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Beautiful Books gets its own classic 'mash-up'
20.07.09 | Catherine Neilan
Beautiful Books has signed a new title that will fit within the emerging genre of re-imagined classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: a whodunnit based around one of Jane Austen's most well-known settings.
The deal for Murder at Mansfield Park, by Lynn Shepherd, was negotiated via Ben Mason at the Conville Walsh Agency for an undisclosed sum. The title will be published as a B-format paperback next April, and will include reading group discussion points.
In contrast with the original story, the character Fanny Price is "ambitious, scheming and relentlessly focused", while Mary Crawford "suffers great indignities from her mean neighbour".
Shepherd explained: "What intrigues me about Mansfield Park is how unlike Jane Austen it actually is. One of the reasons so many readers are dissatisfied with the novel Austen did write is that they find her heroine at best insipid, and at worst, downright irritating."
Simon Petherick, managing director of Beautiful Books, described the book as "fantastic" and "tremendous fun". He added: "The really good thing about it is that linguistically, it's very accurate, and she picks up on all the key themes that appeared in the original . . . But whereas Fanny is quite a pain in the arse in Austen's version, Lynn's Fanny is an outrageous gold-digger."
When a murder takes place, mid-way through the story, the novel turns into a "literary version of Agatha Christie." Petherick said: "You cannot work out which character would, or could, commit the murder – everyone who has read it so far has failed to guess who did it."
Murder at Mansfield Park is one of several re-imaginings being brought out. In the wake of Quirk Books' success with Zombies, the publisher announced last week (Wednesday 15th July) it would be publishing Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Brooklyn-based author Ben H Winters. Quirk said the text would be "60% Austen and 40% tentacled chaos".
In June, Hodder & Stoughton announced the acquisition of a "mash-up of horror and history" entitled Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter by a pseudonymous author. And in April, Seth Grahame-Smith, the hand behind Zombies, said he was working on another title – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.