Titles from independent publishers make up four of the six-strong Authors’ Club Best First Novel shortlist.
They include a "wildly vivid and imaginative tale" by Xan Brooks, entitled The Clocks in the House All Tell Different Times (Salt), Rick Gekoski's Darke (Canongate), a novel which "grippingly" explores the depths of grief and the road to redemption, Winnie M Li's Dark Chapter (Legend Press), a "courageous story from an impressive writer" and Harriet Paige's Man With A Seagull On His Head (Bluemoose Books), a "sparkling and original" debut.
Rounding out the shortlist are HarperCollins title Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, a "dazzlingly unique creation", and Little, Brown's White Highlands by John McGhie, an "outstanding evocation" of colonial imperialism in Kenya and its aftermath.
Lucy Popescu, chair of the judging panel, said: “This has been a bumper year for strong debuts exploring a range of themes. We have enjoyed many passionate discussions and are delighted to highlight such extraordinary talent. We are fortunate to have A L Kennedy to decide the overall winner.”
The £2,500 prize is open to debut novels written in English and published in the UK in 2017.
The winner will be announced by Kennedy at a dinner at the National Liberal Club on Friday 22nd June.
Last year’s prize was awarded to Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.