Serpent’s Tail has acquired Melmoth, the new novel from Sarah Perry, author of 2016 British Book Awards' Book of the Year The Essex Serpent (Serpent's Tail).
Inspired by Charles Maturin’s "forgotten gothic masterpiece" Melmoth the Wanderer, Melmoth begins in the present day, and takes its ensemble cast of characters on a "spectacular" journey through time. "Dazzlingly inventive, terrifying and beautiful, it will make readers think deeply about the human capacity for good and evil and how often the two are intertwined", the publisher said. "This is a novel that transcends easy categorisations of gothic or literary fiction to speak urgently to our time."
Publisher Hannah Westland acquired UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada with exclusive Europe rights from Jenny Hewson at Rogers, Coleridge & White. The title will be published in Autumn 2018.
Westland said she "never doubted" that Perry's next book would be "even more ambitious and impressive than The Essex Serpent." She said: "Because Sarah is a writer of such original talent, intellect and energy, the question was never how good the book would be, but what shape it might take. It is impossible to describe just how breathtaking, moving, and haunting Melmoth is. I have never read anything quite like it, and we can’t wait to publish next year."
Perry said both Hewson and Westland understood "exactly what I wanted to achieve" and met the book "with more love and enthusiasm than I'd dared hope".
"So I'm thrilled to be working again with Hannah and my friends at Serpent's Tail: they've been my home since the beginning and I know Melmoth couldn't be in better hands."
The success of Perry's second novel The Essex Serpent contributed to a "strong" year at Profile Books - the parent company of Serpent's Tail - whose turnover rose nearly 7% to £12.6m in the financial year to March 2017. The novel scooped the 2016 Waterstones Book of the Year, Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and Publicity Campaign of the Year. It has sold 287,566 copies across all editions, according to Nielsen BookScan.
RCW has sold rights to The Essex Serpent in 20 territories so far. Television rights were bought by See Saw Films, creators of "Love, Nina" and "Top of the Lake", and a dramatisation is currently in development.