New Headline imprint Wildfire has pre-empted "compulsive thriller" The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke.
Senior commissioning editor Kate Stephenson acquired British Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to the book plus one further novel from Locke from Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown.
The Tall Man is the story of the Banner family, featuring characters Sadie, who has been visited by the Tall Man in the shadows since she was a girl, and her 17-year-old daughter, Amber, recently acquitted of a murder charge and the subject of a true crime documentary.
Stephenson said she had read the submission late into the night and on reaching the "breath-taking twist at the end" had found herself in equal parts "terrified and obsessed".
"I had to check all the corners of my flat for the Tall Man. And I knew we had to publish Phoebe at Wildfire," she said. "The Tall Man is a spellbinding work of suspense, and Phoebe is a huge new talent. I’m so excited to launch her thriller-writing career here at Wildfire – we have ambitious plans to bring her work to the wide audience it deserves."
Wildfire, launched in 2016 under publishing director Alex Clarke, will publish The Tall Man as a "lead" hardback, e-book, and export trade paperback in summer 2018, with a mass-market paperback edition following early in 2019.
German rights to The Tall Man have been sold to Fischer at auction, Spanish and Dutch to HarperCollins, Portugese to Planeta at auction, and Danish to Lindhardt and Ringhof. An auction is underway in Poland, and there have been offers for Swedish, Italian, Icelandic, Russian, and Turkish rights, according to Headline.
Phoebe Locke is a pseudonym for Nicci Cloke, a full-time writer based in London who also works for the Faber Academy. She has had two literary novels published by Fourth Estate and Cape and two YA novels with Hot Key Books under her real name.