Canelo set to publish The African Samurai by Craig Shreve, a powerful fictionalised account of the life of Yasuke, a slave who became a samurai.

May 10, 2023

Craig Lye, commissioning editor, has acquired UK & Commonwealth (ex. Canada) rights to a new historical fiction standalone by Craig Shreve from Meg Wheeler (acting on behalf of Chris Casuccio) at Canada-based Westwood Creative Artists in a one-book deal.

The African Samurai is a fictionalised account of the life of Yasuke, a real historical figure, who was the first foreign-born man ever to be granted the rank of samurai in Japan, and the only man ever to do so of African heritage.

Yasuke has until recently been a ‘lost’ figure of history, and particularly of Black history, but in this incredible story, Shreve brings him to vibrant life; the tale of a slave who became a soldier, then a soldier who became a samurai. Set in the late 16th century, the narrative follows Yasuke as he gets caught up in the final movements of Oda Nobunaga’s great effort to reunify Japan after one hundred years of civil war following the downfall of the Shogunate. Under Nobunaga’s tutelage, Yasuke’s own journey to discover his identity after years of bondage is powerful, arresting and deeply moving.

Canelo has commissioned a cover from artist Kingsley Nebechi.

A live action limited series using the novel as source material is currently in development with Netflix, produced by 21 Laps (Stranger Things, Shadow and Bone), tentatively titled Yasuke. Lupin star Omar Sy is in talks to play the African Samurai himself. Forest Whitaker is attached as an executive producer.

Craig Shreve was born and raised in North Buxton, Ontario (a final destination for slaves escaping the United States via the Underground Railroad), and is a descendant of Abraham Doras Shadd, the first Black person in Canada to be elected to public office, and of his daughter Mary Ann Shadd, the pioneering abolitionist, suffragette, and newspaper editor/publisher. Craig is the author of One Night in Mississippi (2015, Thomas Allen Publishers). He was a semi-finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2010.

Craig Lye says: ‘I was absolutely blown away by this novel. Craig Shreve has crafted a rich, dynamic narrative, sensitively yet with confident brushstrokes capturing the spirit of Yasuke: the boy who became a slave, the slave who became a samurai. It moved me to tears.’

Craig Shreve says: ‘I’m thrilled to be working with the team at Canelo to bring this story to readers across the Commonwealth. I believe Yasuke is a character who will resonate with people from all backgrounds and all walks of life, and I am grateful to Canelo for helping me share his story as broadly as possible.’

Meg Wheeler says: ‘It was clear from the first that Craig Lye and Canelo were going to make the best home for Craig Shreve and Yasuke. Canelo’s vision and passion for The African Samurai is thrilling and I’m excited to watch as UK readers respond to Yasuke’s tale.’

The African Samurai will be published in August 2023, in paperback and ebook. For more information please contact