EXCLUSIVE: In a splashy seven-figure deal, 20th Century Fox has made a pre-emptive acquisition of the upcoming crime thriller novel by Don Winslow, author of last year’s international bestseller The Cartel. Fox bought that last book to be possibly Ridley Scott’s next directing project, and that paved the way for the new book deal, which again has Scott Free producing. The new novel doesn’t have a title yet, but Fox’s sister company HarperCollins Publishers’ imprint William Morrow will release it in June. Scott, Michael Schaefer and Shane Salerno are producing.
Winslow is best known for his focus on the Mexican drug cartels that began with his 2005 epic The Power of the Dog. But this novel is different. It’s much closer to police-corruption films Serpico, Prince of the City and The Departed and tells the story of a corrupt detective in the NYPD’s most elite crime-fighting unit. Sgt. Denny Malone is forced to choose between his family, his partners and his life. To stop the city’s long-simmering racial tensions from exploding, he must reconcile the idealistic guardian he still views himself to be with the corrupt cop he’s become. He then finds himself attacked on all sides: Harlem drug gangs, the mob he’s in bed with, the brother cops he’s about to destroy, the mayor’s office that fears what he knows, relentless federal investigators who want to put him behind bars but, most of all, his own demons. The book obviously has a strong male lead role.
Winslow has spent years doing intense first-person research for this book. The New York City native returned to the streets he used to work as an investigator to infiltrate the NYPD culture. He interviewed high-level police officials, veteran detectives and street cops and came away armed with stories of the street and home lives of cops that inform the new book.
Steve Asbell will oversee the project for the studio. I’ve confirmed this, and Winslow indicates the progress on The Cartel made him want to continue at Fox, instead of taking the novel out for a wide auction.
“I have really enjoyed my collaboration with Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Steve Asbell and Shane Salerno on The Cartel, and I am thrilled this same team will be working together on what I feel is my most ambitious novel,” he said in a statement.
Fox will move fast to secure an A-list writer. Winslow’s previous books have attracted filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Oliver Stone, Peter Berg, William Friedkin, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. Winslow’s deal was negotiated by CAA and the Story Factory.