UK independent publisher Quercus may be small, but it should not escape the notice of any film producers hungry for literary material. Just two years since being launched by publishing industry veteran Anthony Cheetham (who founded Century and Orion) and his business partner Mark Smith, Quercus has picked up a Fast Growth business award and been named small publisher of the year at the British Book Awards. As the Financial Times put it: "In its short life, Quercus has become a poster child for the rising fortunes of small British publishers."
So far this attention has mainly been generated by two prizes: the Costa book of the year for Steph Penney's Canadian literary/historical thriller The Tenderness Of Wolves, and the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for The Broken Shore, by Australian crime writer Peter Temple. Now the motley crew of renowned editors lured by Cheetham from conglomerate publishers have started to solidify their lists, acquiring a raft of authors with potential for screen adaptation.
Quercus publisher Jane Wood has poached author Laurie Graham from HarperCollins (literary agent Mic Cheetham). Wood describes Graham as "an acute observer of human foibles; a rare talent who writes brilliant satire shot through with real poignancy." Quercus will publish Graham's Life After Lubka, about female friendship, in spring 2009.
Former Faber publisher Jon Riley has snapped up world English-language rights to a debut novel that has sold more than 250,000 copies in Germany. Andrea Maria Schenkel's Tannod is the story of an unsolved murder on a Bavarian farm; it will be published in June 2008 in the UK as The Murder Village (agent Tanja Howarth).
Nic Cheetham, trade editorial director at Quercus, has bought UK and Commonwealth rights for two bestselling psychological thrillers by Dutch writer Esther Verhoef (through Marijke Nagtegaal of Holland's Anthos Publishers). The first, Close-up, is scheduled for release in summer 2008 with Rendez-vous to follow.
And Cheetham has signed acclaimed Australian crime writer Adrian Hyland (through agent Victoria Hobbs at AM Heath, acting for Mary Cunnane). He sets his debut, Diamond Dove, in the Northern Territory, with a half-Aboriginal, female protagonist.
Quercus has also hired former Faber children's publisher Suzy Jenvey to establish a children's booklist for 2008, and is backing Christopher MacLehose, the former Harvill publisher and doyen of international literary and crime fiction, with his new venture MacLehose Press. That imprint has started working with Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson, Polish detective author Marek Krajewski and Indian debut novelist Anuradha Roy. The trio are worth watching - MacLehose's discoveries include Japanese literary colossus Haruki Murakami and Swedish suspense master Henning Mankell.
- Quercus contact: (44) 20 7291 7200
Joel Rickett is deputy editor of The Bookseller.