Hutchinson is publishing Patrick McGrath's The Wardrobe Mistress, a novel about the London theatre in 1947.
Jocasta Hamilton, Hutchinson publishing director, has acquired world English rights in the book from Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge and White for an undisclosed sum.
The book, set two years after the war, shows a London in ruins where there is nothing to eat, it is the coldest winter in living memory, and Charlie Grice, one of the great stage actors of the day, has suddenly died. His widow Joan, the wardrobe mistress, is beside herself with grief when one night she discovers Grice’s horrifying secret. Devastated, she finds herself plunged into a dark new world of violence, intrigue and heartbreak, and it seems the war’s not over after all.
According to Hamilton, the novel is narrated by "a deliciously gossipy cohort of dead actresses" and is "a masterclass in a brilliantly realised voice and astutely observed characters". She added: "Fantastic on love, desire, jealousy and ambition, it also explores the insidious rise of fascism, making it not only a haunting and beautiful period piece but a chilling novel for our times."
McGrath said: "While researching a novel about the London theatre in 1947, I came upon a secret history. It involves the extraordinary resurgence of fascism in Britain, just months after the defeat of Nazi Germany. I've tried to weave that dark material into a tale of actors, refugees, ladies of the Chorus, and in the middle of it all – the wardrobe mistress."
McGrath is the author of two short story collections and eight novels, including Asylum (Penguin), Trauma (Bloomsbury), shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award in 2009, and Spider (Vintage), which was made into a film by David Cronenberg, starring Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richardson.