Acclaimed art historian and writer Iain Pears is chairing the judging panel for the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize 2016. He will be joined by journalist and c.e.o. of website The Pool, Sam Baker, and the literary editor of the Independent on Sunday, Katy Guest.
The "prestigious" award for first-time novelists aims to help "up-and-coming" literary talent in the UK and Ireland by offering winners a showcase to readers, booksellers and "the literary world at large".
The prize, now in its ninth year, is named after the late publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, who had a passion for finding and nurturing new authors. Based on his values, the judges are said to be looking for "singular novels" that "bring their worlds and characters to vivid life".
Pears' own debut novel was The Raphael Affair in 1991 (Harper), the first of seven Italian art-history crime series. He has published five other novels on top of this, including the bestselling An Instance of the Fingerpost (1997, Vintage). His most recent novel is Arcadia, published by Faber in September of last year, for which Pears added an interactive app to track its 10 separate story strands.
Pears said: “Everyone has to start somewhere, and getting under way as an author is harder now than ever before. There are fewer reviews, fewer friendly bookshops, fewer publishers who can afford to nurture their young writers for long. Prizes like the Desmond Elliott help to make up for this by giving encouragement not just to the winner, but to those who are considered, and those who have something to aim for when their book comes out next year or the year after. The prize signals that publishing is not just about sales, but remains primarily about producing good books. It is a pleasure and a responsibility to be one of the judges, especially as I suspect there are going to be more worthy books to consider than prizes to award.”
Last year's winner was Clare Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days (Fig Tree), chosen by a panel of judges chaired by Louise Doughty. It has since become a bestseller. 2014’s winner was Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (Faber/ Galley Beggar Press), which was also awarded the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize in 2013, the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the 2014 Geoffrey Faber prize. Other past winners include Grace McCleen, Anjali Joseph and Edward Hogan.
Chairman of the prize trustees, Dallas Manderson, said: “It is with great pride that we announce our three judges for the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize. Desmond would thoroughly approve of our choices, all of whom are committed to supporting the best of everything that is good and exciting about our world of books. They now have the wonderful yet daunting task of choosing which author will join our fine list of winners.”
A longlist of 10 books will be announced in April and a shortlist in May. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 22nd June.