Fiction awards and prizes

Every year the anticipation for the announcements of the long-lists, short-lists and eventual winners of the annual major Fiction awards regularly mounts. Recently we advised of the winner of the I.M.P.A.C Dublin Literary Award, and later this month the Mann Booker Prize will announce their selected long-list, reduced to the short-list the following month with the winner announced in October. Along with the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize for Literature, these awards are important corner stones of the fiction year, but of course there are many smaller awards and prizes given to fiction writers throughout each year. They are just as important for providing acknowledgement and praise for great writing, discovering new talent, bringing the author’s work to the attention of readers, literarily drowning in a sea of reading choice and they provide aspiration and encouragement for new young writers.

We are highlighting five smaller, less known fiction awards, but as you will see the calibre and skill of the winners are in the league of the major prize winners. The novels judged the best in each award are as diverse as the nationalities of the writers. All guarantee great reading entertainment that hopefully will lead to discovering other good fiction from the past winners of each award.

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize is awarded annually for comic literature, to a book that captures the ‘comic spirit’ of the novels by P.G. Wodehouse. This year Terry Pratchett received the prize, of Bollinger Champagne, 53 volumes of the Everyman Wodehouse editions and Gloucester pig named after his novel, for his 39th Discworld novel titled, Snuff. Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett has sold more than 70 million copies of his work world wide and in this his latest work he continues to be inventive and humorous, with a wonderful satirical view of the world.” When Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.” (adapted from Snuff, like all the Discworld novels, is very funny and highly readable.

Syndetics book coverThe 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize was awarded to Sri Lankan debut novelist Shehan Karunatilaka for Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew. The Commonwealth Book prize is an annual event and rather complex in structure, with countries divided into five regions, Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The winners of each region go forward for judging to find the overall winner. Shehan Karunatilaka was born in Sri Lanka, he studied at Massey University in New Zealand and has worked as an advertising copywriter, travel and song writer. “Chinaman tells of retired sportswriter WG Karunasena who is dying. He will spend his final months drinking arrack, making his wife unhappy, ignoring his son and tracking down Pradeep S. Mathew, a spin bowler who has mysteriously disappeared and who WG considers ‘the greatest cricketer to walk the earth’. On his quest he will discover many amazing and wonderful things, also some startling truths about cricket, Sri Lanka, and himself.” (adapted from Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew is a very accomplished first novel, highly enjoyable and very entertaining.

Syndetics book coverThe Desmond Elliott Prize was established in 2007. It covers all fiction genres and is intended to support new writers and celebrate their work. A panel of three judges have to find a novel of depth, with a compelling narrative, containing original and arresting characters. This year’s prize of £10, 000 was awarded to Grace McCleen for her first novel, The Land of Decoration. Crace McCleen was born in 1981, raised in a religious sect in Wales, and although removed from school at 10 she managed to attend Oxford University reading English literature, and then achieve an MA at York University. The Land of decoration is narrated by 10-year-old Judith McPherson. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land in her bedroom. When she makes it snow in her Land of Decoration, and it snows in reality outside, she starts to believe she can perform miracles. That of course is when her troubles begin. This is an intense, beautifully written story of belief and doubt, good and evil.

Syndetics book coverThe Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award: Pen Award for First Fiction was established in 1975 by the late Ernest Hemingway’s wife to encourage the publication of first fiction by developing American writers. This award has definitely achieved it aim, with the list of previous winners, now well known acclaimed writers. Teju Cole won this year’s award of $8,000 with his novel titled Open City. A Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian was born and raised in Nigeria and presently lives in Brooklyn, New York. “Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor named Julius wanders, reflecting on his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. He encounters people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey, which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul. This is a haunting novel about national identity, race, liberty, loss, dislocation, and surrender.” (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe Walter Scott Prize was established in 2010 for historical novels, set more than 60 years ago, and published in the United Kingdom, Ireland or the Commonwealth the previous year. This year the £25,000 prize was awarded to Sebastian Barry for his novel, On Canaan’s Side. Sebastian Barry was born in 1955 in Ireland, he is a much acclaimed poet, writer and playwright, with fourteen plays, two collections of poetry and seven novels published. On Canaan’s Side is set in 20th century Ireland and Chicago, and is narrated by 89-year-old Lilly Bere. As her story unfolds she tries to make sense of the sorrows and troubles of her life and of the people whose lives she has touched. Spanning nearly seven decades, it is a novel of memory, war, family-ties and love. Sebastian Barry has beautifully crafted a wonderful, haunting historic novel.