $1 million offer.

ETC. St. Martin’s has gotten with the program, paying about $1 million for Jerry Springer‘s Ringmaster! (they’ll publish it in November). “It’ll be a completely uninhibited, uncensored look at what goes on backstage,” says editor Jennifer Weis. Because they’re so restrained on stage…. Is prolific literary highbrow and Princeton professor Joyce Carol Oates going soft on us? Her first children’s book—a kitty-themed fable called Come Meet Muffin! that’s apparently based on her very own ball of fluff—will arrive from Ecco Press in September.

Alexandra Jacobs and Matthew Flamm