A novel featuring a 110-year-old character has won the £20,000 Daily Mail and Penguin Random House First Novel Competition, now in its fourth year.
Louise Morrish from Alton in Hampshire has won the publishing contract with her novel The Coffin Club, chosen from over 4,000 entries,.
Morrish receives a £20,000 advance and will be published in hardback and e-book by PRH imprint Century, and agented by Luigi Bonomi of LBA Books.
The competition was judged by Sandra Parsons, literary editor for the Daily Mail, Selina Walker, publisher of Century and Arrow at Penguin Random House, Bonomi, presenter and author Fern Britton and crime writer Peter James.
Walker said: “The Coffin Club really stood out for me this year. I loved 110 year-old Betty who is sympathetic, believable and funny, I was interested in her helper, Tally, who seemed to me to have loads of potential as a character, and I thought that the way, even in the first chapter, the author managed to turn the narrative in an unexpected way was skilful and witty. It’s original, warm and just a little bit sad; I can’t wait to read the full novel.”
Bonomi said: “I fell in love with Betty the moment I first read about her. A woman, clearly frail and at the end of her life, but with strong memories about her past. A past that no one could imagine. Secrets she has long kept hidden, might soon begin to unravel. Such is the opening of this warm poignant read in a novel that I am sure will take us on an unforgettable journey.”
James described the book as “a highly original and very compelling story” while Britton dubbed it “truly original, heartfelt and human”.
Last year’s competition winner, The Fifth Girl by Georgia Fancett, is to be published in 2021.