A BITTER-SWEET first novel set in the pubs and clubs of the North-East is to be published in the US.

Publishing company Time Warner was so impressed by Tim Relf's first UK novel, Stag, that they bought the rights to publish an American edition.

Stag, glowingly reviewed in The Northern Echo last summer, is set in contemporary Newcastle during a riotous and, at times, hilarious, weekend stag party.

The principal character, Rob Purcell, is looking forward to seeing his old mates from university but is not prepared to be confronted with the unpalatable truth that his drinking is out-of-control and he is in the grip of alcoholism.

Mr Relf studied journalism at Darlington College of Technology and worked in Newcastle in the early 1990s, before writing for publications including The Times.

Now working for Farmers' Weekly, he said: "I am over the moon about this bit of good news.

"Hopefully, they are going to use one of The Echo's quotes on the cover of the US edition, so it looks like you could get an attribution Stateside."

Although the subject matter of the book sounds grim, the subject is tackled with a humorous and gritty lightness of touch.

Mr Relf, who says Newcastle remains his favourite city in Britain, despite his having moved back to his home county of Kent, said: "I wanted to write about a seemingly successful man who, without realising it, had slipped across that line and to explore the effects it had on his relationships, friendships and career."

Stag, which was published by Piatkus in the UK last year, is expected to be published in the US in the autumn.