Female writers deliver majority of “extraordinarily fine first novels” on Desmond Elliott Prize 2016 longlist
The debut novel from former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis is included in the longlist for the ninth Desmond Elliott Prize, announced today, Friday 1st April. The Butcher’s Hook, written after Ellis attended a writing course run by literary agency Curtis Brown, is one of ten books to be longlisted for the Prize, cited as the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (Telegraph). Seven of the ten books are by women, up from a fifty-fifty split in 2015.
While the majority of the longlist have contemporary settings, several authors have placed their novels in the past: from the relatively recent 1970s suburbia of psychiatrist Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (already optioned for a television adaptation), to 1930s Norfolk as described in performance poet Tim Clare’s lyrical and inventive The Honours; from the Victorian peep-show of political and domestic revolution of 1870s England in Gavin McCrea’s Mrs Engels, to the Georgian London of Janet Ellis’s novel. McCrea is one of three writers from Ireland on the longlist, joined by blogger Lisa McInerney (The Glorious Heresies) and Sara Baume (Spill Simmer Falter Wither).
Independent publishers are well represented, with two from Canongate (The Honours and Tasha Kavanagh’s Things We Have in Common), one from Australian publisher Scribe (McCrea’s Mrs Engels), and for the third year a title from Norwich-based Galley Beggar Press (The Weightless World, by sixth form English and Creative Writing teacher Anthony Trevelyan). Kavanagh has previously published books for children, and has worked as an editor on films such as Seven Monkeys and Anthony Minghella’s highly praised 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley.
Chair of judges and internationally acclaimed author Iain Pears said: “I am intrigued and excited by the prospect of delving into this wonderfully varied selection of novels. They form an eclectic collection from a host of writers, all telling new stories with the voices of the next generation. I look forward to reading them, discussing them with my fellow judges and, with luck, encouraging others to read and discuss them as well.”
Dallas Manderson, Chairman of the Prize trustees, said: “It is clear there is no lack of ambition to find exciting new writing talent from our publishers, large and small. One notes the efficacy of writing courses in helping nurture new writers – graduates of courses run by Curtis Brown and the UEA are present. But our writers have also developed their voices through other experiences, such as teaching, blogging, medicine, reporting and film editing. What matters most is they have produced extraordinarily fine first novels that our judges now have the task of whittling down to three, then one.”
The Desmond Elliott Prize 2016 longlist in full (in alphabetical order by author):
- Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Windmill)
- The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon (Borough Press)
- The Honours by Tim Clare (Canongate)
- The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (Two Roads)
- Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh (Canongate)
- Disclaimer by Renée Knight (Doubleday)
- Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea (Scribe)
- The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)
- The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (Viking)
- The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan (Galley Beggar Press)
The Prize is presented in the name of the late, acclaimed publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, whose passion for finding and nurturing new authors is perpetuated by his Prize. Now in its ninth year, the award has an established record for spotting up-and-coming novelists in the UK and Ireland and propelling them to greater recognition and success. The 2015 winner was Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days, which went on to be chosen for both the Richard and Judy and Waterstones Book Clubs. Other past winners include Eimear McBride, Grace McCleen, Edward Hogan and Ali Shaw.
Pears is joined on the judging panel by author, journalist and co-founder of website The Pool Sam Baker, and former Literary Editor of the Independent on Sunday, Katy Guest. A shortlist will be announced on 6th May, and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 22nd June where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.