Pre-Frankfurt Book Fair deals are at boiling point, with “more new projects being sold than ever before”, according to agent Jonny Geller.
Among hotly touted titles is début thriller The Serpent Papers, penned by Jessica Cornwell, grand-daughter of John le Carré. The story is set in contemporary Barcelona, where three bodies appear in rapid succession, their skin tattooed with a cryptic alphabet. Investigations lead to the titular ancient book of witches. Agent Felicity Blunt of Curtis Brown said she had received enthusiastic responses from the UK, the US and Canada, with a pre-empt from Norway’s Cappelen Damm.
Curtis Brown’s Geller said he was receiving “lots of responses all around the world” just 24 hours after sending out a serial-killer thriller partial, written under a pseudonym by “a successful writer in another sphere”. The Killing Lesson by Saul Black is said to be reminiscent of Thomas Harris, with Geller saying: “It is the scariest opening I have ever read in a book.” Geller said he thought it was “probably the busiest it has been for many years in the run-up to this Frankfurt.”
Other hot buys include The Well by Catherine Chanter, with Canongate editorial director Louisa Joyner and m.d. Jamie Byng joining with Michael Heyward at Text to buy UK and Commonwealth rights in a “substantial pre-empt” through Nelle Andrew at PFD. The book portrays a modern-day Britain where it has not rained for three years except on a piece of farmland known as The Well; S&S US has also bought the book.
Emma Beswetherick, editorial director of Piatkus Fiction, has secured world rights in a “high” two-book deal with author Mark Haysom through Eve White Literary Agency. Haysom’s début, Love, Love Me Do, is described as “highly original” novel about a family forced to leave their Brighton home to live in a caravan.
Simon & Schuster’s Jessica Leeke bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Orient, a 700-page literary thriller by US author Christopher Bollen, through Cathryn Summerhayes under Bill Clegg at William Morris.
S&S editor Briony Gowlett has acquired world rights in 60 Postcards by Rachael Chadwick described as a “touching story” of losing a mother to cancer, in a pre-emptive deal from Jo Hayes at Bell Lomax Moreton.
John Elek at A P Watt is representing Tina Seskis’ self-published One Step too Far, which has already shifted thousands of copies through Amazon’s KDP platform, with a Dutch pre-empt from A W Bruna and deals “done or about to be done in multiple territories”.
Bloomsbury has acquired Europe and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to Ben Macintyre’s Philby: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal after a deal was struck by Bloomsbury's Michael Fishwick through Ed Victor. Kim Philby was a notorious British defector and Soviet mole and the book will tell a story of intimate duplicity, loyalty, trust and treachery, class and conscience and "of an ideological battle waged by men with cut-glass accents and well-made suits in the comfortable clubs and restaurants of London and Washington; of male friendships forged, and then systematically betrayed." It will be published in March 2014.
Constable & Robinson has acquired a new historical crime series by L C Tyler after Krystyna Green bought World English Language rights from David Headley at D H H Literary Agency. Set in the time of Cromwell’s Protectorate, the first book, A Cruel Necessity, will be published in hardback in November 2014. Green described the books as "a fresh and wonderfully entertaining series set in this period of English history, where plotting and counter-plotting was rife as no one knew which political horse to back."
Arcadia Books has acquired Fan directly through Danny Rhodes which will be published to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster on 15th April 2014. It will be the author's third novel and is based on his own experiences after he attended the fateful match in 1989 at which 96 people died.
Meanwhile John Murray Press imprint Two Roads has acquired Girl Runner, a debut novel from Carrie Snyder. Publisher Lisa Highton signed UK rights from Gillian Fizet at House of Anansi Press. US rights were pre-empted by Claire Watchel at HarperCollins. The book follows Aganetha Smart, a pioneering Olympic athlete who competed in the 1920s, but is now living in a nursing home at the age of 104, alone and forgotten. When two strangers arrive and take her out of the home, she is forced to confront her own secrets and difficult life choices. Highton said: "Girl Runner is a brilliantly evocative story of time and place with an unforgettable heroine." Snyder, who lives in Ontario, Canada, has previously written two collections of short stories. Two Roads will release Girl Runner in spring 2015, at the same time as the US.