This post is also available in: العربية

HarperCollins UK is to publish the prequel to one of the best-loved novels of the 1970s, A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Bradford’s original novel, published in 1979, is a sweeping, international saga about Yorkshire kitchen maid Emma Harte who rises from poverty to run a retail empire that spans the globe. In the new novel, Blackie and Emma, she tells the story of how Emma’s friendship with Blackie O’Neill began and how he too is driven by poverty and a desire to escape his background.

The publisher has British and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, under an existing publishing contract, and also holds translation rights. Lynne Drew, HarperCollins Publishing Director, General Fiction said:Blackie and Emma is the kind of idea that gives an editor goosebumps. When Barbara rang me to tell me she wanted to write Blackie’s story I could immediately hear the excitement in her voice – and knew the fans would go wild. I can’t wait to bring the never-before-told story of Blackie and Emma out into the world.”

Bradford, who lives in New York, is a publishing phenomenon. Born and raised in England, she left school at 15 for the typing pool at the Yorkshire Evening Post. At 18, she became the paper’s first woman’s editor and, at 20, moved to London and became a columnist and editor on Fleet Street. She has published 33 books, all worldwide bestsellers, including her first novel, A Woman of Substance which marks its 40th anniversary this year. Her books have sold over 90 million copies worldwide in more than ninety countries and forty languages, and have been adapted for TV mini-series and TV movies.

Arabic rights to the new novel have not yet been sold and interestingly it is unclear whether A Woman of Substance itself has ever been published in Arabic. The Curtis Brown agency holds the translation rights.

Bradford’s 34th book, In the Lion’s Den, has just been published and she is also is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust and in 2007 was awarded an OBE for her services