Duckworth Books has acquired 2016 "Big Brother" finalist A J West's debut novel, The Spirit Engineer.
Matt Casbourne acquired world rights direct from the author. Duckworth will publish the title in 2021.
The Spirit Engineer is a historical novel based on the true story of engineer William Jackson Crawford and medium Kathleen Goligher. The synopsis says, "High society has become obsessed with spiritualism through seances that attempt to contact spirits from beyond the veil. William is a sceptic but one night with everyone sat around the circle something happens that places doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him or is this one of Kathleen’s parlour tricks gone too far?"
Casbourne said: "This early 20th-century gothic set in Northern Ireland contains all the mystery and intrigue one might expect from a Sarah Waters novel. Deftly plotted with echoes of The Woman in Black, I can’t wait for readers to discover West’s chilling prose."
West commented: "The inspiration to write about this subject appeared in my life, appropriately enough, one dark Belfast night in the middle of a winter storm. I was reading Harry Houdini’s diaries when the great magician mentioned in passing a meeting with a ‘mad’ professor. Crawford’s story is virtually unknown, yet any novelist would struggle to find a tale more steeped in gothic tragedy. As an admirer of M R James, E F Benson and Arthur Machen, I felt I had to tell this thoroughly mysterious tale. Publishing my book is a lifelong dream come true thanks to Duckworth."