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14 octobre 2007

Publishers fight for War Child

Publishers are locked in a bidding war for the autobiography of Emmanuel Jal—the child soldier who has risen to become Kenya's biggest music star.

War Child is agented by Ivan Mulcahy of Mulcahy and Viney, and UK rights attracted "strong five figure bids" from Macmillan, Little, Brown, Transworld and John Murray. The auction went to sealed bids yesterday afternoon and was due to be settled as the Bookseller Daily went to press.

The book will be released in the US and the UK in early 2009, a year on from the launch of Jal's first global album through Universal Records in February. US rights were sold to St Martin's Press for $200,000 ahead of the fair, with Atrium as the under-bidder. In Italy, Diogenes' paperback arm TEA took the book off the table with a "strong preemptive offer".

War Child follows the 26-year old hip hop star as a child soldier in the Sudanese civil war, which saw him using AK47s when he was just eight years old. "[Emmanuel] was one of the lost boys of Sudan—as they have become known by aid workers—who did the 1000 km trek in the midst of the war, during which 300 boys died and only about 20 made it," said Mulcahy. "They starved to death and many of them turned to cannibalism to try to survive." Jal did not turn to cannibalism, but the book will tell of his experience lying by the side of the corpse of one of his friends and praying to help him resist the temptation.

He was eventually smuggled into Kenya, where he went to school for the first time and launched his music career. Jal has since become the country's biggest music property and earned rave reviews at Live 8. He is also a spokesman for Save the Children and Oxfam.

"He has an extraordinary voice and an extraordinary stage presence. He's stunning looking and very articulate—very bright," Mulcahy said. "It just needs this global album to make him into a major star." He added: "I think he could be really big. When Peter Gabriel met him he said he felt he had met the new young Bob Marley."

Katherine Rushton

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