Trapeze will publish Hell of a Book by Jason Mott, a "timely and timeless" novel which aims to get to the heart of racism and the hidden costs exacted on Black Americans.
Publisher Emad Akhtar acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, including print, digital and audio, from Sabila Khan on behalf of Dutton/Penguin US. Hell of a Book will publish simultaneously in the US on 10th August 2021 and will be supported by an "innovative" marketing and publicity campaign.
The story will be told in two strands, the first being the book tour of an African-American author who has written Hell of a Book. All he wants is to focus on book sales, and ignore the tragic police shootings on the news, and not rock the boat by answering calls to have an opinion on such matters. But one morning, at a breakfast buffet he takes his seat and opposite him is a young Black boy he recognises. Introducing himself as The Kid, the author realises that nobody else can see the boy but him, and that The Kid wants him to tell his story. The second strand of the narrative tells the story of the boy, and his life growing up in the South.
Akhtar said: "It’s impossible to do justice to this in a short quote. I wanted to underline huge passages, and instantly re-read it. I wanted to tell everyone I knew about it so they could read it and understand. It’s a heart-breaking and mind-expanding journey that encapsulates better than anything I’ve read the absurd experience of being a minority in a country which hates the fact of your existence. This book is funny, filthy, sad, mad, stylish, cynical, hopeful, tragic and everything in-between. It contains poetic rants that will have you punching the air, and some other scenes that are too painful to process. This is a career-defining book that has the power to do for race what Catch-22 did for war. Trust me, you just have to read it."
Mott said: "I can hardly begin to express how excited I am to have this book finally so close to landing in readers' hands. Hell of a Book has probably had the longest journey that any project of mine has ever traveled. It began in pieces: a sentence scribbled on a piece of napkin here, a theme written along the edges of a stray receipt there. In a sense, this book was writing itself long before it ever decided to bring me into its world. And, as strange as it may sound, it wasn't until I was a couple hundred pages in that I really began to understand what I was actually writing. It wasn't until I had a heavy stack of pages that I understood that I wasn't just writing another manuscript, I was, in fact, trying to tell the story of a lifetime of worries, anxieties, and ponderings about my existence as a Black man in America. Had I known ahead of time just how much of my personal story was going to wind up in Hell of a Book – just how much of the fiction was, in its own way, non-fiction – I sometimes think I might have hung up my writing tools and taken up anything else!
"But once I was really down in the trenches of writing this book, I decided to fully commit myself. And that meant not questioning creativity. Often times I write with certain rules in place. Certain walls I build around structure, tone, and narrative that help keep my stories chugging toward 'the right places'. With this novel, I decided to toss the rulebook out the window and, well, just go along for the ride. I let the story build itself in whatever form it wanted. And the result was a book unlike any I had written before. It was, as the expression goes: '...a strange bird'. But I think that strangeness, that reality that it defines for itself and, yes, even the parts of me that I didn't expect to make it into the work ... it is these things that, hopefully, will make this a Hell of a Book for readers."
Mott is the author of The Returned (Mira Books, 2013), The Wonder of All Things (Mira Books, 2015) and The Crossing (Park Row, 2018).