Head of Zeus in London has acquired the dramatic and moving story of the battle to save Mosul Zoo in northern Iraq before and after the occupation by Daesh. Father of Lions: The Story of Mosul Zoo is by Sunday Times Middle East correspondent, Louise Callaghan.
Head of Zeus’ publisher, Neil Belton, bought British Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada), from Max Edwards at Mulcahy Associates. The title has sold to Macmillan in the US and to publishers in Holland, Italy and Portugal. At the time of writing, Arabic rights are still available.
The book is centred on the fiercely committed and temperamental ex-mechanic and soldier Abu Laith, who ran the zoo and became known as ‘father of lions.’ Most of what he knew about animal behaviour he had gleaned from his love of dogs and from watching the National Geographic channel on TV. The publisher says: “He was a crazy self-taught naturalist, a hard-fisted Gerald Durrell [the British writer and naturalist and author of My Family and Other Animals]. He and his family nearly starved in their efforts to keep the lions, bears and monkeys alive. Most of the animals died, only one bear and one young lion surviving the siege. The surviving animals had to be smuggled out of Mosul in a dramatic rescue mission.”
Belton said: “Father of Lions is charming, funny and horrifying, offering a strange insight into the cruel fanaticism of the now-vanished Caliphate. It is also a testament to the capacity for decency of ordinary people.
Callaghan moved to Istanbul as Turkey correspondent for the Sunday Times aged 26 as one of the youngest foreign correspondents ever hired by the paper before winning a number of prizes including 2016 British Press Awards and the 2017 British Journalism Awards. She is still writing the book and said: ‘I’m overjoyed that Head of Zeus will be publishing Father of Lions. I hope that it will do justice to the incredible bravery and perseverance of the humans and animals of Mosul Zoo.”
Father of Lions: The Story of Mosul Zoo will be published in September.