June 20, 2013

Killer Books

It’s hard to be prescriptive about exactly what I’m looking for as an agent. The most recent novel I sold is a satire of the publishing industry in which books of an especially insipid nature zombify their readers to the point of death. When I first read the synopsis I must admit to having serious doubts: for a start, which editor in their right mind would buy a book savaging their day job? The opening pages were so hysterically funny those doubts became excitement, and the moment I’d finished I called the author to set up a meeting. I can’t wait for BOOKS by Charlie Hill to hit the shelves in November, if readers are ready…

At the moment I would love to find a gritty psychological suspense, something which picks up on contemporary phenomena and lets them loose on the narrative. Gillian Flynn did this superbly in GONE GIRL, playing with the effects of economic recession on her characters’ pathologies and leaving the reader in a moral bind. To an equally unsettling degree, my brilliant author Tom Vowler explores the theme of nature versus nurture in his recently published debut WHAT LIES WITHIN.

I am a big China Mieiville fan. With its peculiar effect of bringing contemporary society into sharper focus, THE CITY AND THE CITY is the best example of the kind of sci-fi I’d like to represent. It’s murky and ambiguous, and above all a fantastic detective story.

On the historical front I have a particular interest in maritime adventure. I would love to find the next Patrick O’Brien, a big series with strong central characters like Aubrey and Maturin propelling it forward. When a novel’s setting makes you see a period afresh it can be incredibly immersive. I’m currently working with a hugely talented debut writer on a Flashman-esque Regency series, a wonderful world to lose yourself in. I’m convinced there’s a fantastic Hogarthian-London novel out there somewhere too, which I would love to read.

Kevin Barry’s CITY OF BOHANE stood out recently. It’s SIN CITY meets GANGS OF NEW YORK set in near future West Coast of Ireland: a brilliant combination of voice, setting and plot, supported by a host of great characters. In terms of pure voice and control of her prose, Chloe Aridjis’ BOOK OF CLOUDS was an extraordinary debut. I’d love to find something as inventive and bold with language as these two, different though they are.

That’s a taste of the sorts of books which I dream of finding when I dive into my inbox first thing in the morning, but it’s often the writers whose  singularity of vision and refusal to follow trends make them stand out: who could have predicted Charlie Hill and his killer book? It’s in our nature to always search for something new, and writers embody that pioneering spirit in a particularly admirable way. Readers are only too happy to follow. I feel privileged as an agent to help forge a successful career for such talented folk. It’s always exciting to think of what might be round the next corner, and I’ll happily follow my rather large nose to find it.