John Murray has snapped up Costa First Novel winner Andrew Michael Hurley's third novel as film rights go to House Productions.
Starve Acre, which follows Richard and Juliette Willoughby as they grapple with their son’s untimely death, "is a novel that grapples with the irrationality and complexity of grief, the power and potency of folklore, and a moving examination of the effect a child’s loss can have on its parents" said John Murray.
The John Murray Press imprint will publish Starve Acre on 31st October. Publisher Mark Richards bought world rights from Lucy Luck at C&W, and John Murray will publish as a £12.99 hardback with a "striking new cover look for Hurley".
Richards said: "Starve Acre is a short and devastating novel that uses the gothic to look askance at the effects of grief and of guilt. It is gripping, beautiful and unforgettable."
Film rights were sold at auction to House Productions by Luke Speed at Curtis Brown. Juliette Howell and Tessa Ross of House Productions said: "We’re thrilled to be adapting Starve Acre – a novel which has inherited the timelessness of the great classics of the genre while also being a thoroughly modern story about family, grief and faith. Andrew Michael Hurley is a remarkable author; we feel very privileged and excited to be bringing this evocative story to screen."
The Willoughby's house, 'Starve Acre', is "a place of painful memories and simmering tension between the couple", reads the synopsis. "Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree. In Hurley’s distinctive gothic-infused style, Starve Acre becomes increasingly taut as histories and memories are slowly unveiled, and builds to an indelible ending."
Hurley’s first novel The Loney (John Murray), which won the Costa First Novel Award and the 2016 British Book Awards Book of the Year, has been sold in 20 territories, and more than 142,560 copies according to Nielsen. The Loney is his bestseller at 115,958 copies sold in paperback. His follow-up Devil’s Day won the Encore Award for best second novel, which he shared with publishing stablemate Lisa McInerney.