A contract has already been cut with former Time and Fortune writer Richard Behar for a book on ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, arrested one week ago today. Joe Nocera, ear your heart out!
You'll recall how cocky Nocera, of the Times, was drinking with Bethany McLean of his former employer Fortune when the two decided they could END all other financial writing with the definitive opus on the panic of '08 (Nocera: "It will be a book for the ages"). Selling the title for north of $1 million didn't diminish the writers' swagger one bit. Times hotshot Andrew Ross Sorkin also scored a big book deal about the financial meltdown, worth $700,000.
But his Madoff book looks much more Hollywood-friendly. Hell, why do you think Variety broke the book-deal news?
Madoff's is a relatively straightforward tale of institutional capitalist greed (Madoff was Nasdaq chairman and friends with the right people), lax government oversight and mass deception. It servers as a kind easy shorthand for the entire, complicated financial meltdown.
Nocera, McLean and Sorkin's tales about the collapse of the investment banks, in contrast, involves abstract concepts like collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, mortgage securitization, leverage ratios, overnight lending agreements, the Treausury, Fed, foreign investors and not one but several indistinguishable (to the public) i-banks at the center of it all. We'd buy a book about all that, and see the movie, but it's not going to fly off the DVD shelf at Wal-Mart.
Behar's story will make a great movie after it's published by Random House. What's more, he's kind of a badass, investigating Scientology for the cover of Time in the early 1990s, uncovering the famed FBI Phoenix Memo warning in advance of the 9/11 attacks and detailing Donald Rumsfeld's ties to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
Business journalism hasn't looked this sexy in a long time. You have to hand it to recent Wall Street Journal-buyer Rupert Murdoch: He timed this one well.
UPDATE: Andrew Kirtzman of WCBS and NY1 has a contract with HarperCollins.
UPDATE 2: Keith Kelly has more on the Kirtzman deal, including the advance: $250K.