Andrew Michael Hurley's The Loney (John Murray) has won The British Book Industry Awards accolade of Book of the Year, beating off strong competition from 32 shortlisted titles including Fiction winner A Little Life, Children's Book winner My Brother is a Superhero, and Non-Fiction winner Norwegian Wood.
Campaigner Shami Chakrabarti, a judge for the award, hailed Michael Hurley’s haunting, gothic début “a great British publishing story of a determined imprint promoting a great new writing talent”.
The Loney's story began at a small Yorkshire-based independent publishing house, Tartarus Press, based in Yorkshire, which initially allocated a print run of 300 copies for it as a special £30 edition. Since being plucked from obscurity by John Murray’s editorial director Mark Richards, though, it has gained a fan in Stephen King, secured a film deal and won the Costa First Novel Award in January.
The inaugural Books of the Year awards, run in association with Books Are My Bag, are part of The Bookseller's British Book Industry Awards, which this year saw publisher Transworld and retailer W H Smith Travel win recognition in key categories.
Ahead of its overall Book of the Year win, The Loney was earlier named Début Fiction Book of the Year. Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel A Little Life (Picador), was named winner of the Fiction Book of the Year, whose publishers particularly impressed the judges in opting for a “radical” new cover for UK book buyers; Lars Mytting’s “absurd” and "wonderfully eccentric” book Norwegian Wood (Maclehose Press), translated by Robert Ferguson, was the winner of the Non-fiction category; Children’s Book of the Year winner was My Brother is a Superhero (Nosy Crow), an “exemplary” book authored by David Solomons and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson.
The Loney is set in Lancashire, where Michael Hurley himself is based teaching English Literature and Creative Writing. The success of the début has been attributed by the judges not only to the strength of Michael Hurley's “compelling writing” and “genre-defying” story, but also the book’s “creative and risk-taking publishers”. Following his publicity campaign for the book, press officer Yassine Belkacemi, who first joined the JMP publicity team as Creative Access intern in 2014, was shortlisted for the PPC’s Best Newcomer Award in January and by the BBIA for best Publicity Campaign of the Year. The book’s strong jacket design to create an “eye-catching product” was also praised by the judges.
Judge Andrew Holgate, literary editor for the Sunday Times, said: “This book has been created out of almost nothing, to great success. Huge credit goes to everyone involved in its publication: author, editor, designer, publicity and sales teams." Philip Jones, editor for The Bookseller, commented: “It’s a book with a story that will thrill and unsettle; but it’s also a book with a backstory to gladden the heart of every publisher and all début writers.” Author Nina Stibbe, another judge, called it “a confident and beguiling début that’s sure to become a classic”, adding: "I’m longing to see what Hurley gives us next."
Judging the prize alongside Chakrabarti, Holgate, Jones and Stibbe were Antonia Byatt, director of the Cheltenham Literature Festival; Sarah Shaffi, online editor and producer at The Bookseller; Rik McShane, retail director for Waterstones; and Cathy Rentzenbrink, author and contributing editor for The Bookseller.