The second day of the Frankfurt Book Fair saw a continuation of lots of new deal announcements. Much like Day 1, Penguin Random House’s imprints were leading the charge. Knopf made two agreements that are rumored to be for seven figures. In one, Knopf’s Jennifer Barth acquired Dann McDorman’s debut novel, West Heart Kill. McDorman, a producer at MSNBC, was represented by David Black, who has an eponymous shingle.
The novel was preempted in two-book agreement on the night before the fair kicked off, after a whirlwind submission process. It’s understood that the submission was sent to editors on the Friday before the fair, with Knopf swooping on Sunday night. (The fair opened on Monday.)
Billed as a classic mystery, the novel, according to Knopf publisher Reagan Arthur, features “key elements” of the genre, including “a bucolic setting, a colorful cast of characters, an idiosyncratic and determined detective, one–or more–murders over a very short timeframe, and most important of all: the plot twist you never saw coming.” Arthur elaborated that West Heart Kill “is both an homage to the suspense masters of the genre, and a wholly original new spin on the form.”
In another big deal won by a Knopf editor just before the fair, Jordan Pavlin preempted North American rights to the debut novel by Kaveh Akbar, Martyr! Akbar is the poetry editor of the Nation and the book marks, Pavlin said, the arrival of “a ferocious new talent.”
The novel follows Cyrus Shams, the orphaned son of Iranian immigrants who has just gotten sober. Cyrus embarks on a search that points him to a terminally ill artist, Orkideh, living in the Brooklyn Museum.
Knopf is planning to publish Martyr! in spring 2024.
After two separate auctions—in the U.K. and the U.S.—one of the hot books of the fair has been sold to publishers on both sides of the pond. Tasha Coryell’s debut novel, If I Kill You, has been acquired by Leodora Darlington at Orion in a U.K. and Commonwealth rights deal, while Jen Monroe at Berkley took North American rights. The agreement in the U.K. is rumored to be for six figures.
Coryell, who has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama where she also currently teaches English, is represented by Katie Greenstreet at Paper Literary.
If I Kill You, which is set in Atlanta, follows a millennial who falls in love with a man being tried as a serial killer. Greenstreet confirmed that action around the title at the fair has been fierce; she said she turned down multiple preempts for the book in the U.K. and U.S. before setting up auctions in both territories.
Among the international titles generating buzz among the American fairgoers at Frankfurt has been the novel Les Enfant Endormis (or Sleeping Children). The French debut novel by Anthony Passeron, which sold in the U.S. to Farrar, Straus and Giroux, blends family history with the medical race to find a cure for the HIV virus.
Published in France by Editions Globe in August, the book is being handled in Frankfurt by its primary agent, Laurence Laluyaux at the London-based RCW Literary Agency. Laluyaux confirmed sales for the title had closed in 11 territories outside of France, including the U.S. and U.K. (It was bought in the latter by Picador.)
Laluyaux said the book is “reminiscent of Annie Ernaux and Didier Eribon” in how it “mixes sociological investigation and intimate, personal history.” The novel won France’s Prix Première Plume (an award for debut fiction) and was shortlisted for the Prix Franc (which Laluyaux said is “the equivalent of the Waterstones Prize in the U.K.”).