34-Year-Old Sells Debut Novel for About $2M

Garth Risk Hallberg's 'City on Fire' set in 1970s NYC

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 11, 2013 6:46 AM CST

(Newser) – There's a good chance you've never heard the name Garth Risk Hallberg; that ends now. The 34-year-old's debut novel, City on Fire, found itself the subject of a two-day bidding war that ended with quite the payday for its young author: nearly $2 million, two sources tell the New York Times. Knopf landed the novel, which clocks in at 900 pages and, in the Times' telling, heralds the resurgence of the long novel. Hallberg himself was said to be nervous about the length of the book, which he wrote over a period of six years—needlessly, it turns out.

Publishers who have managed to read the book are "rapturously" referencing Michael Chabon and Thomas Pynchon, notes the Times. There's no publication date yet, but there is a film deal—one that was closed roughly two weeks before the book deal. Producer Scott Rudin (Social Network, Captain Phillips), reportedly read the book overnight and immediately optioned it, explains the Hollywood Reporter. So what's the plot? It's set in NYC in advance of a massive blackout the city suffered in July 1977, and Hallberg's agent had this to add: It's centered around a "mystery: what exactly is going on behind the locked steel doors of a derelict townhouse in the East Village, and what might it have to do with the shooting in Central Park in the novel’s opening act?" (Click to read about another novel—this one from the 1850s—cloaked in mystery.)

Garth Risk Hallberg's 'City of Fire' set in 1970s NYC.
Garth Risk Hallberg's 'City of Fire' set in 1970s NYC.   (?)
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