Acclaimed authors join oldest book prize’s hall of fame

Acclaimed authors join oldest book prize’s hall of fame

Acclaimed author Jim Crace and renowned biographer Hermione Lee have joined the distinguished list of writers who have won the James Tait Black Prizes. They join the likes of DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Angela Carter and Ian McEwan who are all past winners of the prizes, which have been awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh since 1919.

The winners of the £10,000 prizes were announced this evening by broadcaster Sally Magnusson during a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Former Journalist and broadcaster Jim Crace, the author of 13 books, is winner of the fiction prize for his book Harvest a story inspired by the daily toil of a shepherdess. The British-born writer has several prestigious awards to his name including a Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize from Yale University. He topped a shortlist that featured four novels: Benediction by Kent Haruf; The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner; and All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld.

Respected academic, critic and biographer Professor Dame Hermione Lee is the winner of the biography prize for her book Penelope Fitzgerald: A life, a biography of the Booker Prize-winning novelist. Professor Lee has written widely on women authors, including Penelope Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton. Lee’s book 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 and 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.

Chairman of the James Tait Black Prize for fiction Dr Lee Spinks of the University of Edinburgh said: ‘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.’

Biography judge Professor Jonathan Wild of the University of Edinburgh said: ‘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.’

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.

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