Character 7, whose founder Stephen Garrett executive produced The Night Manager and Spooks,  and is one of the producers behind the HBO hit The Undoing, has won a  bidding war for the rights to adapt Holly Watt’s  thriller novels, To The Lions and The Dead Line, which follow the life and adventures of globetrotting investigative journalist Casey Benedict.

To the Lions takes Casey into the North African desert to investigate a series of mysterious and disturbing incidents in a Moroccan refugee camp and a trail leading back to the highest echelons of Western society. Watt’s debut novel won the 2019 CWA Ian Fleming “Steel Dagger” Award, was shortlisted for the 2019 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize and was named on “Book of the Year” lists in the Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and Guardian.

In follow-up The Dead Line Casey seeks the source of a desperate message secreted in clothing sold on the British high street: They take the girls. Her search takes her across the world to a Bangladeshi refugee camp, and into the heart of the wealthy, connected families who will be destroyed if her discovery is revealed.

Character 7 was founded by Stephen Garrett and is best known for the BBC-AMC adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager, on which Garrett served as lead executive producer, and for supernatural thriller The Rook on Starz. Characters 7’s current work includes The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, written by David E Kelley, and directed – like The Night Manager – by Susanne Bier, which is currently airing on HBO / Sky and an adaptation of le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold for AMC and Paramount.

Prior to founding Character 7, Garrett was founder of Kudos.

On acquiring the right to Holly Watt’s novels, Stephen Garrett said: “Holly is a rare talent whose own edge-of-seat career has informed a uniquely topical twist on the espionage thriller and created an utterly compelling new hero in Casey Benedict. Although Casey’s role as a journalist adds an additional skillset and moral dimension to her adventures, she’s every inch the spy and will be an iconic addition to the canon.

Holly’s characters flit effortlessly from the heady and clandestine world of the super-rich to the desolation of refugee camps, a crisis forgotten by a COVID-distracted world. She has created stories which are eerily prescient. They will make thrilling and provocative television.”

Holly Watt said: “I can’t think of any better producer than Character 7 and Stephen Garrett to put Casey on screen for the first time. Stephen’s knowledge of what makes a good espionage thriller and his ability to adapt one from novel to screen is exemplary. I can’t wait to see Casey’s stories come to life in a new medium.”

Jon Creamer