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Authors join book prize's hall of fame

A novel based around the disintegration of a remote community in England, and a biography of a Booker prize-winning novelist are the winners of Britain’s oldest literary awards.

Book jacket images from Harvest by Jim Crace and Penelope Fitzgerald: A life by Hermione Lee

Acclaimed author Jim Crace and renowned biographer Hermione Lee have joined the distinguished list of writers who have won the James Tait Black Prizes

DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Angela Carter and Ian McEwan are among the past winners of the prizes - which have been awarded annually by the University since 1919.

The winners of the £10,000 prizes - were announced by broadcaster Sally Magnusson at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

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Respected authors

Photo of Jim Crace

Jim Crace

Former journalist and broadcaster Jim Crace, the author of 13 books, is winner of the fiction prizes for his book Harvest.

The British-born writer has several prestigious awards to his name, including a Donald Windham-Sandy M Campbell Literature Prize from Yale University.

Photo of Hermione Lee

Hermione Lee

Respected academic, critic and biographer Professor Dame Hermione Lee, is the winner of the biography prize for her book Penelope Fitzgerald: A life.

Professor Lee has written widely on women writers, including Penelope Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton.

International shortlist

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

Harvest by Jim Crace topped a shortlist that features three other novels:

  • Benediction by Kent Haruf
  • The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
  • All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Penelope Fitzgerald: A life. by Hermione Lee was chosen from a shortlist that featured:

  • The Boys in the Boat: An Epic True-Life Journey to the Heart of Hitler’s Berlin by Daniel James Brown
  • Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang
  • Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France by Nicholas Shakespeare

The James Tait Black Prizes are distinctive in the way that they are judged. Each year more than 400 novels are read by academics and postgraduate students who nominate books for the shortlist.

In Harvest, Jim Crace presents a spellbinding lyrical reflection upon the nature of cultural inheritance and the obligations and responsibilities of community in a changing and uncertain world. It is a novel fit to be ranked among his very best, which means that it can be considered one of the distinctive achievements of contemporary literature in English.

Dr Lee SpinksChairman of the James Tait Black Prize for fiction

Hermione Lee's biography of Penelope Fitzgerald provides a masterclass in writing of this type. It's the perfect marriage of an excellent subject and a biographer working at the very top of her game.

Professor Jonathan Wild,Biography judge

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.

In 2013 the prize was extended to include a new category for drama.