The Bookseller – Rights – Harvill Secker swoops for O’Connor’s occupied Rome thriller in three-book deal

Harvill Secker has swooped for My Father’s Housea literary thriller by Joseph O’Connor based on the true story of an Irish priest in the Vatican who rescued victims of the Nazis in Rome under the nose of his SS officer nemesis.

Publisher Liz Foley acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada but including audio, from Isobel Dixon at Blake Friedmann to My Father’s House along with two further books set in occupied Rome. My Father’s House will be published as a lead for Harvill Secker in January 2023 in hardback, trade paperback, e-book and audio.

Each of the subsequent novels will feature secondary characters from the Escape Line in My Father’s House on their own further wartime adventures. Rights for My Father’s House are also already sold in France, Italy, Sweden and North America.

The synopsis explains: “Set in September 1943, as German forces occupy Rome and SS officer Paul Hauptmann rules the city with terror, O’Connor’s novel follows Irish priest Hugh O’Flaherty, who dedicates himself to helping those escaping from the Nazis. His home is Vatican City, the world’s smallest state, a neutral, independent country within Rome where the occupiers hold no sway. Here O’Flaherty brings together an unlikely band of friends to hide the vulnerable under the noses of the enemy. But as the Hauptmann’s net begins closing in on the Escape Line, the need for a terrifyingly audacious mission grows critical. By Christmastime, it’s too late to turn back.”

Foley said: “My Father’s House is a moving and masterful literary thriller – quite extraordinary in being a beautiful read and also intensely gripping. We can’t wait to bring readers to the wartime Rome Joe so brilliantly conjures and introduce them to the Escape Line.”

Dixon commented: “My Father’s House is based on an extraordinary true story, conjured into an unforgettable novel, one that delivers nail-biting tension along with scenes of great beauty and heartbreaking tenderness. There is such excitement around this very special book at Harvill Secker, and I know that excitement will spread from Liz Foley’s excellent team to many more readers – and we are all thrilled that there is more to come from Joe’s magnificent characters too.”

O’Connor is the author of nine previous novels including his multi-award-winning book Star of the Sea (Vintage). His fiction has been translated into 40 languages and he received the 2012 Irish PEN Award for outstanding achievement in literature.

He said: “I am absolutely thrilled and excited that My Father’s House and the future Rome Escape Line novels will be published by Harvill Secker. Working on the book with editor Liz Foley has been a joy, and I deeply admire the skill and professionalism of the whole Harvill/PRH team. This novel means a lot to me and I couldn’t imagine it in better hands as it sets out to meet its readers.”

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