Novel Rejected for Pandemic Lockdown Published 15 Years Later

From The Kashmir Observer:

A dystopian novel about a deadly pandemic wreaking havoc across the world that was rejected 15 years ago has finally been published after reality once more proved itself stranger than fiction.

Scottish author Peter May, 68, a former journalist and BBC screenwriter, wrote Lockdown in 2005, imagining London as the epicentre of a global outbreak, only to see his manuscript turned away by publishers, who deemed its subject matter “extremely unrealistic and unreasonable”.

“At the time I wrote the book, scientists were predicting that bird flu was going to be the next major world pandemic,” Mr May told CNN.

“It was a very, very scary thing and it was a real possibility, so I put a lot of research into it and came up with the idea, what if this pandemic began in London? What could happen if a city like that was completely locked down?”

His novel centres around a police detective investigating the murder of a child after their bones are discovered at the site of a makeshift hospital, an idea anticipating the opening of the NHS Nightingale at the capital’s ExCeL Centre this week.

“British editors at the time thought my portrayal of London under siege by the invisible enemy of H5N1 [bird flu] was unrealistic and could never happen – in spite of the fact that all my research showed that, really, it could,” the author told iNews

Following the thriller’s dismissal, Mr May abandoned the project and eventually came to forget he had ever written it, until a fan contacted him on Twitter suggesting he write something for the age of the coronavirus, refreshing his memory and prompting him to retrieve the file from a Dropbox folder.

“I thought about it for a minute before I realised that I’ve kind of already done it,” he recalls. “I told my publisher about it and my editor just about fell out of his chair. He read the entire book overnight and the next morning he said, ‘This is brilliant. We need to publish this now.’”

Link to the rest at The Kashmir Observer

Lockdown was unavailable on Amazon when PG checked, but the preview below worked right after PG posted it.

9 thoughts on “Novel Rejected for Pandemic Lockdown Published 15 Years Later”

  1. For what it’s worth the Kindle edition is available in the UK (£4.99) – and Australia – so presumably could be out in the USA, even though all that actually seems to be on offer is an out of stock paperback.

    PG, what puzzles me is why you had to learn about this from the Kashmir Observer (and for that matter whether, out of all the papers in the World, this is part of your daily reading)?

    • The KO isn’t so weird to me. Not that I’ve heard of it; I just used to make reading the English-language press of different countries a daily read. Haven’t had time for it in ages, but I did remember to go back to the Japan Times (English online version of the Asahi Shimbun) and the Japan News (English online version of the Yomiuri Shimbun) when the pandemic was heating up in Japan. I think those papers were where I first learned of how creepy North Korea’s regime was, because at the time I started reading those sites, Japan had finally received confirmation that the Norks had been kidnapping their citizens.

      I don’t know if the Kashmir Observer existed back in the early 00s, or it would have been a stop for me, too, since I sometimes read South Asian news sites back then.

      Hint for writers, reading foreign press is an easy way to do story research, too, if travel isn’t an option. And to borrow a line from “The Palace Job”: It’s your world! Stay in formed! 🙂

      • Fair point Jamie, though the problem then is selecting which of the many hundreds of of English language titles in dozens of countries one is going to sample. (Of course, sometimes it is obvious, like picking the Hindustan Times for IPL cricket reports).

        For me the USA is foreign but then the problem is paywalls on the papers I’ve heard of, non GDPR compliance blocks and objections to ad-blockers. Of course, I can fire up the VPN and go incognito (where my ad-blocker does not run) but it doesn’t always seem worth the effort.

        • Gotcha on the paywall / VPN. I used to read the Telegraph, but it’s paywalled, so I settled for the Guardian and ignore their ad-blocker talk (I use Brave browser). I haven’t tried using VPNs for any site, because I’ve yet to encounter anything worth the effort.

          • I also used to read the Telegraph. I find a lot of the Guardian’s political posturing less than honest but they do have good articles and at least one can just ignore the begging text at the foot of the story. Other sites try to insist you disable your ad-blocker and then, as likely as not, don’t recognise that you’ve done so. Normally I give up at this stage but if I’m really interested I go incognito as this gets round the problem.

            There is a special problem if one is in Europe as one often get interesting sounding links to USA sites which turn out to block EU locations as the site has chosen not to make the effort to comply with the GDPR (and why should they). A VPN helps here – I normally just use Opera with the VPN set to a USA location. The VPN can also be useful in finding out about e-books on as a proportion of them are not shown to someone in the UK (there appears to be no rhyme or reason as to whether the Kindle title is visible) and as, by jumping through the right hoops, I can purchase Kindle titles from it helps to be able to see them.

            As for the Brave browser, when it first emerged I was not convinced about the ethics of its business model, but maybe I should look again to see if this – or my judgement of it – has changed?

    • Some days I’m just in a web-wandering mood, Mike.

      More seriously, I have a bunch of Google Alerts keyed to publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, etc., that will occasionally help me to find items I would have missed without the alert.

  2. “This title will be released on August 18, 2020. ”

    Somebody is not doing their job. It should be available for download NOW.

    • Yeah, a lot of people need to be fired right now. The author is getting an expensive lesson on why he should have indie published instead.

  3. I have a similar book, a novella originally published via Kindle Worlds and written at the request of A.G. Riddle in connection with his bestseller, “The Atlantis Gene.” As with all KW books, my AIRBORNE went poof after they shuttered the program. So (with Riddle’s permission) I republished it myself.

    I tell people it’s just fiction–and even scarier than reality, since the unfortunate victims of my pandemic die within the space of a few hours!

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