Master of 'body horror' films writes his first novel

David Cronenberg, the master of the "body horror" genre whose films include Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Crash and Eastern Promises, is turning his gruesome talent to the printed page.

Fourth Estate has paid a five-figure sum after a vicious bidding war between London publishers to snap up the Canadian director's debut novel.

Displaying typical bloodlust, Cronenberg has already completed 40 pages of Consumed and is expected to deliver the manuscript next year, with a view to publication in the autumn.

The plot will come as no surprise to fans of the maverick film-maker who has spent the past three decades revolting and delighting audiences in equal measure with his acclaimed and often obsessive exploration of the human body.

According to The Bookseller, it revolves around a married couple, who are investigative journalists working on two separate stories. The wife is in Paris, delving into a bizarre crime where a woman has been killed and possibly eaten, and whose husband has also apparently disappeared.

The journalist's husband is elsewhere in Europe, writing about a new treatment for cancer devised by a renegade doctor. His unorthodox methods involve planting radioactive nodes near the cancerous cells.

According to Cronenberg's editor, Mark Richards of Fourth Estate, what follows next is down to the writer's formidable imagination. "Where it will go from here is part of the fun," he said.

Mr Richards said that reading the first 40 pages of the novel was enough to convince the publisher to pay a high five-figure sum to clinch Cronenberg's signature. "It's an absolutely fantastic opening and there's no reason to think that the rest of the book will be anything less than that," he said.

"It's exactly what you would hope for from a Cronenberg novel," he said. "It has that slightly uneasy dark feeling but also has a funny tone that his films share. There is something genuinely uncanny about it. It is wonderful that it is from him but it is the strength of the writing that is so impressive."

Although Consumed is Cronenberg's first novel, the 65-year-old film-maker has had a longstanding interest in writing. His father was a journalist and as a young man Cronenberg wrote a series of eerie short stories before graduating from the University of Toronto with a literature degree.

Cronenberg's classic movies

* Rabid 1977

Marilyn Chambers develops a phallic 'stinger' hidden in an orifice under her armpit with which she attacks people, turning her victims into blood-sucking zombies

* Videodrome 1983

James Woods sees his belly transform into a giant female sex organ during a hallucination caused by a tumour-inducing TV signal

*The Fly 1986

A reconciliatory meeting with his girlfriend Geena Davis is marred

when Jeff Goldblum's ear falls off as his transformation into the 'Brundlefly' accelerates out of

control

*Crash 1996

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