Stephen Kelman, author of Pigeon English (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) discovered an upside to unemployment. After being "made redundant" at a job in local government administration, the 34-year-old inhabitant of Luton (a town about 30 miles outside of London) took six months to write a first draft of his debut novel, about an 11-year-old Ghanaian immigrant in a London housing project who sets out to solve the murder of a classmate. Kelman signed on with agent Jo Unwin at Conville & Walsh, spent another six months editing the manuscript (losing 30,000 words along the way), and saw it sell in seven countries worldwide.

HMH senior editor Jenna Johnson, who acquired the novel and plans a 25,000-copy first printing, says, "Pigeon English is a one-sitting read, primarily because once the narrator's voice is in your ear you don't want to stop listening."

Kelman reports that he was inspired to write the novel because he was "deeply affected by the relentless stream of stories coming out of the British news media about young victims of violent crime, and concerned by their bleak portrayal of Britain's children, especially those in deprived urban areas. Having grown up in an environment very similar to what's in the book, I felt compelled not only to explore these issues from a more intimate perspective, but also to present the other side of the story, to show these characters' lives in a more positive, hopeful light."