9 January 2023

ILP Acquires Literary Estates of
Ngaio Marsh, Ann Rule and Angela Thirkell

International Literary Properties (ILP) has added three new acclaimed and award-winning literary estates to its rapidly growing portfolio; a majority interest in the literary estate of Dame Ngaio Marsh, DBE; a majority interest in the literary estate of Ann Rule; and full ownership of the literary works of Angela Thirkell.

These three important estates, all from female authors, join a growing number of significant properties and estates already owned and managed by ILP, including Georges Simenon and James M. Cain, and demonstrate the breadth  of the businesses’ global expansion, originating as they do from New Zealand, the US and the UK.

Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982) is one of New Zealand’s best-known authors, and one of the four original ‘Queens of Crime’ – female writers who dominated the genre in the 1920s and 30s – alongside Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy L. Sayers. ILP has already acquired Margery Allingham’s estate and is building a significant position in crime writers, alongside other genres. Marsh is best known for her character Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard, a ‘gentleman detective’ who appears in all 32 of her novels. She is credited with helping to elevate the detective story to the level of respected literary fiction, combining elegant literary style with deftly observed characters, cleverly constructed puzzles and credible social settings.

The theatre and art world provide the backdrop for many of Marsh’s novels, which are influenced by her own experiences studying painting and producing theatre in New Zealand. As well as the Alleyn stories, Marsh wrote five plays, numerous short stories, non-fiction books and articles, and even a handful of songs. Marsh spent much of her life in Britain and was appointed a Dame in 1966 for services to the arts. [In 1989, she was honoured with a stamp by the New Zealand post as part of their authors series and, in 2015, Google created a Doodle in her memory.

American true crime writer Ann Rule (1931-2015) is best known for her bestselling debut book on serial killer Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me, published in 1980, the year of his conviction. Bundy was personally known to Ann, and she considered him both a colleague and a friend before his crimes were revealed. She later described him as ‘a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another human’s pain and the control he had over his victims’. Rule conducted a series of jailhouse interviews with Bundy, as well as detailing police procedures and years of geographically dispersed law enforcement efforts.

Rule continued to write about murder cases, predominantly in the Pacific Northwest, from Small Sacrifices (1983) to Practice to Deceive (2013), until her death in 2015. Her subjects were often what she described as ‘antiheros’ – ‘attractive, brilliant, charming, popular, wealthy, talented, and much admired in their communities – but really hiding behind masks.’ Much of her detailed, laborious studies were driven by questioning what led people to criminal behavior, and the psychology behind their horrific crimes. In the New York Times’ obituary of Rule, William Grimes wrote ‘in a crowded field, she consistently led the pack, taking up most of the real estate in the true crime shelves of bookstores’.

Angela Thirkell (1890-1961) was born in England to a culturally distinguished family. She was the granddaughter of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne Jones, the first cousin once removed of Rudyard Kipling, and the goddaughter of Peter Pan author JM Barrie. Angela travelled to Australia with her second husband, George Lancelot Allnut Thirkell, and began writing in Melbourne initially to earn money. She wrote many articles and short stories, which continued after her return to England in 1929, and her first novel, Ankle Deep, was published in 1931 by Hamish Hamilton. Her second novel, High Rising, was a critical success, and firmly established her reputation as a novelist. Many of her novels were set in the fictional English county of Barsetshire, invented by the novelist Anthony Trollope a century beforehand.

Thirkell was a prolific and energetic writer and published a new novel each year. She specialized in popular fiction that wove together the everyday lives of her characters to entertainingly comic effect. The timeliness of her books is characteristic of her writing: she helped to define eras such as the settlement of Australia and ‘digger’ archetypes, the Second World War home-front efforts, the war experiences of British women, and the post-war impact of PTSD on the young men returning from battle and those around them.

Hilary Strong, CEO of ILP UK and Europe, says: “I am thrilled that ILP has added the literary estates of these three trailblazing female writers from different parts of the globe to its portfolio. I have been lucky enough to work closely with a number of crime estates, amongst them Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh is undoubtedly one of the masters of crime fiction, whilst Ann Rule is a legend in the true crime genre and offers exciting potential for podcasting in particular. It is ILP’s mission to introduce their stories to new generations. I have long admired the entertaining and epoch-defining novels of Angela Thirkell, and so I am delighted to be able to add her prolific catalogue to our portfolio too. It is a privilege to bring the estates of these three fascinating women, and all of our authors, to new audiences across all platforms.”

Scott Hoffman, President and CEO of ILP, adds: “We’re delighted to add these quintessential authors to ILP’s catalog, and look forward to working closely with these estates’ long-time incumbent agents to expand their legacies and further cement their position as icons not only in the genres in which they wrote, but in all of literature.”