EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures finally has closed the screen-rights deal on the Cole Merrell and Douglas Century book Hunting El Chapo: The Thrilling Inside Story of the American Lawman Who Captured the World’s Most-Wanted Drug Lord. Deadline revealed March 8 that the studio was in pole position to capture the book, and that Michael Bay was one of the rival suitors. Sources said the studio is moving quickly to recruit Bay to develop the book as producer and potential director, with an offer coming imminently.

Merrell is the pseudonym for a DEA official who spearheaded the manhunt for the elusive Sinaloa Cartel leader. El Chapo (real name Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman-Loera) evaded capture for more than a decade before being arrested and finally extradited to the U.S. The book will be published in October around the time the reputed drug kingpin goes on trial. 3 Arts’ Will Rowbotham and Richard Abate are producing. 3 Arts repped the book. Matt Milam is overseeing for Sony.

This makes two percolating pics on the drug war as Fox has The Cartel, the Don Winslow novel about the hunt for a fictional cartel leader that Ridley Scott will direct from a Shane Salerno script. Scott pushed that film back to direct All the Money in the World for Imperative Entertainment and Sony this spring. That David Scarpa-scripted drama is about the kidnapping of teenager John Paul Getty III in Italy, and the struggle his mother Gail Harris waged to get his wealthy but indifferent grandfather John Paul Getty to pay the ransom.

The El Chapo author previously wrote Barney Ross and Street Kingdom, and Under and Along and Takedown: The Fall of the Last Media Empire. Bay is repped by WME.