Emma Berquist’s debut novel Devils Unto Dust, which HarperCollins will publish under its Greenwillow imprint in April 2018, has been pre-emptively acquired by New Regency to make into a feature. Big Talk Pictures’ Nira Park will produce along with New Regency’s Arnon Milchan. Big Talk’s Rachael Prior will executive produce.

Described as True Grit meets 28 Days Later, the novel follows 17-year-old Daisy Wilcox’s journey through 1870’s West Texas during a Reconstruction period plagued by a deadly virus infecting thousands with a rabies-like disease that turns people into murderous “Shakes.” When Daisy’s father disappears, Daisy hires two Shake-hunters who specialize in killing the infected, and sets off into the terrorscape of the western frontier to find him.

Sam Hanson will oversee the project for New Regency.

“Very occasionally, you read a piece of material that stops you in your tracks. Devils Unto Dust is just such a piece and we’re thrilled Emma’s trusting us with adapting,” said Big Talk founder and producer Park. “Daisy is an utterly compelling heroine – a young woman who does not and cannot give up. The stage Emma has set for her story is distinct and highly evocative. We’re delighted to be partnering with New Regency on this project, who fell for it as fast and hard as we did.”

Berquist, a Texas native, is repped by Paradigm and Heather Flaherty at The Bent Agency.