Little, Brown imprint Fleet is publishing a "devastating" new novel from Colson Whitehead next summer called The Nickel Boys.
Dramatising another strand of United States history, following on from the author's Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning bestseller The Underground Railroad, it is based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that, operating for 111 years, "warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children".
UK & Commonwealth rights in the new novel were acquired from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein, on behalf of Nicole Aragi at Aragi, Inc., to publish in hardcover, export trade paperback, e-book and audio on 30th July 2019.
According to Fleet, The Nickel Boys is "a devastating, driven narrative ... essential to understanding the current reality of the United States", while Whitehead himself said it was "a story I hadn’t seen told before – another one of our country’s secret tragedies. I wanted to speak for them, in whatever small way I could."
It tells the story of two boys sentenced to a stretch at The Nickel Academy in Jim-Crow-era Florida, "where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back’". One of the boys, Elwood, is an idealist and disciple of Dr Martin Luther King, who believes in turning the other cheek, while the other, Turner, is a cynic for whom "the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors". The book's blurb reads on: "The tension between Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions."
Ursula Doyle, publisher for Fleet, commented on the new project: "I’m delighted that Fleet will be publishing Colson’s next two novels, as well as much of his incredible backlist. The Nickel Boys is a beautiful, enraging and absorbing novel which again looks at the history of the racial divide in the US – this time in the disturbingly recent past. Colson’s work is essential to an understanding of the current shitshow."
Whitehead is the author of nine books of fiction and non-fiction, including The Underground Railroad, a book about slavery in the antebellum American South which has sold millions of copies worldwide.