Sam Leith, the author, columnist and literary editor of the Spectator, is chairing the judging panel for the 10th Desmond Elliott Prize. Also judging the £10,000 prize to find the best debut novel of the year in the UK and Ireland will be author Kamila Shamsie and specialist book buyer for WH Smith, Iain Rushworth.
Leith regularly writes for the Financial Times, Prospect and the Guardian and was named Columnist of the Year at The Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards 2016 for his column in the London Evening Standard. He has also published three works of non-fiction and one novel, The Coincidence Engine (Bloomsbury Publishing).
A judge on the panel of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, he now follows in the footsteps of the authors Iain Pears and Louise Doughty, who chaired the Desmond Elliott Prize judging panel in 2016 and 2015 respectively.
Leith said: “As space given over to books coverage across the mainstream media continues to decrease, first-time novelists are finding it harder and harder to get their books reviewed and read. This is why the Desmond Elliott Prize is so vital – it offers an essential platform to promote the work of debut authors and gives one special writer a year the financial support that will help them complete their second book and hopefully go on to enjoy a long and successful career. I’m delighted and honoured to chair the judging panel in the prize’s 10th anniversary year.”
Shamsie wrote her debut, In the City by the Sea (Bloomsbury), while at university. She has gone on to write a further five novels, the most recent of which, A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury), was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
Rushworth is responsible for all buying for W H Smith's stand-alone airport and rail bookshops as well as its concession bookshops in Harrods and Selfridges.
According to the prize's organisers, the judges will be looking for "vividly written novels with a compelling narrative and arresting characters", bearing in mind the values of the late publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott in whose name the prize is presented.
Chairman of the prize’s trustees, Dallas Manderson, said: “It is with much excitement that we look forward to discovering our tenth winner. I know that Desmond would be thrilled that his award has brought so much astounding new talent into the spotlight. It’s a delight to be celebrating ten years of dazzling debuts – long may Desmond’s legacy continue.”
The longlist of 10 books will be announced in April and a shortlist in May. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 21st June 2017.
The Desmond Elliott Prize last year was won by Lisa McInerney for The Glorious Heresies (John Murray) shortly after she won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.