Former "Blue Peter" presenter Janet Ellis is among the 10 authors whose début novels have been longlisted for this year's £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize.
Ellis’ historical tale The Butcher's Hook (Two Roads), written after Ellis attended a writing course run by Curtis Brown, is joined on the longlist by two titles from Canongate: fantasy novel The Honours by Tim Clare and thriller Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh.
Fellow indies Scribe and Galley Beggar have one title each on the longlist with Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea (Scribe), a novel set in 1870 about a poor worker from the Irish slums, and The Weightless World, by Anthony Trevelyan (Galley Beggar) a comi-tragedy which sees the narrator and his boss embark on an adventure.
Also longlisted are Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Windmill), which sees a misfit man find a misfit dog; The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon (Borough Press), part whodunnit and part coming-of-age story; Disclaimer by Renée Knight (Doubleday), a "beautifully articulated" recital of secrets and lies; The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray), which explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland's twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family; and The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (Viking), a darkly comic debut about a curious death in Cornwall.
Chair of judges and author Iain Pears said: “I am intrigued and excited by the prospect of delving into this wonderfully varied selection of novels. They form an eclectic collection from a host of writers, all telling new stories with the voices of the next generation. I look forward to reading them, discussing them with my fellow judges and, with luck, encouraging others to read and discuss them as well.”
Dallas Manderson, chairman of the Prize trustees, said: “It is clear there is no lack of ambition to find exciting new writing talent from our publishers, large and small. One notes the efficacy of writing courses in helping nurture new writers – graduates of courses run by Curtis Brown and the UEA are present. But our writers have also developed their voices through other experiences, such as teaching, blogging, medicine, reporting and film editing. What matters most is they have produced extraordinarily fine first novels that our judges now have the task of whittling down to three, then one.”
Pears is joined on the judging panel by The Pool co-founder Sam Baker, and Katy Guest, former literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. A shortlist will be announced on 6th May, and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 22nd June where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.
The 2015 winner was Claire Fuller for her novel Our Endless Numbered Day (Fig Tree).
Picture: © Leigh Quinnell