English and Scottish Literature

Book prize winners announced

A novel inspired by a seaport in the Scottish Highlands, and a biography of a renowned potter are the winners of Britain’s oldest literary awards.

Acclaimed novelist Alan Warner and celebrated art historian Tanya Harrod have joined the roll call of celebrated writers to win the James Tait Black Prizes.

The winners of the £10,000 prizes - awarded annually by the English Literature department - have been announced by broadcaster Sally Magnusson at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Two prizes are awarded annually by the University for books published during the previous year - one for the best work of fiction and the other for the best biography.

Alan Warner, fiction winner

Oban-born author Alan Warner is winner of the fiction prize for his book The Deadman’s Pedal.

He already has a string of prestigious prizes to his name.

Among his successes was his first novel, Movern Callar, later adapted into a film starring Samantha Morton.

Tanya Harrod, biography winner

Prize-winning writer Tanya Harrod is the recipient of the biography prize for her book The Last Sane Man: Michael Cardew, Modern Pots, Colonialism and the Counterculture.

She is co-editor of the Journal of Modern Craft.



The four novels competing for the fiction prize were:

  • The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
  • The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn
  • Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
  • The Deadman’s Pedal by Alan Warner

The shortlisted works for the biography prize were:

  • Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra
  • The Last Sane Man: Michael Cardew, Modern Pots, Colonialism and the Counterculture by Tanya Harrod
  • Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
  • Circulation: William Harvey’s Revolutionary Idea by Thomas Wright

Distinguished award

"Alan Warner's The Deadman's Pedal is an exceptionally fine novel, richly evocative in detail, beautifully poised in execution, which in the story of one young man's journey to adulthood through the mysteries of childhood, sexuality, work, the realities of class society and the experience of divided family loyalties, offers a compelling poetic vision of a changing Scotland."

Lee SpinksFiction Judge, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

The James Tait Black Awards were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband’s love of good books.

Earlier this year the prize was extended to include a new category for drama

Tanya Harrod's 'The Last Sane Man' offers an exceptional portrait of a remarkable craftsman and his world. Harrod constructs this biography with the same eye for form and purpose that marked the work of her subject.

Professor Jonathan Wild, School of Literatures, Languages and CulturesBiography Judge