Candice Carty-Williams, Malorie Blackman and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan are among the 20 authors shortlisted for this year’s Costa Book Awards.
The awards, which are spread across across five categories (First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s), attracted 701 entries – the most received in one year to date. Sitting on the judging panels this year, three per category, are authors including Clare Mackintosh, John Boyne and Mahsuda Snaith.
Candice Carty-Williams, the former Vintage staffer whose debut Queenie (Trapeze) was selected as Blackwell's Debut of the Year and is currently in the running for Waterstones Book of the Year, is shortlisted for the First Novel Award alongside Brian Bilston for Diary of a Somebody (Picador), Sara Collins for The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Viking), and Joanna Glen for The Other Half of Augusta Hope (The Borough Press). Most major publishing houses make an appearance in the category, with Hachette, Pan Macmillan, Penguin Random House and HarperCollins all having a book in the running.
Battling it out for Novel of the Year are books from Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Sophie Hardach, competing with their second and third novels respectively: Starling Days (Sceptre), exploring the relationship between depression and love, and Confession with Blue Horses (Head of Zeus), set in East Berlin in the 1980s. Jonathan Coe is shortlisted for Middle England (Viking), the third novel in his trilogy following The Rotters’ Club and The Closed Circle, while Irish writer Joseph O’Connor vies for the prize with Shadowplay (Harvill Secker), a retelling of the life of Dracula author Bram Stoker.
In the Biography category are two books exploring war, one the first-hand account of maverick war correspondent Marie Colvin and the other about a WW2 resistance hero by a former Washington Post war correspondent: In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum (Chatto & Windus) and The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather (WH Allen). Chatto has a second bite of the cherry in the category with On Chapel Sands: My Mother and other Missing Persons by Laura Cumming (Chatto & Windus), describing the kidnapping of a child from a beach in 1929. Also on the shortlist is literary biography The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels by Adam Nicolson (William Collins).
Jay Bernard’s debut Surge (Chatto & Windus) is thrown into competition with Flèche by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber), The Mizzy by Paul Farley (Picador), and And Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough (Penned in the Margins) in the Poetry Award category. Bernard’s work exploring the Black British archive was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2019 and the T S Eliot Prize 2019 and won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.
The fifth book in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series, inspired by Brexit, Trump and the rise of the far-right in Europe, Crossfire (Penguin Books) is meanwhile on the Children’s Award shortlist. It will be up against Asha & the Spirit Bird, the debut of Jasbinder Bilan (Chicken House), In the Shadow of Heroes by stand-up comedian and Latin teacher Nicholas Bowling (Chicken House) and YA novel Furious Thing by former actor and author Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books). The latter is the third book represented by Felicity Bryan Associates to appear in the shortlists, in addition to books from Coe and Hilsum.
The shortlists were revealed on Tuesday evening (26th November) on BBC Radio 4's "Front Row".
The winners of each category, who will receive £5,000, will be revealed on 6th January 2020. The overall winner of the 2019 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and be selected and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on 28th January 2020.