Weidenfeld & Nicolson is publishing a "genre and gender-bending take on the classic Western" from Anna North, about an outcast woman on the run.
Lettice Franklin, editorial director at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in Outlawed from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein, on behalf of Julie Barer at the Book Group.
TV rights have been acquired by A24, the company behind "Midsommar", "The Lighthouse" and "The Farewell", after what was described as a "competitive" auction.
"Revisionist Western" Outlawed is set in 1894 and tells the story of Ada, a woman on the run whose survival "depends on leaving behind everything she knows".
Franklin said: "Outlawed begins, ‘In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw. Like a lot of things, it didn't happen all at once. First I had to get married.’ From that brilliant opening, it goes from strength to strength, taking us into a world that feels all too familiar. A world living in the wake of a virus that has decimated the population. A world where the remaining citizens are obsessed with reproduction and women have a duty to replace the lost population and infertility is more than stigmatised – childless women are routinely hung for witchcraft."
In the context of "a woman's duty to replace those that were lost in the Great Flu", the synopsis reads on: "After a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are hanged as witches, Ada’s survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows. She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang. Its leader, a charismatic preacher-turned-robber known to all as The Kid, wants to create a safe haven for women outcast from society. But to make this dream a reality, the gang hatches a treacherous plan. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all."
North is a senior reporter at Vox, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the author of two previous novels, America Pacifica and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark. She said: "I think of Outlawed as a revisionist Western. I wanted it to deal with big themes — gender, sexuality, the fraught history of medicine — but I also really wanted it to be fun. My goal was to play with the genre of the Western and tell an exciting, new story about a young woman on the run and the people who end up both saving and changing her life."
Outlawed will be published by W&N in January 2021 in hardback, e-book and audio.