First, spoof Aussie biographies; now a classic short story told 99 times

On the eve of the UK publication of Ryan O'Neill's prize-winning Australian novel Their Brilliant Careers, Lightning Books signs his follow-up

Lightning Books has acquired the second novel by the Scottish-born winner of Australia’s richest literary prize, Ryan O’Neill, as it prepares to publish his first novel in the UK.

The short story The Drover's Wife, which O'Neill reworks 99 times, is such a classic in Australia that it was commemorated on a postage stamp last year

The Drover’s Wives is an experimental collection that takes a classic Australian short story, The Drover’s Wife by Henry Lawson, and reworks, remixes and revises it in ninety-nine different ways. The range of variations include a Year Eight essay, a pop song, a sporting commentary, an insurance claim and even a cryptic crossword.

Scott Pack, Lightning's editor-at-large, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights, excluding Australia and New Zealand, direct from the author.

The announcement comes just as Lightning Books publishes a UK edition of Their Brilliant Careers, O’Neill’s debut novel, which won the Australian Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction.

That novel also references in its title a classic work of Australian fiction: My Brilliant Career by pioneer feminist Miles Franklin.

Pack said: ‘I have already been yelling on social media about Their Brilliant Careers, and how it is one of the most inventive works of fiction I have ever read. The reaction from booksellers in advance of publication has been phenomenal, so signing this follow-up was a no-brainer.’

Their Brilliant Careers is published this month and has been selected as a Book of the Month at Blackwell’s. It purports to be a collection of biographies of sixteen Australian writers but is actually a work of fiction. As well as winning the PM’s Award – Australia’s most lucrative literary prize – it was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Lightning will publish The Drover’s Wives in the UK in 2019. It will be published in Australia later this year, and has been described by Australian literary grandee Frank Moorhouse as ‘a cerebrally imaginative tour de force’.

Ryan O’Neill was born in Glasgow in 1975 and lived in Africa, Europe and Asia before settling in Australia. His short story collection The Weight of a Human Heart was shortlisted for the 2012 Queensland Literary Awards. He lives in Sydney.

Their Brilliant Careers is published in hardback by Lightning Books on 26 April, price £14.99

Published on
April 24, 2018