Scott Rudin Picks Up Hot NYC Literary Title 'City on Fire' (Exclusive)

Scott Rudin
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Rudin's "The Social Network" did well during last year's award season.

Writer Garth Risk Hallberg's 900-page tale of New York City in 1977 closed a film deal before a book deal, with the "Social Network" and "Captain Phillips" producer snapping up the rights overnight.

Producer Scott Rudin has picked up the rights to City on Fire, a 900-page novel by Garth Risk Hallberg that doesn’t even have a publishing deal yet.

According to sources, Rudin and his camp read the book overnight and the producer, known for his literary tastes, used his discretionary fund to option it. 

Several publishers are considering the book now, with sources telling THR that Hallberg could score a deal by early next week. It’s in the rare position of being on a film path before a printing path.

Not much is known about Fire, but it tells of life in New York City in the days leading up to the great blackout of July 1977.

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The book features an ensemble cast -- among them a journalist, a police detective and a heroin addict -- and covers walks of life ranging from punk rock, high finance and art to topics such as the making of fireworks, urban blight and adultery. It’s described by those who have read it as very literary, as capturing the city at a pivotal point in its history, with resonance to America’s current moment in time.

Hallberg teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College and Fordham, and also has contributed essays to The New York Times Magazine and Slate, among other publications.

The 34-year-old wrote an illustrated novella titled A Field Guide to the North American Family.

Rudin is the producer behind such movie adaptations as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and No Country for Old Men. Currently, he has Captain Phillips in theaters, and is shooting Cameron Crowe's latest, an untitled romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone.