Picador has won an "inspiring" account of a modern pilgrimage, The Crossway by Guy Stagg, at a "strongly-contested" auction.
Kris Doyle acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Zoë Waldie at Rogers, Coleridge and White.
The Crossway was a runner-up for the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writer’s Award in May 2016, and will be published in 2018.
It is an account of Stagg’s 10-month walk to Jerusalem, following medieval pilgrimage routes through Western Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East, covering more than 5,500 kilometres. The author set off from Canterbury on New Year’s Day, telling his friends and family only that he would be home before the year’s end. He went on to cross the Alps in the depths of winter, spent Easter in Rome with the new Pope, witnessed the summer protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, and survived the August 2013 bombings in Tripoli. Each night he stayed with monks, nuns, priests, and families, gaining a rare insight into the lives of contemporary believers.
The journey was partly conceived by Stagg as an attempt to rebuild himself after several years of mental illness.
Doyle, senior commissioning editor at Picador, said: "I read The Crossway in a single sitting, immediately captivated by the charm, generosity, and candour of Guy Stagg’s voice. This extraordinarily thoughtful and assured debut excited readers across the whole company for so many reasons: the spellbinding quality of the prose, the emotional power of the personal story, the vivid evocation of an incredible journey. I’m sure it will find a wide readership and herald the beginning of a brilliant career; Picador couldn’t be more delighted to be publishing it."
Waldie at RCW said: "When I first read Guy’s pages I was absolutely held by the quality of the writing and the extreme and unusual journey he describes; his account taps into many contemporary concerns and yet feels timeless. We were then delighted to see him on the inaugural DRF Award shortlist, not least because I’m sure Deborah would strongly have approved of this. Now at Picador he has a passionate and talented team committed to ensuring his book reaches the many readers it deserves."
Stagg grew up in Paris, Heidelberg, Yorkshire, and London, and read English at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was later an assistant comment editor at the Daily Telegraph, and has also written for the New Statesman and the Literary Review.
He added: "Travelling between the pilgrim capitals of Christianity gave me a unique perspective on the religion, which endures despite the decline of belief in Western Europe and the exodus of Christians from the Middle East. Though a non-believer, I began walking after a troubled time in my own life, and found surprising consolation in the ritual of pilgrimage. I’m thrilled that Picador responded to the book with such enthusiasm, and that I will now have the chance to share my journey with others."