EXCLUSIVE: The most intriguing book auction is taking place right now. Several suitors, including big directors, are chasing Cherry, a new “novel” by first time author Nico Walker. The book was just published by Knopf, and is already a top seller on Amazon, and got the kind of author profile in last Sunday’s The New York Times that is usually jet fuel for a book to film deal. Trouble is, the author is in prison until 2020 for committing the bank robberies that are described in harrowing detail in the novel. And late this week, he ran out of phone minutes and will not be able to entertain any offers until he can again use the jailhouse phone on Sunday.
The book has been called Jesus’ Son meets Reservoir Dogs, a breakneck-paced debut novel about love, war, bank robberies, and heroin. The book takes place in Cleveland and revolves around a young man from an affluent family who marries his hometown girlfriend before joining the Army and shipping out to Iraq. An Army medic, he is unprepared for the grisly reality that awaits him, and the rough and tumble nature of his fellow soldiers who smoke, huff computer duster, take painkillers, watch porn, and get gruesomely injured all too regularly. By the time the soldier returns home, he has an un-diagnosed case of extreme PTSD and has become hooked on the opioids prescribed him. He finds an outlet that forces him to focus and makes him feel the way he did in pressure combat situations: he robs banks. According to first time author Nico Walker’s NYT profile, he robbed about a dozen banks and stole close to $40,000 over four months, before finally getting caught in 2011. Despite a clear link between his extreme PTSD and his robbery spree, Walker was sent to jail. There, he turned his experiences into the novel, which he hammered out on a typewriter. He turned out pages to Matthew Johnson, co-owner of Tyrant Books, who read Walker’s story in a Buzzfeed article and helped the prisoner find a literary voice that is drawing acclaim and Hollywood interest, with a film possible because nobody got hurt from Walker’s crime spree.
UTA’s Jason Richman is handling the auction, which will pick up speed again once Walker receives his new allotment of phone minutes this weekend and can process his opportunities. Stay tuned.