Atkinson and Catton on 'toughest' Walter Scott shortlist

Atkinson and Catton on 'toughest' Walter Scott shortlist

Costa Novel winner Kate Atkinson (pictured) and Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton are among the authors shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

Jim Crace, Robert Harris, Andrew Greig and Ann Weisgarber are also on the list that the judges have called “the toughest choice, from the strongest longlist, in the prize’s five year history”.

Atkinson is shortlisted for Life After Life (Doublesday), which won this year’s Costa Novel Award. Catton is shortlisted for The Luminaries (Granta), which won the Man Booker Prize in 2013.

Also on the list is Harvest (Picador) by Crace, which was shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker; An Officer and a Spy (Hutchinson), Harris's novel about the Dreyfus affair; 1950s-set love story Fair Helen (Quercus) by Greig; and The Promise (Mantle) by Weisgarber, a tale set in Texas in 1900 when a storm killed thousands.

The judges for this year’s prize are chaired by Alistair Moffat, and include Kirsty Wark, Louise Richardson, Jonathan Tweedie, Elizabeth Laird and Elizabeth Buccleuch.

The panel said this year was a “golden year of historical fiction”, with the prize’s shortlist one “that Sir Walter Scott would surely have appreciated”.

“We hope to bring these extraordinary novels even more attention, and reward their audacity and inventiveness by shortlisting them for this prize,” the panel said.

Shortlisted works can be by writers from the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth as long as they are written in English and the book is first or simultaneously published in the UK.

“In the end, we have come down to this magical set of stories, which contain powerful characters and vivid evocations of time and place,” the judging panel said. “From hard lives lived out in New Zealand and Texas, to feuding families and dangerous outsiders in Britain’s rural margins, to the political fall-out of war and its effects on everyday people, and the random chances that affect everyone’s lives, the stories told in this shortlist exemplify even more acutely the power that writing about the past can wield.”

The winner, announced on 13th June at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Books Festival in Melrose, will get £25,000, and they and all shortlisted authors have the chance to stay at Sir Walter Scott’s writer’s retreat on the remote Scottish island of Jura, courtesy of sponsors Jura Single Malt Whisky.