Chair of Judges calls on publishers to support editors as they work “in partnership” with their writers to grow their careers
Lisa McInerney won her second award in as many weeks tonight (Wednesday 22nd June) when her novel The Glorious Heresies was named winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016 at a ceremony in London. Set in post-crash Ireland and with a myriad cast, McInerney tells the story of returning exile Maureen, whose reappearance after forty years threatens the criminal empire her estranged son Jimmy has spent so long building. McInerney’s book was up against a shortlist which also featured Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea and The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester competing for the £10,000 prize for the best debut novel of the year. The judges, novelist Iain Pears (Chair), The Pool’s Sam Baker and Katy Guest, former literary editor of the Independent on Sunday, were unanimous in their decision.
Pears said: “We knew we had found a major literary figure of the next generation when we made our choice last month – it’s good to see other prize judges have subsequently agreed with us. Lisa is a genuinely exciting writer – there is electricity running through her prose. This is a complex, unusual, violent book, bleak but with welcome humour, and she manages a huge cast with confidence; there is never any doubt that she is in complete control, right to the unexpected but perfect ending. I know what it is to try and control a complicated text, and spent years learning my trade. She has done it on her first outing, and that is close to astounding.”
In his speech, Pears went on to call on publishers not only to continue to support new writers, but also their editors too: “We should never forget that editors and authors work in partnership; each must support the other. Authors need time to grow and develop, but editors need the encouragement to stick with them during this long – and sometimes erratic – process and they deserve our applause when they do – applause the Desmond Elliott Prize is happy to deliver. With luck, all the authors on our shortlist will get that support, as they have already shown what they can achieve, and have given a hint about what they might be able to accomplish in the future.”
McInerney, at 34 the youngest of the shortlisted authors, was the author of the award-winning blog ‘Arse End of Ireland’ which led to her being named “the most talented writer at work today in Ireland” by the Irish Times. She also contributes to websites including Culch.ie, TheJournal.ie, and prominent feminist site The Antiroom. Her short story ‘Saturday, Boring’ was included in Faber’s Town and Country anthology of new Irish short stories in 2013, and ‘Redoubt’ was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 for Christmas 2015.
Dallas Manderson, Chairman of the Prize Trustees, said: “The mission of our judges is not just to find the best debut novel of the year, but also to identify a writer who will go on to write more and even better novels. This is what Iain, Sam and Katy have done this year in choosing Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies. It is a supremely confident and compelling work and leaves one in no doubt that we will hear much, much more from this wondrously talented young writer. After two major prize wins in just a fortnight, there is no doubt that The Glorious Heresies is an absolutely great book which transcends category or criteria.”
The Prize is presented in the name of the late, acclaimed publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, whose passion for finding and nurturing new authors is perpetuated by his Prize, for which he left his entire estate. Now in its ninth year, the award has an established record for spotting up-and-coming novelists in the UK and Ireland and propelling them to greater recognition and success. The 2015 winner was Claire Fuller, author of the bestselling Our Endless Numbered Days. Other past winners include Eimear McBride, Grace McCleen, Anjali Joseph, and Ali Shaw.