Myriad has won a "closely fought" auction for Manu Joseph’s "profound and provocative" new novel Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous, about "ordinary people caught up in political forces and religious division".
Publishing director Candida Lacey bought UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding India and Canada, from Isobel Dixon at Blake Friedmann. Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous will be Myriad’s lead novel for 2018 and fast-tracked for publication in May.
On the day that Hindu nationalists and their controversial leader have won a spectacular election victory, a large apartment building collapses in Mumbai. The rescue operation finds a single survivor trapped under a beam. The only person able to reach him is Akhila Iyer, a medical student who is also a notorious social media prankster. Crawling through the rubble to administer pain killers, she finds him mumbling in delirium that two people are on their way to carry out a terror attack. Elsewhere, a young intelligence agent, Mukundan, is assigned to shadow the two terror suspects, one of whom is the teenage Laila, the sweetheart of her street. Time is running out.
Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous is a "gripping" chase novel that poses searching questions about the workings of power and its effects on the ordinary people — the watchers and the followers, and those who are trapped when buildings fall.
Lacey said: "Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous is a cracking novel. It is a joy to read, and every bit as beguiling and surprising as its title. Cunning, sympathetic and fiercely original, it is a perfect fit for the bold and diverse fiction list we’re developing with our partners at New Internationalist. We’re thrilled and very proud to be publishing such a magnificent and deservedly lauded novelist."
Joseph said: "Fiction cannot compete with real India. But an Indian novelist tries to make an honourable match of it. In the reactions of Candida Lacey and Myriad, I feel I may have come close. I feel blessed to find a British publisher who is able to see both the Indianness of the novel and the universality of its themes."
Dixon said: "I was thrilled to hear about Myriad’s collaboration with New Internationalist, as I’ve long admired Candida Lacey’s publishing and think this is a perfect partnership - and now Manu Joseph’s profound, wry and fierce novel has found a perfect UK home."
Joseph lives in Delhi and is a columnist for The Mint Lounge. He used to write the ‘Letter from India’ column for The International New York Times. His debut novel Serious Men (John Murray) won The Hindu Literary Prize and the PEN/Open Book Award, and was shortlisted for The Man Asian Literary Prize, the regional Commonwealth Prize and the PG Wodehouse Prize for the Best Comic Novel. His second novel The Illicit Happiness of Other People (John Murray) was shortlisted for the Hindu Prize and longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and IMPAC Dublin Prize for Literature.