His Bloody Project, the 2016 Man Booker Prize-nominated novel by Scottish writer Graeme Macrae Burnet, isn’t even available in the United States yet (it’ll be out Tuesday, October 18 for any readers anxiously awaiting) and already the title has outsold all the other Man Booker Prize nominees, a list which includes the work of authors like previous Man Booker Prize-nominee Deborah Levy and popular American satire writer and poet Paul Beatty. Definitely the dark horse of the Man Booker Prize shortlist, His Bloody Project tells the story of a triple murder in a remote Highland village in the late 19th century, and is chronicled through a series of fictionalized documents — police statements, medical reports, and psychiatric evaluations, as well as the prison memoir of the 17-year-old murderer, Roderick Macrae.
His Bloody Project is also the first title written by a Scottish author and published by a Scottish publisher to make the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Burnet’s publisher, Contraband, is the crime imprint of the Glasgow, Scotland-based press Saraband (not to be mistaken with Sarabande Books, the US-based not-for-profit literary press) and with an initial print run of 1,500 copies, the two person-run, independent publisher has gone back to press three times to meet His Bloody Project sales demands. The novel has already sold over 10,000 copies as of September, with the next-ranking Man Booker Prize-nominated title, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, coming in at around 6,400 copies, as reported earlier in September by The Guardian.
But who is Graeme Macrae Burnet? The author, who studied English Literature at Glasgow University, taught in France, the Czech Republic and Portugal, and later worked in television, has published one other book — the 2014 detective novel The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau. Burnet was also a winner of a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award in 2013, and long-listed for the Waverton Good Read Award for The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau.
In a recent interview with the Irish Times, Burnet, who has been writing creatively since he was a teenager, credits J. D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye with being the first book to make a serious impression on him, saying:
“I came across Catcher in the Rye when I was 15 or 16. I was captivated from the very first lines – “and all that David Copperfield kind of crap”. Until that point I thought novels were about someone else or somewhere else. I didn’t know they could speak directly to me. I felt that I was Holden Caulfield; that he spoke with my voice, said the things I wanted to say.”
This year’s Man Booker Prize winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 25, at a black-tie dinner in London, during a ceremony that will be broadcast by the BBC. Nominees in addition to Burnet, Paul Beatty, and Deborah Levy include Ottessa Moshfegh for her novel Eileen, David Szalay for All That Man Is, and Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing.