by Mark Helprin
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 673 pages;
Even before publication, the word on Winter's Tale was astonishment. In an eight-day auction, nine publishers bid for the manuscript; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich acquired the rights for $250,000 plus a $100,000 promotional budget, plus a $100,000 option on Author Mark Helprin's next novel. In a time of recession in the publishing industry, the purchase seemed profligate. But it has already begun to pay off. A first printing of 50,000 has disappeared rapidly, and the book has already made the bestseller list. Yet all...