IT'S the latest lavish period drama set in a politically-charged 1920s Germany, hotly tipped to become a global hit.

But behind Babylon Berlin's dark tales of dancing, debauchery and danger is the little-known story of the small, independent Highland publisher which is set to benefit from the runaway success of Sky Atlantic's new cult drama.

The 16-part German adaption of the crime novels of Volker Kutscher has big budgets and critical acclaim. Yet behind the scenes it is the Dingwall-based Sandstone Press – Scotland's most northerly literary publisher – which holds the English-language rights to the books on which it is based.

Publisher Robert Davies, whose small company was set up in 2002 and last year published 30 books, snapped up the "addictive" novel featuring Detective Inspector Gereon Rath of the Vice Squad in Berlin at a time of unrest, from under the noses of the big publishing houses at Frankfurt Book Fair three years ago.

He claims that he was able to buy the rights to the hugely-successful work due to a combination of his willingness to take a risk and "the alignment of the stars" during a meeting with rights director Iris Brandt of Kiepenheuer & Witsch at the 2014 fair, where he was seeking new books to publish in translation.

"We talked about a lot of books and we got on very well," he told the Sunday Herald. "As I was about to leave she reached behind her and said: 'You might be interested in this. We've been trying to place it for a while'.

"She also told me that there was interest in a major TV series, which is something that I took with a pinch of salt. It's something that you hear all the time at book fairs. I took a look though and I liked it a lot. The date was 1929, it was [about]the Vice Squad, and cabaret and Berlin. I wanted to do it."

Translation costs for "this big book" almost derailed his ambition. But with the help of funding, provided largely by Goethe-Institut, he managed to subsidise these costs enough to make "the substantial risk" manageable and bought the rights, not only to Babylon Berlin, but to the next two books in the series, the Silent Death and Goldstein.

"The book has already washed its face," he added. "It is a successful book even without the TV series. But since November 5 [when the series started on Sky Atlantic] sales have increased very substantially."

He declined to say how many copies had been sold but claimed that with a first run of 15,000 selling in volume he was currently planning a reprint. Sandstone has now also sold on English-language rights to publishing companies in both the US and Australia.

"I'm not superstitious but I believe in the alignment of the stars," he added. "If the TV series had been definite the big companies would have got there ahead of us. But this partnership really works. We are now at the core of the English-language effort and it's worldwide. We believe that this will be a major milestone for us."

The TV series – which is in German (subtitled in the UK) premiered on Sky Deutschland in October – cost €38m (£33m) to make and is the most expensive TV series filmed in Germany. Critics are predicting it will compete with the likes of Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Downton Abbey. The second series in now showing on Sky and a third has been confirmed.

Marion Sinclair, chief executive of Publishing Scotland (he industry's network body), said: "Sandstone’s acquisition of Babylon Berlin has been a very shrewd piece of publishing. Independent publishers can often find it difficult to compete with the larger, corporate publishing companies that dominate the UK book trade, but there are opportunities to pick up great books here in this country and internationally that will not be spotted by others."

She said that despite its Highland location Sandstone was active in the international market, attending overseas trade fairs, and keeping in touch with international agents and editors with an eye for books that will work in translation.

"Alongside that flair they have had a bit of courage to buy a book by a writer largely unknown in the UK as it can be difficult to introduce that writer into the fiercely-competitive English-language market," she added. "We’re proud of Sandstone and their ambitious outlook."