In its latest book acquisitions, Colin Callender’s prestige drama producer Playground Entertainment has secured the rights to two new bestsellers with plans to adapt them into TV series. The Widow is a psychological thriller by Fiona Barton and published by Penguin Random House Books while Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories is a non-fiction account of the famed UK lawyer’s life by Thomas Grant and published by John Murray. The deals follow the recent option of Patrick Kingsley’s The New Odyssey – The Story Of Europe’s Refugee Crisis which will be published in May. All three were acquired out of Playground’s UK outpost which is led by Managing Director Louise Pedersen.
The Widow was published in January and has sold over 35K copies in the UK, making it the top debut hardback of 2016; it’s also currently in the Top 20 on the New York Times bestseller list. A debut novel by former journalist Barton, It’s described as an intimate psychological thriller about Jean, the wife of a man who is accused (and eventually cleared) of kidnapping and murdering a child. Throughout the ordeal, she stands by her man, seemingly refusing to believe anything the police or press accused him of. But when he suddenly dies, both the law and the media want answers.
Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories looks at the life and work of the celebrated British attorney who is now 101 years old. The timely biography follows Hutchinson through 14 of his most controversial cases, from the sex and spying scandals which contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1963 and the subsequent fall of the Conservative government, to the fight against literary censorship through Hutchinson’s defense of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Fanny Hill.
Hutchinson also defended double agent George Blake; Profumo affair figure Christine Keeler; Great Train robber Charlie Wilson; alleged art thief Kempton Bunton; art ‘faker’ Tom Keating; and Howard Marks who, in a sensational defense, was acquitted of charges relating to the largest importation of cannabis in British history.
Sophie Gardiner, Creative Director of Playground UK says, “Though one book is fiction and the other is non-fiction, both books feature striking central characters caught up in stories that speak to the key issues of our time and should appeal to a wide-ranging audience. Both titles are exactly the kind of thought-provoking writing which we are looking to develop.”
Both books were acquired at manuscript stage. I’m told there is no timeline on either project at the moment.
Playground’s 2015 adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s bestsellers Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies leads this year’s BAFTA TV Award nominations with four in the main categories and six in the craft races. The company is currently in pre-production in the UK on Kenneth Lonergan’s miniseries adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic Howards End for the BBC.