The anonymity of six finalists in the running for the Costa Short Story Award has been lifted, revealing a novelist who made it into David Bowie's "Top 100 Must-Read books of all time".
Among those shortlisted - including a playwright, a part-time gym-instructor, and a previous finalist - is Rupert Thomson, an award-winning novelist whose book The Insult, published by Bloomsbury in 1996, was included in a list approved by musician David Bowie in his "Top 100" recommended reads. The list was put together by curators of the exhibition David Bowie Is in 2013.
The other shortlisted authors - who have all been previously published in some capacity - have been revealed as Niall Bourke for "Gerardo Dreams of Chillies"; Annalisa Crawford for "Watching the Storms Roll In"; Danny Murphy for "Rogey"; Peggy Riley for "The Night Office"; Erin Soros for "Fallen"; and Rupert Thomson for "To William Burroughs, from His Wife".
The award, established in 2012, is open to applicants aged 18 or over, whether published and unpublished, for a single, previously unpublished English-language short story of up to 4,000 words.
Judged independently of the Costas' five-category system, the public were asked to vote for their favourite of six shortlisted short stories, without knowledge of the authors' identities after downloading them to read or listen to on the Costa website. The vote closed on 13th January.
The winner of the £3,500 prize will be announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony next week on 26th January. Runners up will receive £1,000 and £500 for second and third place respectively.
Thomson, who lives in London, also wrote "Death of a Murderer", a short story that was shortlisted for the 2007 Costa Novel Award. His memoir, This Party’s Got to Stop, published by Granta Books, won the Writers’ Guild Non Fiction Book of the Year. His most recent novel, Katherine Carlyle, was published by Corsair in November 2015.
Crawford, whose "Watching the Storms Roll In" is shortlisted, is publishing her new collection You. I. Us in June with Vine Leaves Press; and Murphy, who wrote "Rogey" and lives in Stirling, has written three books on education and has a book of interlinked short stories and a psychological thriller underway. He works part-time in Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh, having given up teaching and headteaching in 2010 to concentrate on his writing.
A playwright is also among the shortlisters. Riley, who wrote "The Night Office", is an author and playwright from LA whose work has been produced off West End, on the fringe, and at festivals throughout the UK. Her first novel, Amity & Sorrow, is published by Tinder Press and was a "New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice". Her short fiction has also won prizes. She has been a bookseller, a festival producer and writer-in-residence at a young offender prison.
Norwich-based Soros, who wrote "Fallen", is a previous Costa Short Story Award finalist, shortlisted in 2013 for her story "Still Water, BC". She has published fiction and non-fiction in international journals and anthologies and her stories have been aired on CBC and the BBC. She has twice been longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, and was also a finalist for the BBC Short Story Award.
Bourke, 34, from Kilkenny in Ireland, whose "Geraldo Dreams of Chillies" is also in the running, teaches English at St Michael’s College in Bermondsey, and recently completed an MA in creative writing and teaching at Goldsmiths.
The six-story shortlist was selected by a panel of judges comprising author Raffaella Barker; Richard Beard, director of the National Academy of Writing; Fanny Blake, novelist, journalist and books editor of Woman & Home magazine; Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and senior lecturer in publishing at Oxford Brookes University; and Simon Trewin, an agent at William Morris Endeavor.
The inaugural winner of the Costa Short Story Award in 2012 was former prison manager turned full-time writer Avril Joy from Witton-le-Wear in Bishop Auckland. Her winning story, "Millie and Bird", was included in an anthology of short stories compiled by Victoria Hislop called The Story: Love Loss and the Lives of Women - 100 Great Short Stories (Head of Zeus).
The Costa Book Awards recognise "the most enjoyable books" of the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland. Winners across its five categories, of which Kate Atkinson won her second Costa Novel Award in three years, were announced at the start of the year.
All category winners are competing for the 2015 Costa Book of the Year prize, due to be announced by presenter and broadcaster Penny Smith, at a ceremony at Quaglino's, central London on 26th January.