The Fatal Tree
Welcome to a world of “academies” (brothels), “bung-nippers” (pickpockets), “buttocks” (prostitutes) with “Covent Garden Gout” (syphilis) being chased by “prig-nappers” (Thief-Takers).
It is the world Elizabeth Lyon has been thrown into after being betrayed by her first love. She changes her name to Edgeworth Bess and joins the seedy underworld of 1720s London. Her life changes when she falls in love with the crack thief, Jack Shepard, and the two become the 18th Century Bonnie and Clyde – notorious, passionate and daring.
This is her memoir, written by William Archer, the Grub Street hack, whose own story is revealed as he tells the tale of the notorious Edgeworth Bess.
The audio rights are handled by Alice Lutyens.
Contact Ben Hall for more information
Kate Cooper manages the translation rights for The Fatal Tree
Jake Arnott, who is probably best known forexcellent novels such as The Long Firm aboutLondon gangsters in the 1960s, has done much more than update the work of his18th-century predecessors. Unlike them, he shows the citizens of Romeville aspeople, not as folk heroes or bogeymen, and he does this without prurience orsentimentality. In doing so, he gives us a convincing and densely texturedpicture of the world they live in. He doesn’t spare the reader the fruits ofhis research. If sentences like ‘I touted peery of the prig-napper bylightmans’ make you feel queasy, this may not be the novel for you. The rest ofus will scurry to the glossary at the end of the book. It’s worth the effort. The Fatal Tree isnot just a sophisticated exercise in historical pastiche. Arnott explores whatpoor Bess calls ‘the felony of love’, a crime that is not on the statute book.The result is powerful, poignant and readable.Andrew Taylor, Spectator
A work of dazzling imagination and linguistic inventivenessAlex Preston, Observer
A rambunctious narrative of venery, theft, death and a devil-may-care braggadocio, its doomed love story undercuts and counterpoints the swagger with a touching melancholy. Bess, Jack and Jonathan were real people and this confident linguistic pastiche reimagines them with infectious energy.
A big, hearty beast of a book
Imaginative . . . a zesty novel that depicts London’s underworld as a place that assaults the senses and tugs on the heartstrings
A phantasmagoric walk on the Wild side . . . Jack's awkward courtship of Bess is a highlight of the book – Arnott's best so far – and genuinely moving . . . an astonishingly vivid act of ventriloquy that breathes life into infamous corpses
[Arnott’s] flair for noir – corruption, menace and the psychosexuality of gangsters – transposes well into “Romeville” . . . how naturally he handles the detail of the thieves’ subculture . . . He gifts his prig-nappers and pot-valiant bawds the kind of one-liners Moll Flanders would have rejoiced in . . . the texture of Romeville is created not by those overworked tropes of historical fiction, the smells, the customs, the clothes – but by words . . . Arnott never sentimentalises the desperation and lawlessness of the time.