EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired the screen rights to Adrian McKinty’s novel The Chain in a deal that calls for a guaranteed low-seven-figure payday for the author, an Uber driver until a series of deals for the book changed his life. The book will be published by Little Brown/Mulholland on July 9.
The Chain tells the story of Rachel, who learns that her 11-year-old daughter has been kidnapped. The only way to get her back is to kidnap another child. Her daughter will be released only when that next victim’s parents kidnap another child. If Rachel doesn’t kidnap another child, or if that child’s parents don’t kidnap a child, her daughter will be murdered. She is now part of The Chain, a terrifying and meticulous chain letter-like kidnapping scheme that turns parents from victims into criminals.
The book tells Rachel’s harrowing story as victim, survivor, abductor and criminal. What the masterminds behind The Chain know is that parents will do anything for their children. But what they don’t know is that in Rachel they have finally met their match, as she is smart and tough enough to have survived a bout with cancer and is determined to break The Chain while getting her daughter back.
The film will be produced by Shane Salerno and The Story Factory, which repped the author in the deal along with CAA.
Quite a turn of events for McKinty, the son of a shipyard welder who grew up in a Belfast housing project during the “Troubles.” He was accepted at Oxford on full scholarship — first in his family to go to college — and wrote a bunch of books over two decades but not enough to support his wife and two daughters. To pay his bills, he did odd jobs from construction to picking up fares as an Uber driver. It wasn’t enough: He was evicted from his home because the book writing didn’t pay him a living wage. Frustrated, McKinty wrote a fan letter to Don Winslow, the author of bestsellers including The Cartel and The Force. McKinty described to Winslow as a fan, and his letter amounted to McKinty expressing regret that he himself had not been able to make it as a writer.
Winslow, who at one point found himself so frustrated by the paltry proceeds of his critically acclaimed books that hadn’t broken through that he pondered a return to an early side job as a safari tour guide, urged McKinty not to give up. He referred McKinty to Salerno, who with tough negotiating and brash marketing campaigns helped Winslow become a perennial bestselling author with several seven-figure movie and TV deals under his belt. Salerno, also a screenwriter who co-wrote the Avatar sequels, has collaborated with Winslow on adaptations of his books. When Salerno followed up, McKinty was reluctant and hung up more than once. Finally, Winslow and Salerno called together, learned McKinty had been evicted and was driving an Uber, and together they convinced him to give it one more try.
That book turned out to be The Chain. Winslow lent this quote for the book, calling it “Jaws for parents” and adding that “it belongs in the elite company of world-class thrillers like Gone Girl and The Silence of the Lambs.”
The Chain was acquired by Little Brown/Mulholland in another pre-emptive deal, and it became a hot book at Frankfurt that has been sold in 35 countries. It is getting strong reviews and has drawn supportive quotes from authors that include Stephen King and Dennis Lehane.
“My story is a story of never giving up,” McKinty said in a statement. “It’s a story about writers helping fellow writers. I hope it inspires other writers who may be thinking about quitting, to never give up. I never imagined any of this could happen, but I hoped it would. I had hope. I am so grateful and I hope my story inspires others.”
Paramount exec Alex Jackson brought in the book and will shepherd it. Here is a trailer for the book: