The Authors’ Club has announced the winner of its Best First Novel Award 2016 is Benjamin Johncock for The Last Pilot (Myriad Editions).
Former film critic for the Independent, Anthony Quinn, presented the £2,500 award at a reception at the National Liberal Club in London yesterday (7th June).
Quinn, a former winner of the prize for The Rescue Man (Vintage) in 2009, said: “The Last Pilot is a memorable achievement, and a hugely deserving winner of this prize.” He further commended the novel for “its disciplined craftsmanship, its immersion in an historical era, and its profound engagement with human loss”.
Johncock's debut, a novel that captures the "thrill and excitement of the space race", is about an American test pilot who is plucked from the US Air Force to become one of the first astronauts.
It beat off competition from "a powerful and richly varied" shortlist, comprising Jakob’s Colours by Lindsay Hawdon (Hodder); The Good Son by Paul McVeigh (Salt); The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury Circus); Belonging by Umi Sinha (Myriad Editions); and Rawblood by Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld).
The prize, now in its 63rd year, is the longest-running UK prize for debut fiction. It is open to debut novels from British, Irish and UK-based authors, first published in the UK. The winning novel is selected by a guest adjudicator from a shortlist drawn up by a panel of Authors’ Club members, chaired by the literary critic Suzi Feay.
Last year’s prize was awarded to Carys Bray for A Song For Issy Bradley (Hutchinson), as chosen by guest adjudicator Susie Boyt.