HarperPress has signed a history of music hall by former prime minister John Major and a biography of Charles Dickens by actor Simon Callow.
Editorial director Martin Redfern bought world rights to The Rise and Fall of Music Hall directly from the author. Major's father was a music hall performer and he will draw upon his own family history. The book will be published in autumn 2012.
Redfern said: "Sir John brilliantly evokes the rumbustious atmosphere of these smoke-filled pleasure palaces, and writes with wit, warmth and empathy about the talented stars of yesteryear who night after night lit up the lives of the masses with popular songs and comic turns."
Redfern also bought world rights to Callow's book on the relationship between Charles Dickens and the theatre. UK and Commonwealth rights were bought from Maggie Hanbury at the Hanbury Agency.
Redfern said: "His book is the culmination of a life-long passion and is a wonderful marriage of author and subject. Nobody is better placed to write about the extraordinary theatrical core to Dickens."
The book will be published this autumn and joins a glut of titles celebrating Dickens' bicentennial, which also includes Claire Tomalin's biography of the author, published by Penguin.