Cormac James and the search for the Franklin Expedition

THE SURFACING, a striking Arctic-set historical novel by Cormac James, is published this month by Sandstone Press, and the timing could not be better. THE SURFACING tells the story of the Impetus and her crew, setting out in 1850 towards the Northwest passage in search of the lost Franklin expedition. And, in 2014, the search continues, as a Canadian expedition has recently set sail to find the missing ships.

Cormac James was recently featured on the Today Programme talking about the Franklin expedition, the new search for the ships, and how it relates to his book. If you have access to BBC iPlayer, you can hear him at 08.50. Bookbrunch have also published a feature on THE SURFACING’s topicality.

The Irish Times gave a great review to THE SURFACING, writing: 'The cool precision of James’s writing draws you on as surely as if you’re there... Plenty of bitchy, scrappy dialogue adds a blackly comic note, but James’s overarching storyline is measured, stately, assured... great start to the new reading season.'

Rights to this powerful novel have already been sold in the US to Bellevue Literary Press, in Australia to Text publishing, and in Romania and Slovakia. You can see the three stunning English Language covers next to each other on our Pinterest board.

Sandstone Press Acquire Striking Arctic Novel by Cormac James

Cormac James Photo 2.JPG

 Robert Davidson has agreed Sandstone Press’s first deal with the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, for a breathtaking literary historical novel by Irish writer Cormac James. Currently titled THE SURFACING, the novel is set largely on board a ship in the 1850s, searching for Franklin’s lost expedition. It’s a challenging and dangerous endeavour in a very male world – that is until Morgan, the second-in-command of the Impetus, realises there is a pregnant stowaway on board and that he is the father. It is too late to turn back, the ice is closing in, and the child will have to be born into the vast and icy wilderness of the Arctic. Sandstone Press, who have had two Booker-longlisted titles in two years, bought UK and British Commonwealth rights excluding Canada from Isobel Dixon.

Robert Davidson of Sandstone says: ‘It is rare to come across such an original and perfect novel as Cormac James’ tale of the Impetus, her crew and stowaway. Their enormous bravery, conflicts and fate, are going to stake out a unique and permanent place in 21st century fiction.’

Cormac James says: “I am delighted to be joining the list of such an exciting independent publisher. Sandstone follow their own particular orbit, but year on year now are exercising more and more of a gravitational pull. They certainly drew me in. They’re not only independent but independent-minded, and in that spirit the editors showed a real affinity for the novel’s ideas and approach. I know it’s going to be a pleasure working with them.”

Isobel Dixon says: ‘I was hooked from the first page by this unusual story of determination, courage and the desperate will to survive. The ship and the ice are powerful and characterful forces in the novel, and the journey of the Impetus and those who live out their struggles on board will haunt me – and many readers to come – for a very long time. I’m thrilled that Sandstone are on board.’

Born in Cork, Ireland, Cormac James now lives in France. He is a graduate of the UEA Creative Writing course and received a Literature Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland in 2010, based on the opening section of this novel. For more information click here.

For a selection of images from the time and world of THE SURFACING, click here.

Sandstone will publish THE SURFACING in September 2014.

Praise for Cormac James:

‘An extraordinary novel, combining a powerful narrative with a considered and poetic use of language in a way that is not often seen these days. Reading the book, I recalled the dramatic natural landscape of Jack London and the wild untamed seas of William Golding. Cormac James' writing is ambitious enough to be compared with either.'-- John Boyne

‘Cormac James’s writing is very assured, with a harsh poetic edge. His evocations of barren landscape, sea weather, pack ice and frozen skies are powerful and compelling.’ – Rose Tremain


Young child in furs (Stefansson Expedition 1913-16),

Young child in furs (Stefansson Expedition 1913-16),

Setting out from ship (Stefansson Expedition 1913-16) 

Setting out from ship (Stefansson Expedition 1913-16)