Raynor Winn and A J Pearce are among the authors on the six-strong shortlist for the inaugural Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize.
The prize will see £10,000 awarded annually to a debut novelist or non-fiction writer aged 50 or over. The winner will also be offered the choice of a two-week writing retreat in either the South West of France or County Sligo, Ireland.
Thomas Burke's The Consolation of Maps (Riverrun), Dear Mrs Bird by Pearce (Picador) and A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps (The Bodley Head) were shortlisted alongside Winn's The Salt Path (Michael Joseph). Indie Peepal Tree Press was recognised for De Rightest Place by Barbara Jenkins with Alex Reeve's The House on Half Moon Street (Raven Books) completing the shortlist.
This year’s judges Gillian Slovo (Chair), Sanjeev Bhaskar, Archie Bland and Anne Chisholm, said: "We journeyed the world for our shortlist. Such a variety of ideas, of style and of story: so many fresh voices from writers over the age of 50, it was a pleasure to enter the world of their imaginations."
The winner will be announced on 29th May, which was Sir Christopher Bland’s birthday. Bland, who died in 2017, chaired publishing house Canongate, as well as overseeing the BBC, British Telecom and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was knighted in 1993 for services to the NHS. Bland didn’t start writing until after his retirement, publishing début novel Ashes in the Wind (Head of Zeus) at the age of 76, followed by a second novel. Asked once if he had any advice for his teenage self, he said that he would have told himself “to forget all that other stuff” and become a writer, not a businessman.