John Murray acquires 'ambitious, genre-blending' British debut

John Murray acquires 'ambitious, genre-blending' British debut

John Murray has acquired an "ambitious" and "dizzying" multilayered debut novel, The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes.

John Murray editorial director Mark Richards bought world English rights in it and an untitled second novel from Chris Wellbelove at Greene & Heaton. John Murray will publish as a £16.99 hardback on 11th August 2016.

The Countenance Divine, also described as "genre-blending", is set in four interweaving time periods: in 1999, a programmer is trying to fix the Millennium Bug, but "can't shake the sense he's been chosen for something"; in 1888, five women are brutally murdered in the East End by a troubled young man in thrall to a mysterious master; in 1777, an apprentice engraver called William Blake has a defining spiritual experience; and in 1666, poet and revolutionary John Milton completes his epic. The blurb asks, "But where does the feeling come from that the world is about to end?"

Richards said: "I’m thrilled that we at John Murray will be publishing Michael Hughes’ The Countenance Divine later this year. It’s very rare that a debut both has this much ambition and also delivers on that ambition; it’s dizzying, genre-blending, polyphonic and one hell of a ride. Michael inhabits in his writing as many characters as he does in his day job, and it will I hope propel him to the forefront of homegrown novelists."

Hughes said: "I’m really delighted to be working with Mark Richards and the terrific team at John Murray. I couldn’t imagine a better home for The Countenance Divine."

Hughes was born and raised in Keady, Northern Ireland, and now lives in London. He read English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, trained in theatre at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris, and has worked for many years as an actor, under the professional name Michael Colgan. He studied creative writing at Royal Holloway, and at London Metropolitan University, where he has also taught. The Countenance Divine is his first novel.

Picture: Graham Michael