The debut book from the Sunday Times' Middle East correspondent Louise Callaghan has sold to Macmillan in the US for six figures after a four-publisher auction with other deals mounting up across the globe.
Father of Lions: The Story of Mosul Zoo tells the story of tiny a zoo in northern Iraq that flourished despite the presence of Isis, due to former soldier Abu Laith, “a hard-fisted Gerald Durrell in a war zone". The 28-year-old journalist’s first book also sold to Head of Zeus in the UK as well as being pre-empted in Holland, Italy, sold in Portugal, further sales underway in other territories.
North American rights went to Diana Gill, executive editor at Macmillan US' Forge imprint, in a six-figure deal following an auction with three other publishers. Rights were sold by Lisa Gallagher at DeFiore and Company on behalf of Max Edwards at Mulcahy Associates with publication slated for autumn 2019.
Neil Belton, publisher at Head of Zeus, bought British Commonwealth rights last summer excluding Canada from Edwards.
The book "is centred on the fiercely committed and choleric ex-mechanic and soldier who ran the zoo and became known as Abu Laith, 'father of lions’,” Head of Zeus said. "Most of what he knew about animal behaviour he had gleaned from his love of dogs and from watching of the National Geographic channel on TV. He was a crazy self-taught naturalist, a hard-fisted Gerald Durrell in a war zone.
"He and his family nearly starved in their efforts to keep the lions, bears and monkeys alive. Most of the animals died, only one bear and one young lion surviving the siege. The surviving animals had to be smuggled out of Mosul in a dramatic rescue mission.”
Edwards, who moved to Mulcahy Associates from Rogers, Coleridge and White a year ago, told The Bookseller that Callaghan "puts a human face on war and the tyranny of Isis in the Middle East, letting us in on the true nature of the conflict in Mosul”.
He added that "her nuanced examination of this world is a sure sign of the star she is set to become".
Belton said of the UK deal at the time: "Father of Lions is charming, funny and horrifying, offering a strange insight into the cruel fanaticism of the now-vanished Caliphate. It is also a testament to the capacity for decency of ordinary people."
Callaghan moved to Istanbul as Turkey correspondent for the Sunday Times aged 26 as one of the youngest foreign correspondents ever hired by the paper before winning a number of prizes including 2016 British Press Awards and the 2017 British Journalism Awards.
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