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Writing for the big bucks

Writing for the big bucks -- Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and Amy Tan are best-selling authors aiming their stories toward the Hollywood screen

John Grisham isn’t the only member of Hollywood’s elite literary circle. Here are four other power novelists who’ve cashed in.

Stephen King Resume: The prodigious horror-master, with 150 million books in print worldwide and an estimated income of $13 million last year, is one of the country’s highest-paid novelists. His 32 horror novels and short-story collections have been adapted into 29 films (including TV movies and miniseries), among them Carrie, The Shining, and Misery. Sign of going Hollywood: Since battling with (and losing to) New Line over 1992’s The Lawnmower Man (which had an entirely different plot from the short story that King had written), King prefers to pocket his loot and keep quiet-as long as the film at least vaguely resembles his original story. What’s next? The ABC miniseries The Stand, set to air in May.

Tom Clancy Resume: The former insurance salesman publicly derides Hollywood and has struggled for creative control over the movie versions of his seven best-selling military thrillers published since 1984. Sign of going Hollywood: While Paramount’s producers consulted with Clancy on the hits The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, he fought the choice of one of the directors and eventually stopped talking to the film team-even though he received more than $1.5 million for the two movies. What’s next? Clancy’s deal with Savoy Pictures and producer Brandon Tartikoff for 1993’s Without Remorse (valued at a reported $2.5 million) gives him complete control over the director, script, and casting. Also, the third Jack Ryan film, Clear and Present Danger, starring Harrison Ford, has just wrapped on the Paramount lot.

Michael Crichton Resume: The Harvard Medical School grad and pop novelist has directed seven movies (including Coma and Looker) since his first techno- thriller, the 1969 best-seller The Andromeda Strain, was turned into a hit movie. Sign of going Hollywood: Count the zeroes. Since getting a reported $1.5 million for the rights to Jurassic Park (plus $500,000 for writing the screenplay), plus $1.25 million for Rising Sun, Crichton pretty much calls his own shots. He parlayed his success with Jurassic ($880 million worldwide so far) into a reported $3.5 million deal with Warner Bros. for Disclosure, his novel about sexual harassment. The deal includes an executive producer title for Crichton. (Warner Bros. recently signed Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, and director Barry Levinson.) What’s next? Producer Kathleen Kennedy and director Frank Marshall are prepping 1980’s Congo for Paramount.

Amy Tan Resume: The San Francisco-based novelist turned her debut novel-the best-selling The Joy Luck Club-into $32.8 million at the box office. Sign of going Hollywood: None yet. Tan doesn’t have the same financial clout as the big boys, but with the help of executive producers Oliver Stone and Janet Yang, she had a creative iron grip over the 1993 movie adaptation of Joy, which she co-wrote with screenwriter Ron Bass. She also worked closely with her director of choice, Wayne Wang, throughout filming. What’s next? The same writing team plans to reunite for the film version of her second best- seller, The Kitchen God’s Wife.