Eskimo portrait inspires Tom Tivnan's debut literary novel

Eskimo portrait inspires Tom Tivnan's debut literary novel

Silvertail Books is to publish The Esquimaux, the first novel by The Bookseller's features and insight editor Tom Tivnan.

The Esquimaux is a historical literary novel set in and around Nantucket in the early 19th century. It is based on the true story of John Sackhouse, a native Greenlander. Tivnan was inspired to write the book after seeing Sackhouse’s portrait, painted by Alexander Nasmyth, in the Scottish National Gallery.

Tivnan said: "I first saw a portrait of the real-life John Sackhouse in an Edinburgh museum years ago and was immediately transfixed. What little is known about his true story is fascinating, with so many themes touched upon: bravery, derring-do, love, the search for identity. I hope my fictional version does justice to how exciting and compelling John Sackhouse’s story really is."

The book begins as Sackhouse drifts perilously close to death in his canoe and is rescued by a passing whaler. But the ship’s crew do not trust John and decide he must be done away with – until a spectacular event changes everything. As Sackhouse must learn to cope with his celebrity status and the strange customs of a new land, he becomes entwined in an intense love triangle and the murderous intrigue of rival whaleship companies—all the while hiding a dark secret.

Tivnan, born in the US, added: “John Sackhouse was a remarkable man who crammed so much in a short life. I had to tell his story. I have been writing it off and on for, well, 10 years… It’s morphed along the way. It’s an immigrant story, about being a stranger in a strange land—something I can relate to in some ways.”

Humfrey Hunter, publisher at Silvertail, praised Tivnan's "astonishing" literary début, saying: "The Esquimaux is a wonderful story, full of human truths. It will delight anyone who reads it. Tom has achieved something really wonderful with this book—he is an extremely talented writer”.

UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired from Charlie Campbell at Kingsford Campbell. Audible holds audio rights and will publish in audio format simultaneously, on 20th July 2017.