Viking has acquired TV presenter Richard Osman’s debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, and one other novel, for a seven-figure sum, after triumphing in a 10-publisher auction in one of the biggest auctions of 2019. The "Pointless" star's foray into fiction has also sparked a string of deals across the world including a six-figure auction in the States.
Editorial director Katy Loftus acquired UK and Commonwealth excluding Canada rights, including audio, from Juliet Mushens at Caskie Mushens for the first two novels in a classic crime series for a seven figure sum. Set in a fictional ‘luxury retirement village’ off the A21 in Kent, the fiction debut from the producer and comedian follows four retirees who meet weekly to solve cold cases, and who encounter a live case in their first literary outing.
Osman revealed on Twitter that he spent 18 months writing the book and first shared it a month ago. "A month ago I finally showed it to someone, and then all this happened," he said. "I have never been prouder of anything in my working life, and I can’t wait for you all to read it next year."
Viking will publish The Thursday Murder Club in autumn 2020, with the second novel in the series following a year later.
There have also been a number of auctions and pre-empts across other the globe, following one of the biggest UK auctions this year. North American rights were acquired by Pamela Dorman at Pamela Dorman Books at auction in a "significant" six-figure deal from Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency on behalf of Juliet Mushens, Viking said. Ullstein pre-empted German rights in a six-figure deal while Cargo bought Dutch rights at auction. Lattes bought French rights in a pre-empt, and SEM pre-empted Italian rights. There is also currently an offer in Israel and an offer in Spain, with more territories expected.
Osman is the creative director of production company Endemol Shine and rose to fame presenting “Pointless” with Alexander Armstrong and presents his own BBC quiz “House of Games” along with “Insert Name Here” and “Child Genius”. He is also a regular on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You and Would I Lie To You.
Loftus said: “The Thursday Murder Club marks the launch of a dazzling new literary talent. Richard Osman writes fiction like he was born to it, and I know that his quartet of unlikely detectives – Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim and Ron – are swiftly going to become household names across the UK. Richard captures an essence of Britain, and of Britishness, in the same way that Agatha Christie did in her day, with the same knife-sharp observational skill and fond humour.”
Osman said: “I can’t begin to express how excited I am to be taking The Thursday Murder Club to the brilliant team at Viking. To turn from a lifelong reader to a debut author is a dream come true for me. I can’t wait for readers to meet these characters, and to try and solve their many mysteries. And, on a personal note, I’m delighted that my Mum now thinks I have a proper job.”
He told the Guardian that he he did not want to be seen as someone who just “dashed off a celebrity novel”.
“I’ve always known how hard it is to write a crime novel and I have such respect for people who do it,” he told the newspaper. “I never felt I was in a position where I could do it properly and give it the time it deserved until about 18 months ago. I decided I would start it and once I got going I found that I couldn’t stop."
Venetia Butterfield, publisher at Penguin General Books, said: “The whole team at Viking and Penguin General fell in love with Richard’s extraordinary novel, and we are hugely excited to be able to introduce readers to the remarkable world he has created, and to launch a major new voice in fiction.”
Mushens said: “When Richard told me he had written a novel I knew that it would be warm and witty. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for how brilliantly the Thursday Murder Club would come to life: perfectly balancing character-led humour with a page-turning mystery. The response all over the world is a testament to how stand-out this book is, and I’m excited for Viking to launch Richard as a novelist.”