Canongate clinches Byeong-mo's 'spiky' contract killer novel

Canongate clinches Byeong-mo's 'spiky' contract killer novel

Canongate has bagged The Old Woman With the Knife, a tale about a 65-year-old contract killer, written by Gu Byeong-mo and translated by Chi-Young Kim.

The novel will be the first of the Korean author's to be translated into English. It follows follows Hornclaw, an assassin on the cusp of considering retirement. "A fighter who has experienced loss and grief early on in life, she lives in a state of self-imposed isolation, with just her dog, Deadweight, for company. While on an assassination job for the ‘disease control’ company she works for, Hornclaw makes an uncharacteristic error, causing a sequence of events that brings her past well and truly into the present," the synopsis explains.

"Threatened with sabotage by a young male upstart and battling new desires and urges when she least expects them, Hornclaw steels her resolve, demonstrating that no matter their age, the female of the species is always more deadly than the male." 

Hannah Knowles, editorial director at Canongate, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Barbara Zitwer of the Barbara J Zitwer Agency.

Knowles said: "Somehow this novel manages simultaneously to be a tense tale of a fight to the death, told with the spiky wit of 'Killing Eve', a meditation on how society treats ageing women and a poignant examination of the impact of grief. And it succeeds triumphantly on all fronts. I’m thrilled we’re publishing Gu Byeong-mo’s ingenious work, so expertly translated by Chi-Young Kim."

Byeong-mo was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1976. She made her literary debut in 2009 when her novel Wizard Bakery won the second Changbi Prize for Young Adult Fiction. This is her third novel, and the first to be translated into English.

Kim is an award-winning literary translator and editor based in Los Angeles. A 2011 recipient of the Man Asian Literary Prize, she has translated works by You-jeong Jeong, Sun-mi Hwang, Young-ha Kim, Kyung Ran Jo, J M Lee and Kyung-sook Shin, among others.

The Old Woman with the Knife will publish on 3rd March 2022 in trade paperback.