How do you get a debut novel published? It helps if your surname is Depp

Set in the celebrity-studded enclave of the Hollywood Hills, the novel sees a private investigator hired by an A-list actor who is receiving a series of chilling death threats from an obsessive fan.

Ordinarily, the thriller written by a debut novelist, Daniel P Depp, might have found a modest market among crime fictionfans.

But once publishers discovered that the writer could offer an "insider's view" of Hollywood, there was a savage bidding war to buy the rights to the book. For Daniel P is the half-brother of a certain Johnny Depp.

Loser's Town is poised to become a publishing phenomenon around the world as well as in its home market of the United States. The rights to it were bought by Simon and Schuster in Britain in a "pre-emptive" deal – when an offer is so high that the book is taken off the market – as well as being snapped up in Canada, Hungary and France, with more foreign rights due to be sold, according to The Bookseller.

Depp's literary agent, Meg Davis, said she expected the interest to be "global" in the months leading up to publication next spring, with a follow-up "series" already planned.

"Daniel has been a producer [with Johnny Depp] so it has got a lot of authenticity and it gives the reader an insider's view of Hollywood," added Ms Davis.

The book, which is described as "half literary, half commercial" in style, involves a blackmail plot which the hard-bitten private investigator, David Spandau, is drafted in to solve. But in spite of its insights into Hollywood's underworld, Ms Davis said it was "purely fictitious" and was not inspired by the life of the author's famous brother.

"It's about a fictitious gangster who decides the only way to get someone to make his film is to blackmail a famous actor to be in it. This is no connection to Johnny. It's about Daniel wanting to be recognised as a writer rather than as Johnny's brother. There's no gossip in it. You read it for finding out how Hollywood works," she said.

Like his famous half-brother, Johnny, with whom he shares the same father, Daniel Depp was born in Kentucky. He read classics at university and after various jobs as a journalist, bookseller, photographer and teacher, he set up a production company called Scaramanga with Johnny in Hollywood.

They both worked on the film, The Brave, in 1997, with Johnny directing and starring alongside Marlon Brando, while Danielco-wrote the script.

The film was about a Native American released from jail who is offered the chance to "star" as the victim of a snuff film for a huge sum of money which would help his poverty stricken family.

The brothers made no other films together but the experience gave Daniel Depp a profound insight into the way Hollywood functions. Ms Davis said: "There is always work for a private investigator in Hollywood. You get a lot of actors – especially those who are stellar – who get death threats, or offers of marriage."

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