Inside scoop on the book world -- Little, Brown acquires Jody Shields' ''The Fig Eater'' and Riverhead signs ''Blue Blood'' by Edward Conlon

Little, Brown has spent a rumored $400,000 for The Fig Eater, a first novel by former Vogue contributing editor Jody Shields that has been described as The Alienist meets The White Hotel. Set in 1910 Vienna, the novel has ”lots of strange details, having to do with food and botany and criminology and Freud,” says acquiring editor Judy Clain.

New York City police officer Edward Conlon, who has written nonfiction cop articles for The New Yorker under the pseudonym Marcus Laffey — and who signed a reported $995,000 deal with Riverhead to write a cop’s memoir, Blue Blood, under that name — has had his identity revealed by The New York Times in an article that questioned the ethics of concealing an author’s real name. Talking to EW before the Times‘ story ran, Conlon defended his use of a pseudonym, since, as he put it, ”anybody who’s writing about the office would be looked at twice by their coworkers.” Although Riverhead publisher Susan Petersen says ”it would have been nice if he had been left in peace to write,” she doesn’t believe the Times‘ outing will affect the book. New Yorker editor David Remnick wouldn’t comment on the Times piece but says,”I saw no reason to insist on using his real name if it would jeopardize his police work.” Conlon, who has contributed numerous police-related articles under his own name to the conservative gadfly magazine The American Spectator, hopes to finish Blue Blood by 2001.