Michael Joseph scoops Wilkerson's debut Black Cake

Michael Joseph scoops Wilkerson's debut Black Cake

Michael Joseph has won a multi-publisher auction for Charmaine Wilkerson's “dazzling” debut novel Black Cake in a six-figure deal.

Publisher Jessica Leeke acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to two books from Madeleine Milburn at the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV and Film Agency. It will be a major launch for Michael Joseph, publishing in hardback, e-book and audio in spring 2022 with a paperback to follow. Milburn also sold North American rights in a major nine-way publishing auction for seven figures to Hilary Teeman at Ballantine.

The book is billed as an epic multi-generational family drama taking place between the Caribbean, the UK and US. Wilkerson, an American living in Italy, was inspired to write the book after being asked by her nephew for her grandmother’s “black cake” recipe.

Its synopsis explains: “Black Cake opens on an estranged brother and sister—Benny and Byron—as they meet to hear their mother’s last wishes. Compelled to honour her eccentric final request, the siblings must listen to her extraordinary story so that they might better understand their own. So unfolds a tale that begins with a runaway bride disappearing into the Caribbean surf only to reappear decades later on a faraway shore. What happens in between could save Benny and Byron’s broken relationship and help make sense of their own messy lives, if they would only sit still and listen.”

Leeke said: “Charmaine Wilkerson is a writer of dazzling originality and her inventive debut is a beacon of personal courage and resilience for our times. We can’t wait to share Black Cake far and wide. It teaches us the importance of family and friends, and of being able to sit and listen, to ourselves and each other. Charmaine Wilkerson is a true creative talent and an author with a hugely exciting future at Penguin Michael Joseph.”

Wilkerson added: “I was delighted to see that Jessica and her team instantly saw the connection between this story of secrets, longing, and identity in a Caribbean-American family and the questions which many of us face in our own lives. Penguin Michael Joseph publish some of my favorite authors and I am thrilled to join their incredible list. None of this would have happened without my agent Madeleine, who has been my champion from day one.”

Milburn commented: “I was instantly captivated by Charmaine’s premise of a black cake being passed down the generations, only to be enjoyed once the central mystery has been solved. Charmaine’s writing has such a brilliant filmic quality, and the variety of settings and multi-generational aspect will make for a dazzling adaptation. This is a book that will cross generations and continents. I am thrilled that it has found such passionate homes on both sides of the Atlantic.”