Two John Murray authors, Andrew Michael Hurley and Lisa McInerney, have been jointly awarded the Encore Award 2018 after the judges agreed each writer "more than earned their place". The authors will share the £10,000 prize money.
Michael Hurley, whose debut The Loney scooped the Costa First Novel Award and was named the British Book Industry Awards Book of the Year in 2016, was recognised for his second novel Devil’s Day. The novel, a modern English gothic set in a small village on the Lancashire moors, follows schoolteacher John Pentecost and his new wife, Katherine, a vicar's daughter, as they return to the farm where he grew up in the aftermath of his grandfather's death. The judges, chair Alex Clark, Julia Copus and Ted Hogkinson, said they were "spellbound", calling it "menacing and masterful" with "an all-consuming sense of the nearness of evil".
McInerney, winner of last year's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize for her debut The Glorious Heresies, received the award for her second novel, The Blood Miracles. A sequel set in urban Ireland, the judges called it "a wild ride" with "potent prose". It features many of the same characters as her first novel including bad-boy Ryan Cusack who the judges described as "convincingly complex" and "driven in equal measure by instincts for survival and self-destruction".
Clark, in the role of chair of the judges, said it wasn't that they couldn't make up their minds or that there was deadlock. She explained: "We simply couldn't put a cigarette paper between these two splendid novels and wanted to acknowledge and reward them both".
Michael Hurley said he was "really honoured" to receive the award. "In many ways, a second novel is a much greater challenge for a writer than the first, so I'm pleased Devil's Day struck a chord with readers," he said.
McInerney called it "such a boost", also conceding the difficulties of writing a second novel. "Writing a second novel is made so much more intense by the worry that the first was the proverbial lightning captured in a bottle; the Encore provides an emphatic reiteration of welcome, so I'm pleased and very grateful," she said.