The latest first-novel acquisitions -- The WWI German fleet and a Bangladeshi ''White Teeth'' are among the offerings
Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days

It’s been a busy, not to mention lucrative time for first novelists: Susan Kamil, editorial director of Dial, was the winning bidder in a lively auction that yielded what sources say is a half-million-dollar price tag for ”Easter Island,” a first novel by 27-year-old Jennifer Vanderbes. ”It has tremendous scope and ambition and maturity,” says Kamil of the book, which explores ”one of the great mysteries of World War I: why the German fleet was in the Falkland Islands when it shouldn’t have been,” leading to its destruction by the British Navy.

And Scribner’s editor in chief, Nan Graham, has agreed to pay what a source says is close to half a million dollars for a first novel by a young Bangladesh-born writer named Monica Ali — after seeing only six chapters. ”I was stunned by the writing, and I hate buying partial novels,” says Graham. Tentatively titled ”Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers,” the novel — described by an insider as ”a sort of Bangladeshi ‘White Teeth”’ — moves back and forth between a Bangladeshi village and a London housing project.

In other deals, Colson Whitehead, whose most recent novel, ”John Henry Days,” was just nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award, has re-upped with Doubleday for two more books, starting with a nonfiction love letter to the Big Apple called ”Colossus of New York,” says his agent Nicole Aragi. The second book in the deal will be his third novel, ”Apex Hides the Hurt,” about a man who coins names for products.