Ben Willis makes first acquisition for Orion in eight-way auction

Ben Willis makes first acquisition for Orion in eight-way auction

Orion's Ben Willis has acquired a bestselling German novel, Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit, to be translated by Imogen Taylor, following a "major" eight-publisher auction.

The buy is Willis' first as senior commissioning editor and associate publicist at Orion Publishing Group, since leaving Transworld to take on the dual role earlier this year

Willis [pictured] bought UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada and ANZ) from Australian publisher Text in a deal was brokered by Sarah Lutyens at Lutyens & Rubinstein. The novel will be published in the UK by Orion Books in January 2018.

Fear is described an "intense literary psychological suspense", with comparisons drawn with The Dinner by Herman Koch (Atlantic) and We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Serpent's Tail). Already a bestseller in Germany, Fear has been sold in a further 13 territories and at auctions in the USA (HarperCollins) and Canada (Anansi).

Set in Berlin and said to have been inspired by the author’s own experiences, Fear asks the question: how do you protect your family when the law is not on your side? It centres on protagonist architect Randolph and his family, a wife and two children, who have just moved into a beautiful flat in a respectable part of Berlin. Life seems perfect - until they meet the man living in the basement flat below them. 

Willis said: "Fear is quite simply one of the best novels I’ve read in the last decade – a subtle, incredibly suspenseful, intelligent thriller. It is the kind of book you constantly bug your friends about before thrusting it into their hands, that you pass around until it’s dog-eared and falling apart. It will be argued about in reading groups all over the world for some time. I couldn’t be more proud to be publishing Fear."

Kurbjuweit is deputy editor-in-chief at German current affairs magazine Der Spiegel, where he has worked since 1999, and divides his time between Berlin and Hamburg. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the Egon Erwin Kisch Prize for journalism, and is the author of seven novels, many of which, including Fear, have been adapted for film, television and radio in Germany. Fear is the first of his works to be translated into English.

Kurbjuweit said: "When I finished Fear and read it through for the first time my first thought was: this is more a book for British or American audiences than German. It's a book about the relationship between the individual and society, about the rule of law and its limits, about the civilised man who is challenged by barbarism. These are big Anglo-Saxon topics, and people in these countries have a delicate regard for the nuances around them. I love British authors, and I know that British readers have a fine appreciation of suspense in fiction. I hope my novel satisfies them. I could not be more delighted to be published in the UK."