The topic on most people's lips at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair (October 15-19) was not the latest literary sensation, but rumours about the extraordinary saga at London talent agency Peters Fraser Dunlop (PFD).
Caroline Michel, the company's beleaguered chief executive, cancelled her visit to Frankfurt at the last minute, still trying to prevent an exodus of senior agents who are disgruntled at the failure of their management buyout bid. But all the senior agents - including film specialists Anthony Jones, Maureen Vincent and St John Donald - have handed in their resignations and are determined to launch a new company, United Agents, in January 2008.
Aside from the PFD gossip, Frankfurt headlines were led by celebrity memoirs from the likes of Roger Moore, Keith Richards, Jerry Hall, The Clash, Twiggy and David Byrne.
But the richest film adaptation potential lies in fiction, where independent publishers made headway. UK indie Beautiful Books made its first US rights deal, selling 20-year-old Cambridge University student Christiana Spens' The Wrecking Ball to Harper. The novel is about "bright young things who live for parties and drugs".
Meanwhile, fellow UK house Old Street Publishing sold Gianrico Carofiglio's The Past Is A Foreign Country to New York's Thomas Dunne Books. The detective novel, by an Italian anti-mafia prosecutor, is said to be a psychological thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith.
Peter Leonard, son of crime-writing legend Elmore Leonard, is following in his father's footsteps. Faber bought UK and Commonwealth rights to his debut novel Quiver - a thriller about bounty hunters - through Charles Buchan at the Wylie Agency.
In a similar vein, Quercus snapped up rights to a new crime series by emerging UK writer Martin Walker: Bruno, Chief Of Police is said to be in the style of Alexander McCall Smith. His agent is Caroline Wood at the Felicity Bryan Agency UK.
Matthew Plampin's debut historical novel The Street Philosopher, set during the Crimean War and in Victorian Manchester, went to HarperCollins UK. Agent Euan Thorneycroft at AM Heath pitches the book as an "epic story of love, madness, intrigue and revenge".
Frankfurt is a truly global show, so manuscripts were circulating from new authors from around the world. Malaysian debut novelist Preeta Samarasan's Evening Is The Whole Day was sold to Fourth Estate UK, HarperCollins India and 10 other territories in heated auctions; the agent is Isobel Dixon at Blake Friedman in London.
In children's books there were three properties making waves: Intelligencer, a time travel series by duo Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil (Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan sold world rights to legendary Oxford editor David Fickling); dystopian fantasy Roar (Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor sold US and UK rights to Barry Cunningham of Chicken House); and The Strangest Adventures, a commercial fantasy trilogy by 15-year-old Australian writer Alexandra Adornetto (contact HarperCollins Australia).
- Joel Rickett is deputy editor of The Bookseller.
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