New Regency has won the rights to a buzzy non-fiction title shedding new light on America’s first serial killer family.
“Hell’s Half-Acre,” penned by British historian Susan Jonusas, presents new revelations about the Benders, an 1870s Kansas family that achieved notoriety in the annals of U.S. crime history for murdering what is estimated to be up to a dozen travellers.
A number of bodies were discovered in 1873, buried by a trailside cabin beneath an orchard of young apple trees. Below the cabin was a cellar stained with blood. The owners of the property were the Benders, a family of four who once resided there but were nowhere to be found. The discovery sent the local community and national newspapers into a frenzy that continued for decades, sparking an extensive manhunt for the Benders.
The book, which will be released in March 2022, draws on extensive original archival material. The title will be published by Scribner in the U.K. and Viking in the U.S.
The deal was brokered between Simon Shaps of Georgina Capel Associates and Ed Rubin, head of New Regency Television International.
Rubin and Emma Broughton, head of scripted at New Regency Television International, said: “Susan’s compelling and richly textured book reads like the best page-turning thriller as it introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters previously missing from history — the victims’ families, the hapless detectives who lost the trail, and the fugitives who helped the murdering Benders escape. We’re so excited about the possibilities for a visceral drama that interweaves western, horror and thriller, and can’t wait to start developing it.”
Yariv Milchan, chairman of New Regency, added: “‘Hell’s Half-Acre’ is a magnificent book that captures America as a country on the edge of civilization, and lends itself so well to a bold, serialized adaptation for television.”
Jonusas is a historian specializing in crime and culture in the 19th and 20th century. She studied modern history and English literature at the University of St Andrews in Scotland before going on to complete a masters in the history of science, technology and medicine at Kings College London. Jonusas has written for both CNN and History Today.
“‘Hell’s Half-Acre’ is in fantastic hands at New Regency, and I am very excited to be a part of the development process as it unfolds,” said Jonusas.
The project is the latest for the “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer’s burgeoning television operation. Based out of London, New Regency Television International recently produced thriller “The Beast Must Die,”starring Cush Jumbo and Jared Harris, for BritBox U.K. and AMC.
Their slate of upcoming projects includes “Sine Tempore,” an original series created by musician and artist Goldie; “The Missing Cryptoqueen,” based on the popular BBC podcast; “Rub & Tug,” written by “Pose” and “Transparent” writer Our Lady J; and “Sorrow & Bliss,” based on the bestselling novel by Meg Mason. A television adaptation of “Mr & Mrs Smith” is also set up at Amazon with Donald Glover.