Sceptre has acquired a debut novel by Sheila Llewellyn, Walking Wounded - the "haunting" story of a doctor and a patient in a 1940s military psychiatric hospital.
Drummond Moir acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Bill Hamilton at A M Heath.
Set in Northfield Military Psychiatric Hospital in 1947 - a large, understaffed and struggling institution on the brink of closure, just months before the founding of the NHS - it tells the story of David Reece, a young, aspiring journalist whose wartime experiences in Burma have come back to haunt him violently and senior psychiatrist Daniel Carter who is fighting his own battles, as well as his patients.
The book is based on extensive medical research by the author, and her own experience of treating sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a cognitive behavioural therapist at the University of Oxford, with two years spent at a Trauma Centre in Northern Ireland.
Moir said the book, set in the context of real events which took place in 1940s psychiatry, offered "a fascinating insight into how attitudes to mental health have changed".
"Sheila’s debut novel is a stirring, poignant story of two flawed but determined men, and an exploration of the sacrifices we’re willing to make in the name of healing," he said. "Beautifully written and inspired by true events, it offers a fascinating insight into how attitudes to mental health have changed, particularly as we approach the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS."
Llewellyn was "shocked" and then "inspired" to write the novel after coming across an article in the British Medical Journal from 1947, outlining the first known case study of a Second World War veteran who underwent a leucotomy as treatment for what we now know as PTSD.
"I knew then that I wanted to write a novel exploring the psychiatric treatments available to veterans in the 1940s," Llewellyn commented. "In particular, I wanted to write about the controversial and rapid development of leucotomy as a treatment for mental illness, during that period. I’m thrilled Sceptre are publishing the novel, and immensely grateful to Drummond Moir and the team there."
Llewellyn completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in Belfast in 2016 after winning the P J O'Connor RTÉ Radio One Drama Award and the Silver Award for the Best Broadcast Radio Drama in the New York International Radio Drama Festival in 2012. She has also been shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize, the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize, and shortlisted twice for the Costa Short Story Award.