Canongate has acquired the debut novel by BBC News newsreader George Alagiah, The Burning Land.
Senior commissioning editor Hannah Knowles acquired world rights from Maggie Hanbury at The Hanbury Agency. Publication is scheduled for 5th September 2019.
The Burning Land is set in contemporary South Africa, where the international fight for ownership of the country’s land has turned the nation into a powder keg. With the murder of Lesedi Motlantshe – one of the nation’s so-called Children of the Future and the fuse is well and truly lit, the synopsis reads. As the hunt for Lesedi’s killer intensifies, former childhood friends Lindi Seaton and Kagiso Rapabane come together to protect the land and people they love; even as events are set in motion that no one – least of all they – can control.
Alagiah’s first work of fiction, The Burning Land, sees him delve into the spaces between the reports he has brought to the nation as a journalist. He has published two works of non-fiction previously: A Passage to Africa in 2001 and Home from Home in 2006 (both published by Little, Brown).
The news comes days after Alagiah returned to BBC One’s News at Six. The newsreader's cancer returned in December 2017 (after an initial diagnosis in 2014), forcing him to take time away from work to receive treatment but he returned to the studio in London on Wednesday (23rd January).
Before becoming the presenter of BBC News at Six, Alagiah was known for his work as one of the BBC’s foreign correspondents. He covered the genocide in Rwanda, civil wars in Afghanistan and Liberia, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and the 9/11 terror attacks on New York, winning numerous awards for his coverage, from Amnesty International and The Royal Television Society among others.
Prior to joining the BBC in 1989, Alagiah worked in print journalism for seven years. In 2008 he was awarded the OBE for services to journalism.
He said: “As a journalist I try hard to discover the facts, the things you can see, touch and measure; as a novelist I’ve tried to find the truth, something more elusive, less tangible. The Burning Land is a story I never quite managed to tell as a reporter. It is about why some people are seduced into extinguishing the flame of freedom, while others strive to keep it burning.”
Knowles says: ‘The exhilarating narrative of The Burning Land and its foundations in George’s deep knowledge and experience of working in South Africa, make this an absolutely vital, urgent read. It’s hard to believe this is his first novel.”