Matthew Flamm
February 02, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

A ‘LITTLE’ INTRIGUE Push has finally come to shove at Little, Brown: Embattled but well liked publisher Sarah Crichton has been shown the door, and the AOL Time Warner imprint has been drawn a step closer to what insiders fear will be the eventual takeover of the venerable literary house by its mass market sister, Warner Books. (”It’s been happening bit by bit,” says one recent exile.) Counters Time Warner Trade Publishing chairman Laurence Kirshbaum: ”We were trying to inject a little bit more commerciality into Little, Brown, so in that sense we were ‘Warnerizing’ it, but all of the most important creative elements — editorial, publicity, the art department — are still very much separate.”

Crichton’s exit comes as some AOL Time Warner divisions are facing layoffs, but also caps years of conflict between the publisher and her bosses. ”A lot of what I was fighting about was to let the Little, Brown sensibility prevail,” says Crichton. Ironically, the company’s new publisher, editor in chief Michael Pietsch (who will keep both titles), is known for publishing literary authors, from Peter Guralnick to David Foster Wallace. ”It could be that because Michael is their pick, they’ll be more comfortable with his choices,” Crichton adds.

MORTAL THOUGHTS Health writer Mary Roach has signed with Norton to write ”Stiff: The Short, Curious Life of the Human Cadaver.” The book will look at ”cadaver dogs,” who can smell body remains 20 feet underground; ”mortuary artists,” who piece bodies together after a crash; and the positives and negatives of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge as a way to kill yourself, explains William Morris agent Jay Mandel, who closed the deal. ”It’s — excuse the pun — deadly reporting,” says Norton senior editor Jill Bialosky, who beat out seven other houses with a $205,000 bid.

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