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Shortlist features voices old and new

An exciting mix of respected writers and emerging talent forms the shortlist of Britain’s oldest literary awards.

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Novels based around a care home for young offenders, a rural Scottish seaport, a research trip to Madrid and a Highland tale inspired by bagpipe music are contenders for the James Tait Black Prizes.

Books by American author Ben Lerner and Scot Jenni Fagan join the latest works by acclaimed writers Alan Warner and Kirsty Gunn to make up the shortlist for the £10,000 fiction prize.

Biography contenders

Contenders for the £10,000 biography prize include fascinating accounts of literary giant Henry James, renowned potter Michael Cardew and William Harvey, the doctor who described the phenomenon of the circulation of the blood.

Also listed is a memoir of Salman Rushdie, who won the James Tait Black award for fiction in 1981 for Midnight’s Children.

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.

The shortlist for the new James Tait Black prize for drama will be announced at the end of May.

Book prize shortlists

The four novels competing for the fiction prize are:

  • 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 section are:

  • 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

Exciting mix

The winners will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 24 August.

We have an exceptional line-up this year. The James Tait Black Awards represent the very best in fiction and biographies and we have the chance to celebrate an exciting mix of respected writers and emerging talent.

Prof. Greg WalkerChair of the judging panel and Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature

The James Tait Black Awards, awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband’s love of good books

Judging process

The prizes are for the best work of fiction and biography, and for the best new play published during the previous 12 months. They are the only major British book awards judged by literature scholars and students.

Each year more than 400 books and playscripts are read by academics and postgraduate students, who nominate books for the shortlist.

Past winners

Past winners of the fictions awards include figures of global literary distinction, such as DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter, Cormac McCarthy, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan.

Last year, American writer Padgett Powell was the winner of the fiction prize for his book You and I. Powell is a Professor of Writing at the University of Florida.

One of Britain’s foremost literary biographers, Fiona MacCarthy was the recipient of the biography prize for her book on the British artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones, The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination.

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James Tait Black Prizes