Anne Griffin and David Nott have made the shortlist for this year's £10,000 RSL Christopher Bland Prize, which goes to a debut author aged 50 or over.
The award, named in memory of Canongate's former chairman Sir Christopher Bland whose first novel was published when he was aged 76, is now in its second year. The winner, judged by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Sara Collins and Andrew Lycett, will be announced on 2nd July.
Irish writer Griffin is nominated for her novel When All is Said (Sceptre), which tells the life of its lead character through five toasts he raises. Alibhai-Brown praised Griffin for her “fictional ventriloquism" in getting into the head of 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan.
Nott gets the nod for War Doctor (Picador), covering the NHS surgeon's time volunteering in some of the world's most dangerous conflicts. Collins said it was a “remarkably clear-sighted and forensic account of personal and professional courage”.
Also on the shortlist is Michele Kirsch's Clean (Short Books), a story of addiction, recovery and the removal of stubborn stains. Lycett praised its energy and sharp observations, branding the book “hilarious, totally compelling and impossible to put down”.
Stephen Morris is also in contention with Black Tea (Claret Press), a reflection on the changing face of Russia over 30 years. Lycett said: “Many have tried this before, but Morris, with his idiosyncratic range of family relationships, triumphantly blends that often elusive trio of personal recollection, history and sense of place.”
Celia Paul's Self-Portrait (Jonathan Cape) also features, following her journey to becoming an artist and her relationship with Lucien Freud. Alibhai-Brown called the memoir “captivating” and “deceptively restrained”.
The judges said: “We were impressed by the range of subjects and styles, the panache and originality, the research and understanding, most of all, the imaginations of the entrants, all first-time writers over the age of 50. Reading their books revitalised the spirits over these last grim weeks.”
Raynor Winn won the inagural prize last year for her book The Salt Path (Michael Joseph).