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The Empire

First novel 05/04/2022


Musical star Michael Ball's debut novel, set at a fictional theatre in the 1920s, has been scooped by Zaffre in a two-book deal.

Sarah Bauer, editorial director of Zaffre, and Kate Parkin, managing director of adult trade publishing at Bonnier Books UK, acquired world, all language rights to The Empire from Gordon Wise and Alastair Lindsey-Renton at Curtis Brown. It will publish on 13th October 2022 in the UK, Ireland and Australia, in hardback, e-book and audio.

The Empire is the first in a series which will follow the lives and loves of the Lassiter and Treadwell families, from the aftermath of the First World War, through the Roaring Twenties to the dark days of the Second World War and the Blitz. The series will "chart the story of the high notes and low notes of British musical theatre in all its glamour, greasepaint and glory". The first title is set in the titular theatre in the north of England, "a palace of dreams which holds a very special place in the nation's heart". But it is not all bright lights and applause and "the actors aren't the only ones in disguise". Behind the curtains, there is scandal, treachery and "a dark secret waiting in the wings".

Ball, a two-time Laurence Olivier Award and Brit winner, said: "In my opinion, nothing beats the magic of the theatre and, my goodness we've missed it! And so I wanted to try and capture that magic on the page, through the fictional lives of a cast of characters whose world revolves around this wonderful theatre, The Empire.

"Performing and bringing joy to people is what I love more than anything and to think that I might be able to bring that to a different audience is truly exhilarating. I am thrilled to be working with the team at Zaffre and we are having so much fun. These novels are going to be a love letter to all the theatres and performers I've worked in and with around the world."

Bauer commented: "Whether on the stage, radio or TV Michael always entertains, moves and delights his audience, and I know the same will be true of his books. To be swept away to another world by such a brilliant and instinctive storyteller as Michael is the escape I think we're all craving."

Parkin added: "I can think of no one better placed to tell this story of magic and dreams than Michael. The millions of fans worldwide who treasure his trademark warmth and positivity will relish the chance to read a novel set in the world of musical theatre he owns. Michael Ball has been the soundtrack to my life, and it is a privilege and an honour to bring this story to the huge readership it deserves."




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