EXCLUSIVE: Loch Down Abbey, the debut novel by Beth Cowan-Erskine, is headed for the small screen. Madison Wells, Gigi Pritzker’s company behind Nat Geo’s Genius and 21 Bridges, is developing the book as a series after optioning the rights.
The book, which Cowan-Erskine wrote during the pandemic and was published by Hodder & Stoughton/Hachette last month, is centered on the delightfully selfish and out-of-step Inverkillen family. The trouble starts when Lord Inverkillen is found dead in mysterious circumstances after making a disastrous deal to sell off the family’s only asset, the whiskey distillery. The inspector declares it an accident but Mrs MacBain, the savvy head housekeeper, isn’t so convinced. No one is allowed in or out of the Abbey because of a mysterious illness sweeping the country, so the residents of the house — both upstairs and downstairs — are the only suspects. The desperate state of the family’s finances are revealed to the family; without quick intervention it’s likely the estate will have to be sold to cover the debts, leaving them homeless.
Most of the Inverkillens haven’t left the estate in decades and are best at doing what can only be described as nothing. With the servants increasingly out of commission because of the mysterious virus, Mrs MacBain tries to keep everything “normal” while also conducting her own clever investigation of Lord Inverkillen’s death and in doing so uncovers a whole host of long-hidden secrets, lies and betrayals that will alter the dynamics of the household forever.
The series will be produced by Pritzker, Rachel Shane and Amanda Morgan Palmer for Madison Wells along with Samantha Sprecher (The Comedians), who is producing through her new company 3 Foot Toss.
Cowan-Erskine is an American expat who married into a Scottish family with their own tartan and family tree older than her home country. Using them as inspiration, she wrote the book during the coronavirus lockdown, hoping it would be enough to get her dis-invited from the annual family walking holiday. Sadly, it backfired and led to long discussions of who will play whom in the film. When not writing features for The American Magazine, she owns an interior architecture and design studio in the Cotswolds. She is currently hard at work on the Loch Down Abbey sequel.
Michael Cendejas at the Lynn Pleshette Agency handled the film rights deal on behalf of Cowan-Erskine’s publishing agent, Greg Messina of Linwood/Messina.
“We have thought about how to capture what has happened to us all in the last year and Beth has found a way through wit and empathy,” Pritzker said. “It was immediately evident that this incredibly witty book should be turned into a fun and entertaining television series that audiences will love. Beth is such an impressive writer, and person, and we are confident her book will capture a loyal and devoted fanbase. We cannot wait to read the sequel.”