The inside scoop on the book world

By Matthew Flamm
Updated February 21, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

— FANATIC AND FURIOUS Doubleday has just unveiled the title and subject matter of Into Thin Air author Jon Krakauer’s next book. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, out this September, is about American religious fundamentalism, namely the polygamy-practicing renegade Mormons who live in remote regions of the West. ”This is my attempt to understand religious passion,” says Krakauer, ”and the terrible things people do…in the name of God.” The publisher seems ready to embrace the controversy that’s likely to follow. Krakauer’s ”work on the book predates [Sept. 11], but [it shows] there are Taliban-like theocracies within the borders of the U.S.,” says exec editor Charlie Conrad.

— NOUVEAU NICHE Steven Bochco, the Emmy-winning mastermind behind Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue, has sold his debut novel to Random House, which will publish it this fall. The acquisition followed an eight-publisher auction conducted by agent Mort Janklow that pushed the price into the high six figures. Says Bochco, of what the publisher is calling a ”darkly comic crime novel”: ”It was a movie idea, actually. I wrote it as a short story, and a couple of my writer friends encouraged me to expand it.” Random House exec editor Jonathan Karp explains it this way: ”It has sex, violence, and screenwriting. How can you resist it?” Bochco still has big-screen ambitions for the as-yet-untitled tale but won’t shop it until he’s written the screenplay himself.

— FURTHERMORE… The search for the next Mario Puzo is over: Random House has chosen Mark Winegardner (Crooked River Burning) to write The Godfather Returns, tentatively scheduled for fall 2004.