Corsair, an imprint of Little, Brown, has acquired a non-fiction literary ornithology by Alex Preston, with illustrations by Neil Gower.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds and Books is an illustrated and "visually stunning" exploration of birds in literature, from Ovid to Ted Hughes. The book is structured as a series of detailed portraits of 20 different birds, and draws on a range of references in poetry and prose – from Hopkins, Chaucer, Woolf, Nabokov and Wordsworth, among others and more.
Corsair publisher James Gurbutt bought world rights from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.
Preston is an award-winning author and journalist, whose latest novel, In Love and War (Faber & Faber), was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime. He also teaches at the University of Kent. He said: “Since I was a child, I’ve been accumulating sightings of birds in the books I’ve read. Collecting these ornithological references together, bird-by-bird, and interweaving them with my personal encounters and memories has been such a joyful act. This book is a literary natural history, a record of close looking and careful writing, of how some of the greatest authors have tried to pin down on the page the elusive beauty of birds.”
Gower is an internationally acclaimed graphic artist and has clients across most major publishing houses in both the UK and US, and magazines such as The New Yorker, The Economist and Vanity Fair. He recently completed work on a new set of covers for Bill Bryson’s entire back-list as well as private commissions for Sir Roy Strong and Raymond Blanc.
He said: "My pulse quickened at the very words ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire’, and I embraced them as a kind of mission statement for this thrilling collaboration. Each fresh chapter I’ve received from Alex has been both gift and gauntlet; his words and those of others the vivid sparks from which, I hope, I have coaxed the essence of each bird into flame on the page.”
As Kingfishers Catch Fire will be published in full-colour hardback in spring 2017.