The publishing press Viking has acquired the Somali writer Nadifa Mohamed’s third novel, The Fortune Men, set in 1950s Cardiff and based on the real-life wrongful murder accusation and execution of a Somali man, Mahmood Mattan. The book—with UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) rights secured by Viking’s Mary Mount from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein on behalf of Nicole Aragi at Aragi Inc—will be published spring or summer 2021. It took 15 years to write. A brief synopsis, according to The Bookseller:
The novel, set in 1950s Cardiff and based on a true event, tells the story of a young Somali man accused of a crime he did not commit—the murder of a shopkeeper in the cosmopolitan neighbourhood of Tiger Bay.
Born in 1981 in Hargeysa, Somalia, Nadifa Mohamed studied history and politics at Oxford. Her debut novel Black Mamba Boy (2009), a semi-biographical account of her father’s time in 1930s-40s Yemen, won the Betty Trask Award, was longlisted for the Orange Prize, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Her second novel The Orchard of Lost Souls (2013), set in a Somalia heading towards civil war, won the Somerset Maugham Award and was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. A creative writing lecturer at the University of London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she was named among Granta‘s “Best of Young British Novelists” in 2013 and Hay Festival’s “Africa39″ list in 2014.
“Nadifa’s novel is not only a beautiful and brilliantly told work of fiction, it also offers a profound and unsettling portrait of our society,” Mount said. “It is a portrait that, sadly, is as resonant for our times as it was for the period in which the novel takes place. All of us at Viking are thrilled that this wonderful novelist will be joining the list.”
“I am delighted that The Fortune Men, which I have worked on for 15 years, will be published by Viking,” Mohamed said. “The story of Mahmood Mattan got under my skin and demanded to be told, I can’t wait to share it with a wider audience.”