Scribe UK is to publish Chicago Rising, an "ambitious" debut novel by Jonathan Carr.
Editorial and publicity manager Molly Slight acquired UK and Commonwealth rights at auction from Rebecca Carter at Janklow & Nesbit, in her first acquisition for the press.
According to Scribe, "the novel will delight readers of The Luminaries (Granta), Golden Hill (Faber), and our own Mrs Engels (Scribe), and we predict Chicago Rising should be its equal for critical acclaim and prize shortlistings".
Set entirely in Chicago, the book spans the 19th century, telling the story of the birth and rise of the city and, more widely, the story of America and of its relationship with the world beyond. It begins with one family, the Pointe du Sables, whose part-French, part-African patriarch is the founding father of Chicago (known initially as Echicagou) — although he is later displaced in the history books by the white man who takes over his house and erases his history.
Through the stories of several generations of Pointe du Sable’s family and those of other key figures in Chicago’s vivid, sometimes villainous history, Jonathan Carr evokes how a city is made: by a sequence of individuals and their cumulative invention, energy, and vision. From the man who designed the city’s much-needed sewage system, to its first female reporter, to a historian determined to tell the unvarnished truth about the city’s past, these characters — some real, some invented — are "brilliant, colourful, complex, and distinctive", said the publisher.
Slight said: "Within the first few minutes of picking up Chicago Rising, I knew I wouldn’t be able to put it down until the end — despite its 400+ pages! Jonathan is a hugely ambitious writer, and this is reflected in both the book’s structure — which includes diary entries, a history book, letters, news reports, a book review, and more — and in the number of voices he creates. Not only is it a thoroughly entertaining and engaging read, it also asks probing and necessary questions about the nature of history — whose stories deserve to be told and why, whose stories are erased and why, how does a city come into being? I could not be more thrilled to be working with Jonathan on his first novel and my first acquisition, and hope that when we publish in spring 2019 readers will share my enthusiasm for this very special debut."
Carr has spent a lot of time in the US, particularly in New Mexico and Louisiana, and for a year he lived in, adored, and explored Chicago. He has been shortlisted for various prizes, winning second place in the Fish International Story Competition, judged by David Mitchell. Once a student of Classics and English at Cambridge, he is currently working towards a PhD in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. "I know I’m going to enjoy working with Scribe," he said. "What I particularly liked about their offer was the editorial vision that came with it."
Scribe will publish in both the UK and Australia in spring 2019.