Coronet has acquired Skylark by Alice O’Keeffe, a "timely and gripping novel of love and deceit inspired by the ‘spycops’ undercover policing scandal".
Hannah Black, publisher, bought British Commonwealth rights from Kerry Glencorse at Susanna Lea Associates. It will be released in hardback, e-book and audio on 18th November 2021.
In 2010 and 2011, it was discovered that a number of undercover police officers had entered into intimate relationships with members of targeted groups and in some had proposed marriage or had children with women who were unaware their partner was a police officer in a role as part of their job. This became know as the "spycops scandal".
The synopsis for Skylark reads: "It’s the mid-90s, and rebellion is in the air. Skylark is an activist, a raver, a tree-dweller, a world-changer. Handsome, dependable Dan appears on the scene, offering Skylark the security she has never had. When they fall in love, she shows him a new way to live; he will never be the same. But Dan has a secret, which Skylark must never, ever know. A secret so powerful that its fault-lines run from their ordinary council flat right up to the highest echelons of the state. Their story is the story of Britain’s undercover police. As Skylark comes to doubt not only Dan’s commitment to their shared ideals, but his very identity, she finds herself asking: can you ever really know the person you love?"
Black said: "In her first novel, On the Up, Alice wrote of the joy, drudge and inequalities of new motherhood with great warmth, humour and accuracy. In Skylark she turns her brilliantly clear personal-political eye to the determined and defiant optimism of a group of activists in the 1990s, set on making the world a better place. Drawing on the real stories of the victims of undercover policing, Alice shows how intimacy – shared lives, love and ideals – may not always represent the whole truth. An exuberant, sensitive and compelling novel that reflects the times we are living through."
O’Keeffe is the former deputy editor of the Guardian's Saturday Review section, and writes book reviews, interviews and features for the Guardian, Observer and New Statesman. She has been a speechwriter at the Department for Education and a literary programmer at the Brighton Festival.
She commented: "As a writer I explore the ways in which big political forces manifest themselves in our everyday lives and relationships. So I was irresistibly drawn to the spycops scandal, which exposed how the state's battle with dissent took place in the bedrooms, the bodies and the hearts of activists and police officers. I was fascinated by what this must have felt like for those involved. And I was hugely inspired by the resilience and determination of the women who brought these policing practices to light."