Leading medieval historian switches to Penguin from Faber in two-book deal; 'one of the best prose writers at work in the non-fiction world' to publish on Richard II, Henry IV and Elizabeth I
Tom Penn, publishing director at Penguin Press, has bought UK and Commonwealth rights in two major books by Helen Castor. The British and Commonwealth rights were acquired from Patrick Walsh at PEW Literary, who separately closed an American auction won by Ben Loehnen for his new Avid Reader Press imprint at Simon & Schuster USA.
The first book is The Eagle and the Hart: The Tragedy of Richard II and Henry IV, scheduled for publication by Allen Lane in 2021. It will be followed in 2023 by a full and fresh biography, Elizabeth I, the subject of Castor’s short book in the Penguin Monarchs series. Previously she has been published by Faber for a decade (Blood and Roses, Joan of Arc, She-Wolves). She is also Bye-Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and, along with Lucy Worsley and Dan Snow, Castor is part of a generation of new TV-friendly historians.
Penn - who has also written a major history of Henry VII, Winter King - said: "Helen is one of our finest historians, and we’re thrilled to welcome her to Allen Lane. Her books combine profound insight and authority with an exceptionally gifted historical imagination. We were blown away by Helen’s proposal for The Eagle and the Hart, the story of the destructive relationship between two profoundly flawed medieval English kings; and for Elizabeth I, a new telling of the life of one of greatest, most enigmatic queens. These are books that Helen was born to write; we’re very excited to be publishing them."
Ben Loehnen, vice president and editor-in-chief of Simon and Schuster’s Avid Reader Press, said: "Helen Castor is not only writing vivid, narratively-rich, impeccably-researched history, but at a time when authority—be it political, moral, ethical—is in question around the world, she’s using the story of these rulers to help us understand the world we inhabit today."
Castor said: "I’ve been wanting to tell these stories about the exercise of power – its nature, limits and pitfalls – for a long time, and their resonance seems to me to be stronger now than ever. I’m so very pleased to have the chance to explore the intertwined lives of Richard and Henry, and to return in depth to Elizabeth, with two such exciting and distinguished presses."
Patrick Walsh at PEW Literary said: "Dr Helen Castor is an historian of power who specialises in examining how power is wielded and what makes for a good leader. Not only is she an indefatigable researcher, but she’s one of the best prose writers at work in the non-fiction world. It’s a joy that her two new projects have met with such excitement from brilliant editors on both sides of the Atlantic."
Pictured: Helen Castor (cr Chris Gibbions)