This month the BBC began itsattempt to compete with Channel 4's UK book club dynamos Richard & Judy,whose book show has become the British equivalent of Oprah Winfrey. PageTurners, a new flagship BBC1 series, aims to generate buzz about books andcreate an Oprah-style sales surge.
In all, 24 titles have beenselected for the show. Along with literary giants such as Kazuo Ishiguro andHaruki Murakami, some compelling new novels with standout potential for screenadaptation have been picked out. Several have already been optioned, including TheNinth Life Of Louis Drax (Miramax Films/Anthony Minghella) and The KiteRunner (DreamWorks SKG).
The biggest debut is HelenOyeyemi's The Icarus Girl. Bloomsbury famously signed up theNigerian-born writer for a six-figure sum while she was still at Cambridge.Despite intense interest, film rights to her magic realist tale are still inplay: the contact is Ruth Logan at Bloomsbury in London.
Just published to ravereviews is A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian by MarinaLewycka (Viking UK). The tragicomic novel features two Ukrainian sisters,raised in England, whose father is chased by a ruthless gold-digger. NormanNorth at the Agency in London is holding out for a film deal.
A more familiar Britishtalent is children's writer Geraldine McCaughrean, three times winner of theWhitbread children's prize and now selected to pen the official sequel to PeterPan. Her addition to the BBC Page Turners list, Not The End Of The World,is a fearsome re-imagining of the biblical flood story. Through the eyes of thewomen and animals on board the Ark, Noah becomes a crazed evangelicalpatriarch. Stage rights have been sold to the Bristol Old Vic but the story isripe for animation. Enquiries to Nicky Lund at David Higham Associates.
BBC presenter Jeremy Vine'sfavourite selection is Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin, acompelling story of the upbringing of an American high school killer, told byhis mother. Rights enquiries to Lori Andiman at Inkwell Management.
No less troubling is AboutGrace by Anthony Doerr, the strange story of an Alaskan man crippled by hispremonitions of catastrophe. Contact the Wendy Weil Agency in New York.
Joel Rickett is deputy editor of The Bookseller and sat on the panel thatselected the 24 titles to be featured on Page Turners.