Robin Robertson has become the first Scot to win the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction with his book The Long Take (Picador).
The work, also shortlisted for last year’s Booker and winner of the Goldsmiths prize, is written in a combination of verse and prose, echoing the format often used by Scott himself in his long historical narrative poems.
Robertson said, like Scott, he started as a poet and then moved into narrative fiction “by accident” as the book started as a poem but became something longer.
He received his award from Alexander McCall Smith and the prize’s sponsor the Duke of Buccleuch at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival in Melrose on Saturday (15th June).
The judging panel said: “The Long Take recounts the inner journey of Canadian veteran Joe Walker as he travels from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco attempting to rebuild his life after living through the horrors of war in Europe. In poetry of the utmost beauty, Robin Robertson interweaves themes from the great age of black and white films, the destruction of communities as cities destroy the old to build the new, the horrors of McCarthyism and the terrible psychological wounds left by war.
“Robertson shows us things we’d rather not see and asks us to face things we’d rather not face. But with the pulsing narrative drive of classic film noir, the vision of a poet, and the craft of a novelist, The Long Take courageously and magnificently boosts the Walter Scott Prize into its next decade.”
The judging panel for the 2019 prize was made up of Elizabeth Buccleuch, James Naughtie, Kirsty Wark, Katharine Grant, Elizabeth Laird and James Holloway, with chair Alistair Moffat.
Robertson won from a shortlist featuring A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey (Faber), After The Party by Cressida Connolly (Viking), The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey (Jonathan Cape), Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller (Sceptre) and Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (Jonathan Cape).
The prize was founded in 2009 by Alistair Moffatt and the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch to reward the best fiction set 60 or more years ago, and is open to novels published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth.
Last year’s award was won by Benjamin Myers for The Gallows Pole (Bluemoose).