BIG DEALS Rickie Lee Jones she of the long blond hair and cool beret will be doing her first book, and it won't be a tell-all memoir or a Mother's Day fable. She's putting together a collection of short fiction and new poems to be published next spring. ''She's been a musical storyteller for two decades; now she's going to put it on paper,'' says Maureen O'Brien, the Hyperion editor who approached Jones after reading the lyrics and poems on her website. Another middle-aged pop legend may also be going literary: Billy Idol, 45, the subject of a recent VH1 Behind the Music documentary, has decided to write a book. ''It's basically going to be his life story,'' says Idol's agent Noah Lukeman, who has been circulating the VH1 tape to publishers as the proposal.
Eighty-four-year-old Kirk Douglas, who began a second career as a writer with his best-selling 1988 autobiography The Ragman's Son, is now at work on his third memoir (after Climbing the Mountain). In My Stroke of LuckDouglas plans to discuss ''his feelings as he grows older, about other Hollywood greats, like Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper, and about the effects of the stroke,'' says Michael Morrison, publisher of Morrow/Avon, which, according to sources, paid $250,000 for the book.
ON THE WRITE TRACK With television ratings skyrocketing for the Daytona 500, two books are coming our way on stock car racing: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will combine a diary of his rookie year and a memoir of his father, who was killed in the Daytona 500 in February. ''Dale had the greatest rookie season in NASCAR history, but [the book] will also be a tribute to his father,'' says Rob McMahon, the Warner senior editor who acquired the title for a reported $1 million advance. Meanwhile, newcomers to the sport can learn all about it from Joe Menzer's The Wildest Ride: A History of NASCAR (or How a Bunch of Good Ol' Boys Built a Billion-Dollar Industry out of Wrecking Cars), which Simon & Schuster will publish this summer.