‘Marley & Me’ With Race Cars? ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ for Dogs? Whatever, It's Worth $1.2 Million to HarperCollins

Garth Stein, $1.2 million man. Photo: Courtesy of GarthStein.com

We're hearing that Garth Stein's novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, first discussed on Mediabistro's Galleycat, has sold at auction for $1.2 million to HarperCollins.

Is the deal, brokered by agent Jeff Kleinman at Folio, a good one for the publisher? Many publishing insiders we spoke to think that, despite the intimidating number, the book has a great shot at justifying its advance; the deal includes British rights, and more to the point, we're hearing that the book is an unbelievably well-executed tearjerker. Narrated by a race-car driver's faithful dog on his deathbed as he looks back over his master's life, it's drawing inevitable comparisons to Marley & Me, though the author himself called it "Jonathan Livingston Seagull for dogs" in an interview a few months back.

Though some have complained that the book's strongest feature — Enzo the dog's narrative voice — has little to do with Stein's standard family-in-crisis plot, no one is willing to bet against the book's commercial success. "I was wrong about the appeal of Marley & Me, and I could well be wrong about this," one insider told us. And more than one observer has mentioned that the true model for Stein's novel seems to be mega-selling Mitch Albom.

With the book deal done, eyes turn toward Hollywood; agent Howie Sanders at UTA started making official submissions yesterday. Like Albom's books, this one seems to many to be better for TV than for film, but Sanders is aiming high; among the producers he's sent it to is Brian Grazer at Imagine.