Gollancz Acquires Major Genre Debut at Auction

After a hotly fought auction, Gollancz Deputy Publishing Director Simon Spanton has snapped up a stunning debut spy thriller set in an ‘other’ Russia.

Spanton acquired world rights in 3 novels by Peter Higgins, from Ian Drury at Sheil Land Associates, after a fierce auction between several publishers. The first book in the deal is Wolfhound Century, due for publication in 2013.

The novel is set in a grimly authentic totalitarian state, an alternative Stalinist Russia where timelines and alternate histories intersect.

But beyond the state, is a land of endless forest and antique folk lore.

Forest and folk lore are of no concern to Inspector Vissarion Lom, summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist – and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown terrorism with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists. Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head at the children’s home.

Secret Police chief Lavrentina Chazia sends Lom in pursuit of notorious revolutionary Joseph Kantor. She conceals a great deal from Lom, but cannot disguise the hard patches on her palms as her hands are turning to stone.

Lom’s investigation reveals a conspiracy that extends to the top echelons of the party. When he exposes who – are rather what – is the controlling intelligence behind this, it is time for the detective to change sides. Pursued by rogue police agents and their man-crushing mudjhik, Lom must protect Kantor’s step-daughter Maroussia, who has discovered what is hidden beneath police headquarters: a secret so ancient that only the forest remembers. As they try to escape the capital and flee down river, elemental forces are gathering. The earth itself is on the move.

For, a thousand miles east of Mirgorod, the great capital city of the Vlast, deep in the ancient forest, lies the most recent fallen angel, its vast stone form half-buried and fused into the rock by the violence of impact. As its dark energy leeches into the crash site, so a circle of death expands around it, slowly – inexorably – killing everything it touches. Alone in the wilderness, it reaches out with its mind.

Peter Higgins read English at Oxford and was Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College before joining the Civil Service. He began writing fantasy and SF stories in 2006 and his work has appeared in Fantasy: Best of the Year 2007 and Best New Fantasy 2. He has been published by Asimov’s Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine and Zahir. His short story ‘Listening for submarines’ was translated and published by the St. Petersburg-based literary magazine Esli. He is married with three children and lives in South Wales.

Simon Spanton, Deputy Publishing Director of Gollancz, said:

‘I read Wolfhound Century and then discovered that this was a book that stayed with you, that would not let you alone. Peter Higgins has an amazing ability to evoke an ‘other’ Russia, a nation in a vibrant imagining of an ‘other’ world in a way that leaves it feeling as real and believable as the nation that has so powerfully influenced our world. What makes this setting sing though is Peter’s ability (simply extraordinary in a debut author) to weave a gripping story around people you come to know so well. They move through a world that is terrifying in both familiar and bizarre ways but they feel what we feel.

We found ourselves in a fierce auction but as it went on the book kept reminding me why I didn’t want to lose it. We’re delighted to be able to welcome Peter Higgins to Gollancz.’