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Earlier this year, the University of Pennsylvania Press sold the television and film rights to a book about Thomas they published five years ago -- the first time the publishing house has sold the movie rights to a book. Penn Press will reel in a six-figure fee from the book which is an autobiographical account of Thomas -- a high school graduate who became a pioneer in the field of heart surgery research. "The press is ecstatic about it," Rotell said last week. "We're proud to give recognition to a deserving individual as well as to have published an important scholarly book which will now reach a larger audience. This is a grand slam in the field of publishing." Marion Rees Associates outbid five other movie studios for the television and film rights to Thomas's book entitled "Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work With Alfred Blaylock." The book was published in 1985, but an article in Washingtonian magazine last August prompted calls from several studios interested in buying the rights to the story. In the book, Thomas, who died at the age of 84, two days after the story was published, describes his life as a black man who, at the age of 19, quit his job as a carpenter and became a laboratory assistant to heart surgeon Alfred Blaylock in order to earn money to finance his education. But Thomas never pursued a formal education, concentrating instead on working in Blaylock's laboratory. He was soon placed in charge of Blaylock's laboratory, and through their work at Johns Hopkins University, the two became the pioneering heart surgery researchers of their time. Currently, the studio is still looking for a writer to transcribe the book into script form, but Producer Ann Hopkins already has definite ideas as to how she wants to approach the story. "I want to convey the incredible power of the friendship that was forged between these two men," Hopkins said. "Despite their vastly differing backgrounds, they shared a common vision." Hopkins has no date set for when the film will be finished, but plans eventually to have it shown as a two-hour movie of the week on a television network. Although all authors who write for Penn Press sell all rights to their manuscript to the Press, this is the first time that the Press has had the opportunity to sell the movie rights to any of its books. "We couldn't be more pleased," Rotell said. "I wish we could have the opportunity to publish more books like this."

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