Tash Aw, Jessie Greengrass (pictured below right) and Fiona Mozley are among the 31 winners of the Society of Authors 2018 Authors' Awards.
Hosted by Stephen Fry and with an introduction by the president of the SoA, Philip Pullman, eight awards were presented to 31 writers. Among the winners were host of debut names along with recognised writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry to share a prize fund of £98,000.
The ceremony, which took place on Thursday (19th July) at the Royal Institute of British Architects, saw over 400 guests from across the publishing industry come together as the winners of the Betty Trask, McKitterick, Tom-Gallon Trust and Somerset Maugham awards were revealed in addition to the Cholmondeley Awards for outstanding contribution to poetry, the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, five Travelling Scholarships and the Eric Gregory Award for a collection of poems by poets under 30.
The winner of the Betty Trask Prize for a first novel by a writer under 35 went to Omar Robert Hamilton for his book The City Always Wins (Faber and Faber). He was given £10,000 for "a furious, frenetic novel that captures a pivotal moment in history. It conjures the whispers and screams, from the Cairo streets and the homes of a city unravelling, as its residents battle through their grief", according to the judges.
L-R Omar Robert Hamilton, Lloyd Markham, Eli Godstone, Sarah Day and Clare Fisher © Tom Pilston
Meanwhile, The Betty Trask Awards, worth £3,250, were awarded to Sarah Day for Mussolini's Island (Tinder Press), Clare Fisher for All The Good Things (Viking), Eli Goldstone for Strange Heart Beating (Granta), Lloyd Markham for Bad Ideas/Chemicals (Parthian), and Masande Ntshanga for The Reactive (Jacaranda).
Later on in the evening, the McKitterick Prize for a first novel by a writer over 40 – worth £4,000 – was awarded to Anietie Isong for Radio Sunrise (Jacaranda). Judge Aamer Hussein said: "It’s a particular pleasure to discover the original, intriguing voice of Anietie Isong. In his brief, deftly-told Radio Sunrise, the author depicts his often hapless protagonist’s sexual mishaps and political travails on a journey to his hometown with a unique blend of humour and poignance. An intriguing and accomplished new novelist."
The runner up for the McKitterick Prize was Frances Maynard for The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr (Pan Macmillan), who was awarded £1,250.
Chris Connolly was named the winner of the Tom-Gallon Trust Award for a short story and was awarded £1,000 for "The Speed of Light and How it Cannot Help Us", a "beautifully composed story about a harrowing matter", according to the judges. The runner up for this award was Benjamin Myers, who recently won the 2018 Walter Scott Prize, for "A Thousand Arces of English Soil". He was awarded £575.
Judge Irenosen Okojie said: "This is a profound, confident piece. Vividly written, juxtaposing old and new worlds, and the beauty and brutality in between."
The three winners of the Somerset Maugham Award for published works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by writers under 35 were each awarded £5,250. The winners were Kayo Chingonyi for Dylan Thomas Prize shortlisted Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus), a "rich and sophisticated" collection of poetry; Fiona Mozley for the Man Booker Prize shortlisted Elmet (JM Originals), an "outstanding novel" by "a true craftsman"; and Miriam Nash for All The Prayers in the House (Bloodaxe Books), "an absorbing, dreamlike example of how writers can cut through to the spirit of a place and show you the heart of the worlds they have visited".
L-R Benjamin Myers and Chris Connolly ©Tom Pilston
Seven poets were each given £4,050 for winning the Eric Gregory Award for a collection of poems by a poet under 30. Zohar Atkins was honoured for System Baby, a collection which takes "ancient clay and sculpt vigorously innovative shapes" by re-thinking historical Jewish religion and culture; Victoria Adukwei Bulley won for Girl Being, in which she captures the young black female socio-political consciousness; Jenna Clarke was presented with the award for Fortune Cookie (Eyewear Publishing), a "technically assured and original" collection; while Joseph Eastell was honoured for Blossom Boy Beta Test, which reconciles our technologically enhanced existence with the natural world. Other winners on the night were Annie Katchinska for Sesame Powders, Ali Lewis for Hotel and Stephen Sexton for The Animals, Moon.
The Cholmondeley Award, presented for a body of work by a poet, was presented to five people -Vahni Capildeo, Kate Clanchy, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Dagit Nagra and Zoe Skoulding - who were each awarded £1,680.
Meanwhile, Giles Tremlett was presented with £5,000 for scooping the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography. His work Isabella of Castile: Europe's First Great Queen Bloomsbury was an "impressive combination of scholarly authority and vivid accessibility establishes this biography firmly in the tradition of this Prize", said the judges.
Scooping the Travelling Scholarship was Tash Aw, who, alongside Jenn Ashworth, Jessie Greengrass, James Harpur and Sudhir Hazareesingh, was given a cheque for £1,575. The scholarship is presented to British creative writers to enable them to keep in contact with writing colleagues abroad.
Speaking about the Authors’ Awards Joanne Harris, judge for the Betty Trask Prize and Awards, and SoA Council and Management Committee member, said: “The Authors’ Awards are among the most exciting and important literary awards around, and I'm honoured to be a part of them. Awarded to authors by authors, they're not designed to showcase celebrities or promote high-profile sponsors; just to honour writers and to bring their talent to the public's attention. This year we have an especially interesting and impressive group of shortlistees and winners, and as a judge of the Betty Trask Prize, I've always been impressed by the scope and diversity of the entrants.”
The judges for each award, including Joanne Harris, Samantha Shannon, Frances Fyfield, Abir Mukherjee, Irenosen Okojie, Sameer Rahim, Jen Campbell, Pascale Petit and Paul Bailey, were united in their praise for the ‘compelling, challenging, original and emotionally charged’ writing with every facet of human experience, both worldly and other-worldly, home-grown and international, explored.