Thomas Morris, Catherine Nixey and Duncan White are the recipients of the 2015 RSL Jerwood Awards for Non Fiction.
The three awards, one of £10,000 and two of £5,000, were presented to authors Morris, Nixey and White respectively this evening at an event held at John Murray’s house, 50 Albermarle Street, London, W1S 4BD.
The awards are for authors engaged on their first commissioned works of non-fiction, as judged this year by Jonathan Beckman, Jonathan Keates and Kate Summerscale.
For his "history of the heart in 12 operations", London-based freelance writer Morris received the £10,000 prize for The Matter of the Heart, to be published by Bodley Head in May 2017. A compendium of the 20th Century’s greatest technological inventions and "medical miracles", the book's premise was described as "heart-searching, heart- stopping and heart-exalting," by judge Keates, and "a tale of dare-devil experimentation and supreme ingenuity", by fellow judge Beckman.
"I am thrilled to receive an RSL Jerwood Award, and to contemplate the many ways in which it will help my research," said Morris. "It’s a great honour to be recognised in this way - I’m very grateful for this vote of confidence, which offers renewed motivation to make the book as good as it possibly can be."
Nixey received £5,000 for The Darkening Age (Macmillan, early 2017) and White also received £5,000 for Cold Warriors: Waging Literary War Across the Iron Curtain (Little,Brown, September 2018). (The differing prize amounts are allocated depending on the perceived level of support needed to complete individual works.)
Nixey's account of early Christians from the Roman viewpoint is, for Keates, "a powerful corrective to our view of Christianity as a religion of peace, showing how it triumphed through violence, philistinism and wholesale barbarity’ and judge Summerscale thought it "a riveting story".
Nixey, a radio critic for The Times, said: "There is always the odd nervous moment when you wake in the wee small hours and wonder whether anyone, apart from you, will be interested in what you’re doing - particularly so when it’s your first book. I’m surprised, delighted, and grateful to have won this award."
White chose to focus on writers on both sides of the Cold War in Cold Warriors which aims to give "a complete view of the relationship between writing and politics during the era". Keates said it was set to be "a nail-biting tribute to the power of words as weapons in the right or wrong hands at a key moment".
White lectures on History and Literature at Harvard University. "It means such a great deal to receive this award," he said. "It is a particularly generous award: not only do you receive the encouragement of such distinguished judges being enthused by your idea but also the means by which to help make that idea a reality. For both these things I’m profoundly grateful."
Previous winners of the RSL Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction include John Stubbs for Donne: The Reformed Soul (Penguin); Rachel Campbell-Johnston for The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer (Bloomsbury); Matthew Hollis for Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas (Faber & Faber) and Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts for Edgelands - Journeys into England’s Last Wilderness (Vintage).