John Murray Press is publishing a true-life spy thriller telling the story of two sisters who used their interest in German opera as a cover for helping dozens of Jewish refugees flee the Nazis.
Joseph Zigmond, senior commissioning editor at John Murray, and Paul Whitlatch, executive editor at Hachette Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group USA, jointly bought world rights directly from author - non-fiction writer and New York Post investigative journalist Isabel Vincent - to simultaneously publish the book in the UK and US in print, e-book and audio editions in 2020.
The Cooks, touted as the first to reveal the full heroics of sisters Ida and Louise Cook, has already attracted interest from the film world. Producers Donald Rosenfeld and Andreas Roald, partners in Sovereign Films, have the rights to produce "an epic film" based on Vincent's book.
According to John Murray Press, during frequent pilgrimages to Germany to see their favourite operatic stars in the 1930s, Ida and Louise Cook secured the safe passage of dozens of Jewish refugees to the United Kingdom and United States who otherwise would have perished in the Holocaust. In 1965, they were among the first to be honoured by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as heroes of the Holocaust; but, despite this, their story has remained "largely unknown".
Zigmond said it was time the Cooks' bravery was recognised as "an improbably colourful example of how tyranny affects, and is affected by, the most ordinary of people" having grown from "politically oblivious hobbyists to determined undercover pimpernels".
"Isabel Vincent’s brilliant research into untapped archives ranges from the CIA to the V&A," he said further. "It reveals the characters of women whose reticence about their own bravery was not only necessary for their mission, but a signal of their motives. While a handful of men have become synonymous with the saving of Jewish lives in this era, few women have attracted the recognition the Cooks deserve. We are very excited to be publishing Isabel’s book at John Murray."
Whitlatch called it an "utterly riveting and awe-inspiring story of courageous and resourceful sisters" and a "powerful and important book for US readers", to which film producer Rosenfeld, also a former president of Merchant Ivory Productions, added: "Isabel Vincent brings us face to face with the Sisters Cook, in all their truly humble and most effectively eccentric glory. There was no question that we had to make an epic film from Vincent’s brilliant book."