While the first day of the London Book Fair saw plenty of debut authors drawing interest, a bevy of literary heavies seeped into chatter as well. Just before the annual trade show kicked off, word broke about new books from both William Vollmann and Erik Larson—Paul Slovak at Viking took North American rights to a story collection by Vollmann, while Larson’s latest, about the sinking of the Lusitania, went to Molly Stern at Crown. Zadie Smith has also cropped up in conversation at the fair, since her long-awaited new novel, NW (which is scheduled to come out in the UK in September), has just been delivered. And interest is forming around Caleb Carr's new book, as well. Although William Morris Endeavor is not showing the manuscript of Carr’s first original work since 2000 here in London--the novel, The Legend of Broken, will be published by Random House in the U.S. in November 2012--the title is on the agency’s hot list, and WME said it expects to send the work out to international clients after the trade show wraps.
Outside of those marquee names, a handful of titles by new authors were drawing heat on the first day of the fair. WME’s big book, which one insider said has "interest all over the world," is Justin Gakuto Go’s debut, The Steady Running of the Hour, which sold in the U.S., before the fair, to Simon & Schuster. Foreign sales have closed in five other countries, including Italy and Germany, and WME said offers have come in from the U.K., France and Israel. The novel follows two converging plot lines, the first, set against the backdrop of World War I, is about the relationship between a British climber (who later dies attempting to summit Everest), named Ashley Walsingham, and his lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. The second story line, set in 2004, follows a man who receives a letter stating that he may be an heir to Walsingham’s unclaimed fortune. Gakuto Go, 32, got his undergrad degree at UC Berkeley, and then an M.A. in English, from University College London.
Another project which has people buzzing is from Swedish super-agency Salomonsson, which is shopping one more big Scandinavian trilogy. The agency (which is famous for representing internationally known Scandinavian writers like Jo Nesbø) closed over 10 deals for Anders de la Motte’s A.R.G. trilogy in the days leading up to the fair. Now Salomonsson is overseeing a heated auction for the work in the U.K.
The first book in the series, Geim, was de la Motte’s debut, and came out in Sweded in 2010; it went on to become a local bestseller and win the First Book Award from the Swedish Academy of Writers. Geim follows a petty criminal named Henrik HP Petterson, who enters a large-scale alternate reality game that quickly proves more dangerous than thrilling. Petterson’s path then crosses with a female detective. The next title, Buzz, has already been published in Sweden, while book three, Bubble, will come out in the country in August 2012.
De la Motte is a former cop who also oversaw the security team at a major technology company. A rep from Salomonsson said offers are expected from a number of European and North American publishers "in the next 24 hours."
A book we covered in today’s Deals column also has people talking here in London: Sahar Delijani’s Children of the Jacaranda Tree. Three mid-six figure deals closed on the work right before the fair, with Atria nabbing the book in the U.S., Weidenfeld & Nicolson acquiring in the U.K., and Rizzoli in Italy. (It's also well worth noting that in the U.K. the acquiring editor, Arzu Tahsin, also worked on such megahits as The Kite Runner and The Tiger’s Wife.) The novel, which follows a group of Iranians during recent tumultuous events in that country, has been getting strong reads and, according to one insider, the title will likely be a big book of the fair.
We are tracking a number of other titles here in London, so stay tuned for more breaking deal news.