Novelist Hannah Kohler and the writer and film producer Bob Stanley, also a member of the Mercury-nominated pop group Saint Etienne, have been named the joint winners of the 2017 Eccles British Library Writer’s Award.
The Eccles British Library Writer’s Award, now in its sixth year, was set up to promote awareness of the British Library collections relating to the USA and Canada. Each of the winners were awarded £20,000 and will use the British Library’s collections to research their upcoming publications during their residency which starts in January 2017.
Kohler, whose first novel, The Outside Lands (Picador), published earlier this year, will be researching her second novel, Catspaw. It follows two women from Chicago to the Sierra foothills during the California Gold Rush of 1849 and is described as "the story of the struggle to win the self, and keep it; the corrosive and curative powers of desire; and the complications of friendship".
Stanley will be researching his new book Too Darn Hot: The Story of Popular Music. Following on from Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Popular Music (Faber and Faber), Too Darn Hot strives to make sense of the 50-year period from the very first recorded music to the rock ‘n’ roll era: the major stars, the songwriters, the leaps in technology, the heroes and heroines, and their links to the modern pop era.
Kohler and Stanley will be allowed to research their projects in the surroundings of the British Library, and to use the centre’s programme and networks to engage with other researchers, students and members of the public.
Director of the Eccles Centre, professor Philip Davies, said: "The latest winners of this fabulous award bring the total number of Eccles British Library Writer’s Award holders to a dozen, and the total investment in the future of these writers to almost a quarter of a million pounds, at a time when we are marking 25 years of the Eccles Centre. Together the British Library’s collections, the Eccles Centre’s support and the Award winners’ vision combine in the production of great works founded firmly on the greatest research collections."
Two awards were given this year owing to the "high standard" of the submissions. In addition to Davies, director of the Eccles Centre, the award was judged by Sarah Churchwell, professorial fellow in American Literature and chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of London; Richard Carwardine, formerly president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford; Catherine Eccles literary scout and granddaughter of David and Mary Eccles, who endowed the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the Library in 1991; and Dr Mercedes Aguirre, lead curator for the Americas at the British Library.