Belfast author Paul McVeigh has been awarded the Polari First Book Prize 2016 for his novel The Good Son (Salt). This year, a runner-up was named for the first time, with Juliet Jacques awarded for Trans.
Now in its sixth year, the Polari First Book Prize celebrates the best debut books that explore the LGBT experience, whether through poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction.
McVeigh’s "funny and frightening" story of a young boy navigating the troubles of 1980s Northern Ireland triumphed over an "extremely strong" shortlist of first books, including Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin (Inspired Quill), Different for Girls by Jacquie Lawrence (Zitebooks), Blood Relatives by Stevan Alcock (Fourth Estate), Physical by Andrew McMillan (Jonathan Cape) and Trans by Jacques (Verso).
Following an "extremely high standard of work" in contention for this year’s prize, the judges decided to appoint a runner-up for the first time, recognising Jacques’ Trans, which they described as “an exceptional book in so many ways.”
Prize judges included chair Paul Burston, author, journalist and host of Polari literary salon; Rachel Holmes, author and former head of literature & spoken word at Southbank Centre; literary critic, Suzi Feay; author and comedian, VG Lee; and writer and editor Alex Hopkins.
Chair of the judges Burston, said: “This year, each shortlisted titled successfully showcased the exceptional skill and scope of work within the LGBT literary community. However, the judges were particularly drawn to the fresh and unique narrative voice of McVeigh’s Mickey Donnelly – we really felt as if we knew him. The author's handling of the young narrator is expertly done and strikes the perfect balance between comedy and pathos. Paul is an incredibly accomplished storyteller and we’re delighted to present him with the Prize for 2016.”
McVeigh and Jacques were honoured at an award ceremony held at London’s Southbank Centre as part of London Literature Festival.