Bookseller Samuel Fisher’s debut novel The Chameleon is one of two Salt titles longlisted for the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize, with HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate also boasting two contenders.
Fisher, co-founder of Burley Fisher Bookshop in East London, and director of independent publisher Peninsula Press, is shortlisted along with A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther, exploring her aristocratic grandmother’s selling of her son (Anstruther’s father) for £500, also published by Norfolk-based indie Salt.
Fully half of the 10-strong longlist are published by indies: the other titles are Golden Child by Goldsmiths graduate Claire Adam (Faber) shortly after its serialisation on Radio 4’s "Book at Bedtime"; Devoured by Anna Mackmin (Propolis Books), influenced by the theatre director’s own childhood spent in a hippy commune in Norfolk; and Follow Me to Ground by Dublin writer Sue Rainsford (New Island Books), a few months before Doubleday publishes an edition of the literary novel.
Meanwhile HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate features twice with Hold by teacher Michael Donkor, spanning Brixton and Ghana, and the adult debut from children’s author Darragh Martin, Future Popes of Ireland.
Daisy Johnson’s Man Booker-shortlisted Everything Under (Jonathan Cape) is the only Penguin Random House offering on the 10-strong longlist.
Hachette has two imprints vying for the prize: Testament (riverrun) by Kim Sherwood, inspired by the author’s grandmother's experiences as a Holocaust survivor, nominated alongside Stubborn Archivist (Fleet) by Yara Rodrigues Fowler, following three generations of Brazilian women in London.
Last year’s award went to Preti Taneja for her retelling of King Lear, We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press), who called for greater bravery in publishing after being "roundly rejected" by mainstream publishers on submission.
The chairman of the Prize’s trustees, Dallas Manderson, said: “It is with great pride that we once again present a list that combines dazzling debuts which have already caught the attention of the literary world with a number of titles that have so far flown a little under the radar – undeservedly so.
“Our 2018 winner, Preti Taneja, has already achieved wonderful things in the nine months since her win and we wish all the same success to this year’s hopefuls.”
This year's award is judged by author Alan Hollinghurst, literary editor of the Times, Robbie Millen, and m.d. of the Booksellers Association, Meryl Halls.
A shortlist will be announced on 10th May and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 19th June, where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.
The prize was founded in 2007 to recognise new fiction. Every year, a panel of three judges look for a novel, from any genre, which has a compelling narrative, arresting characters and which is both vividly written and confidently realised.