Who Is Anonymous, The Author Of Hot Book ‘Next To Heaven?’ Deadline Solves The Mystery As TV Rights Deal Closes With Publishing Pact Coming

EXCLUSIVE: The novel Next to Heaven hit the market this week. Written by Anonymous, it’s a social satire that is being shopped by WME simultaneously for both a publishing deal and a TV deal. The TV deal has just closed, and the publishing deal will be next.

The rights to turn the book into a TV series were snapped up by former AGBO and Chernin executive Mike Larocca and Michael Schaefer for their as yet-unnamed production venture. They will produce with Entertainment 360’s Guymon Casady (Game of Thrones). Schaefer most recently ran New Regency and produced The Martian.

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So, who is Anonymous?

Deadline sniffed out that it is James Frey, known for A Million Little Pieces and many other literary works. Actually, this was not like cracking the case of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping. Lit scouts who read the novel quickly deciphered the mystery. Frey has a way with grammar and sentence structure that makes his works move at 60 mph, and those trademark flourishes were there.

In Next to Heaven, best friends Devon and Belle are the Queen Bees of super-affluent New Bethlehem, Connecticut (a town that suspiciously resembles Frey’s hometown of New Canaan). They are very beautiful, very rich and very bored, their marriages mostly business arrangements at this point. And so they decide to host a carefully curated, invitation-only swingers party. But later, when one of the invitees ends up dead, the stakes in their game turn out to be much higher than any of the guests could have anticipated.

James Frey (Getty Images)
James Frey (Getty Images)

I tracked down Frey, who acknowledged that he wrote the book and that when it is published next summer, it will go under his proper name. Frey last published Katarina in 2018, and then took a break as he ran Full Fathom Five, a company that produced Queen & Slim and Fright Crew. He sold that and then ran a videogame company and a social media influencer entity. He read the Jackie Collins novel Hollywood Wives and Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, and it sparked a desire for him to try his hand at a social satire soap opera page-turner murder mystery where rich people behave terribly. He’ll make a publishing deal for the one novel but hopes to do a series of these in different upscale venues.

He put it out under the pseudonym because it’s different in tone from his past works, and he wanted it to be judged on its merits. Sorry, James.

Despite the drubbing by Oprah Winfrey that Frey endured before a national TV talk show audience over exaggerations in his addiction memoir A Million Little Pieces that she previously had trumpeted, a pretty terrific film was adapted from the book by Brad Weston, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the addict based on Frey. His sci-fi novel I Am Number Four was turned into a film directed by D.J. Caruso, and Frey also co-wrote the story for Queen & Slim with Lena Waithe. Now, a new chapter for Frey is in the works. He’ll write a pilot script for LaRocca and Schaeffer, and it’ll be ready to be shopped by the fall.

The novel is being sold by WME’s Eric Simonoff for publishing and Sylvie Rabineau for the small-screen deal.

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