Authors in running for 'best of best' James Tait Black award

From top left clockwise, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, James Kelman, Caryl Phillips, Cormac McCarthy and Angela Carter The shortlist was picked by English literature students and academics at the University of Edinburgh

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Six authors from the past century have been shortlisted for the best ever winner of Britain's oldest book award.

Angela Carter, Graham Greene, James Kelman, Cormac McCarthy, Muriel Spark and Caryl Phillips are in the running for the James Tait Black accolade.

The Best of the Best of the James Tait Black Prize will honour the best loved novel to have won the award since it was created in 1919.

The winning book will be announced in December.

The award has been created to celebrate the 250th anniversary of English literature study at the University of Edinburgh.

The shortlist was selected by academics and students of literature at the university, and the winner will be chosen by a judging panel including broadcaster Kirsty Wark and award-winning author and writer in residence at the university, Alan Warner.

Publisher's widow

The six books competing for the prize are: Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter; The Heart Of The Matter by Graham Greene; A Disaffection by James Kelman; The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Crossing The River by Caryl Phillips and The Mandlebaum Gate by Muriel Spark.

Regius Professor Greg Walker, chair of the James Tait Black Prizes, said: "This best of the best award is a wonderful opportunity to revisit some of the best writers in the literary canon.

"It is fitting in the year of celebration of 250 years of study of English literature at the University of Edinburgh that we recognise the wonderful contribution this prize makes to honouring great literature."

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband's love of reading.

The annual awards are for the best work of fiction and the best biography published during the previous 12 months.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The field of choice is so massive as to make the outcome seem arbitrary! The shortlist chosen by the students is as relevant as it could be given the parameters!

    It ends up feeling like it is an award benefiting the awarding body more than the writer and his/her estate or reputation.

    Can't wait to hear who wins!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    means nothing to me , ...but ian banks , pratchet or even rowling are too popular with the mainly working and middle class and these awards are deffo not with them in mind.

    its seems the more obscure and unrelevant you are the more likely it is you will be awarded . i dont know any one who knows or has even read any of the authors or books on this list.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    My vote would go for Cormac McCarthy but not The Road. I'd go for The Crossing or All The Pretty Horses or the Border Trilogy. Then there is Hilary Mantell and Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    You need to look on awards like this in a similar way to the Oscars. It's all around the "industry". nothing to do with actual quality or popularity.

    Taste in books is incedibly varied, a lot of the popular books are technically trash, but enjoyed by lots of people who actually just want to read trash. As people have also said, sci-fi & fantasy generally gets discounted as not proper literature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I have read Muriel Spark & Graham Greene, but haven't read the others short-listed. I confess to complete bias, I am a big fan of Graham Greene, who I think personally is one of the greatest English writers of the 20th Century. The Heart of the Matter isn't my personal favourite, but he is a very moral and interesting writer. Any of his books are well worth a read.


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