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26.05.09 | Graeme Neill
Three "haunting and gripping" debuts are up for this year's Desmond Elliott Prize, with a £10,000 award at stake.
The three books are Blackmoor by Edward Hogan (Simon & Schuster), A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi (Fourth Estate) and The Rescue Man by Anthony Quinn (Jonathan Cape).
Candida Lycett Green, on behalf of the judges, said: "We have been both entertained and inspired by the quality of writing amongst the contenders for this year's shortlist and it was very difficult to decide on a final three. The result is a shortlist of three haunting books, all gripping in different ways while dealing with the complications of love and life in extremis. Together they are a celebration of new writing of which Desmond Elliott would be proud."
Green is joined by Suzi Feay, former literary editor of the Independent on Sunday and Waterstone's Rodney Troubridge.
Blackmoor was installed as 5/4 favourite by William Hill. Graham Sharpe, the bookmaker's spokesman, said: "There is a well-known horse racing adage which says 'always back the outsider in a three-horse race'. This is one of the most competitive three-horse literary races I can recall, and it is impossible to rule any one of the three out as a potential winner."
The inaugural prize was won by Nikita Lalwani in 2008 for her novel, Gifted. The winner of the 2009 Desmond Elliott Prize will be announced on Wednesday 24 June at Fortnum & Mason in London
The prize was established in honour of publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott who died in August 2003. He stipulated that his estate should be invested in a charitable trust that would fund a literary award "to enrich the careers of new writers".