EXCLUSIVE: Don Winslow, the bestselling author of The Cartel and The Force, has thrown a surprise at his publishers at HarperCollins and made a multimillion-dollar worldwide deal for his trouble. Winslow just got an April 2020 publication date for Broken, a book that contains five novellas and one short story. Four of those novellas and the short story will be shopped soon to studios, networks and streamers. The book is being edited by Jennifer Brehl.
This is just part of a set of moves that Winslow and Shane Salerno’s The Story Factory have quietly made to better control the destiny of his terrific fiction as it gets turned into film and TV adaptations. These moves come at a time when The Irishman director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are often telling the story of trading a Paramount green light on The Winter of Frankie Machine to instead tell the Jimmy Hoffa-Frank Sheeran tale instead. Frankie Machine is Winslow’s 2006 novel, about a retired hit man asked by an LA mob boss for one last job as a favor, only to find he has been set up. It was he who almost saw Scorsese and De Niro re-team for his book. Determined to be a bridesmaid no more, Winslow and Salerno made sure that Frankie Machine is among several books freed from development hell.
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But first, the short story collection that he hopes will follow a road map from another fiction titan, Stephen King.
“Broken was inspired by Stephen King’s Different Seasons, a collection of four short novels, three of which became the films Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me and Apt Pupil,” Winslow said. “Broken contains five novellas and a short story and we think four of the novellas and the short story have real potential for film and television adaptation.”
The fifth and final novella in this collection features a Pulp Fiction-style ensemble that brings together a number of Winslow’s most celebrated characters – including Ben, Chon and O from Savages, Bobby Z from The Death and Life of Bobby Z, and DEA agent Art Keller from The Power of the Dog, The Cartel and The Border. It mashes a Winslow universe of crime in a single novella.
Aside from Frankie Machine, Winslow reacquired control of five books featuring the protagonists Neal Carey and Boone Daniels.
Winslow is separately writing a short story and graphic novel featuring a strong young female lead operating as a high-level money launderer in a complex world of crime. That’s a passion project for Winslow, and it will be shopped to studios and networks next year.
The author has also just finished writing his first solo screenplay, an adaptation of the non-fiction book The Last Good Heist by Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worchester. The book tells the story of how, on April 14, 1975, eight armed robbers took down a fur storage company in Providence, Rhode Island. The thieves ransacked 148 safe deposit boxes hidden in a secret back room – a $30 million score that resulted in brutal fallout from the local mobsters who owned the back room. Winslow plans to meet with potential directors early next year.
Why the uptick in productivity?
“I’ve written more than twenty books in my career but I hit late in life and now I feel, at 65, like I can’t work fast enough to catch up,” said Winslow who at one point in his career when he wasn’t making good money, considered hanging up writing to go back to an earlier job as a safari tour guide. “I’m waking up every morning at 5 am and starting to write. Lately it’s been two years between books, that was our pattern with The Cartel, The Force and The Border, but we went to Harper Collins with [Broken] – with a two book deal already in place – and said we want to do this one now and they agreed to put Broken out early next year. I will be following it next year, 2021, with a big new book which may serve as the start of a new trilogy.”
“I’ve found a good home at Harper Collins,” said Winslow, who exited a previous deal at Penguin Random House in 2016. His sales have jumped 70% since then, he said. “I’m happy there and they are supportive of my desire to increase my productivity and deliver more books.”
As for the Winslow books still percolating at studios, there is Winslow’s landmark The Cartel trilogy, which sold to Fox and Ridley Scott for $6 million. After several years of development and pre-production, the production cost (estimated at $130 million) proved prohibitive at Fox and the project was moved to FX where it is now moving forward as a weekly television series, with showrunner to be set shortly. The trilogy started with 2005’s The Power of the Dog, 2015’s The Cartel and The Border, which concluded the drug saga earlier this year.
“Shane and I are having an amazing time at FX working on The Cartel series,” Winslow said. “We’re working with a great showrunner I can’t name yet but it’s been a great experience and FX is very serious about turning the trilogy into a series. Television allows us to tell the entire story. The trilogy spans forty plus years and 2000 pages!”
Winslow’s Satori is has gained some new life at Warner Brothers recently for star and producer Leonardo DiCaprio, with a screenplay by Winslow and Shane Salerno.
The movie property on the fastest track might be The Force, Winslow’s breakneck-paced thriller about a crooked NYPD detective whose criminal enterprise is fast crumbling around him. James Mangold, who is about to open Ford Vs. Ferrari, has been developing the novel with screenwriter Scott Frank, and a number of actors are chasing the lead of the corrupt cop Denny Malone as Mangold eyes it as a possible next film. The project was optioned for big money by Fox and the purchase price was exercised by Disney.
“I’m excited about James Mangold and Scott Frank’s work on The Force,” Winslow told Deadline. “Mangold is so gifted and versatile and Scott Frank is so talented. They’ve done a great job. It’s a great script. It’s like a modern day Serpico or Prince of the City with an amazing role for an actor. Disney just paid me the full purchase price for the book so they’re serious about it.”
Winslow was represented in the deal with HarperCollins by The Story Factory and attorney Richard Heller.