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Faber acquires a riveting exploration of evil

Faber & Faber have acquired a riveting exploration of evil by renowned forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Gwen Adshead and writer Eileen Horne. Editorial Director Laura Hassan acquired UK & Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) in The Devil You Know: Understanding Human Evil from Sophie Lambert at C&W in a thirteen-way auction. Anna Stein concluded a significant US deal with Daniel Loedel at Scribner and pre-empts have been tied up in Italy (Mondadori), Brazil (Companhia) and Russia (AST) with an auction in Romania. Further international interest and offers are ongoing.

We tend to think that evil is a remote force belonging to news headlines and TV dramas. However, as Dr Gwen Adshead argues in this gripping and compassionate study, every single one of us has the potential for evil. During her twenty years at Broadmoor Hospital, Dr Adshead has worked with men and women imprisoned and reviled as monsters for committing appalling crimes. But before they crossed that ultimate line – taking or destroying another life – many were ordinary people. By guiding us through her patients’ fractured life stories, Dr Adshead invites us not only to meditate on the possibility of redemption but to radically question human nature itself. Until psychiatry came of age in the nineteenth century, it fell to dramatists, poets, and novelists to try and make sense of the senseless – and the book’s series of case studies developed between a psychiatrist/therapist and a storyteller flow directly from that precept.

Dr Gwen Adshead is a pioneering Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist. As well as continuing to work at Broadmoor, Dr Adshead also works in a medium secure unit in Hampshire. She has a Masters’ Degree in Medical Law and Ethics and has published a number of academic books and over one hundred papers. She was honoured with the President’s Medal for services to psychiatry in July 2013; an honorary doctorate from St George’s Hospital Medical School in 2016; and was the Gresham Professor of Psychiatry 2014-2017. She is frequently interviewed in print and broadcast media and recently appeared on the BBC’s ’Desert Island Discs’ and ’The Life Scientific’. 

Eileen Horne is an author, dramatist and former television drama producer. She is a graduate of the Faber Academy (2009) with an MA in Life Writing from Goldsmiths. She has lectured widely at film festivals and universities across the UK and Europe and written numerous original BBC radio dramas and adaptations. She is the author of The Pitch with Judy Counihan (Faber, 2006) as well as the true story of a very British censorship scandal, Zola and The Victorians (MacLehose Press, 2015).

Laura Hassan said: ’The Devil You Know is a future classic. Dr Adshead’s deeply sensitive and empathetic storytelling brings these patients to life in a remarkably three-dimensional way that restores their humanity. She fascinatingly explores psychological complexities as well as ethical dilemmas, and I’ve found myself unable to stop thinking about the people at the heart of these case studies. It’s unsettling reading but – like the best non-fiction – it has the power to explode our assumptions and ultimately to change our minds, whether about the nature of evil, society’s attitude towards punishment, or the possibility of rehabilitation. I can’t wait to publish this book.’

Dr Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne said: ‘It’s a privilege to work as a therapist with people who struggle with the most human of tragedies; and it also feels like a privilege to have Faber supporting our work in this way.’