The Desmond Elliott Prize 2011 LONGLIST ANNOUNCEDTuesday, April 19, 2011
• A magazine editor, a film director and an award-winning journalist turn their creativity to fiction
• One contender blossoms from redundant administrator to publishers’ darling
• London’s real-life dramas inspire some capital fiction
• Historical and international settings distinguish this richly varied list
• Diverse coming-of-age experiences range from hip-hop in Harrow to teenage militancy in Kashmir
The longlist for The Desmond Elliott Prize 2011, the award for a first novel published in the UK has been announced.
The 10 writers longlisted for the prize include former commissioning editor of ELLE magazine (India) Anjali Joseph, critically acclaimed short film director Tom Connolly, award-winning journalist Leo Benedictus and city lawyer Jonathan Lee.
Stephen Kelman whose cult novel Pigeon English has been longlisted for the Prize was unemployed when he secured his publishing deal with Bloomsbury. In his debut book, he draws on his own experiences of growing up on a council estate in London and explores themes of gang culture, immigration and inner city life. Stephen Kelman is one of seven of the longlisted authors based in London and the city features in a further three novels on the longlist.
The Desmond Elliott Prize 2011 longlist is as follows:
• The Afterparty by Leo Benidictus (Jonathan Cape)
• Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)
• Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla (Quartet)
• The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed (Viking)
• Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (Bloomsbury)
• Pub Walks in Underhill Country by Nat Segnit (Fig Tree)
• Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph (Fourth Estate)
• The Spider Truces by Tom Connolly (Myriad Editions)
• A Vision of Loveliness by Louise Levene (Bloomsbury)
• Who is Mr Satoshi? by Jonathan Lee (William Heinemann)
The longlist features a broad range of historical and international settings including London in the 1950s in Louise Levene’s A Vision of Loveliness, Kent in the 1980s in Tom Connolly’s The Spider Truces, Kashmir in the 1990s in Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator, Harrow in the 1990s in Nikesh Shukla’s Coconut Unlimited, present-day Japan in Jonathan Lee’s Who is Mr Satoshi? and contemporary Bombay in Anjali Joseph’s Saraswati Park.
Contrasting accounts of coming of age distinguish several of this year’s longlisted books. In Coconut Unlimited, Nikesh Shukla follows the trials of three hip-hop obsessed Asian boys at their all-white private school in Harrow. In Pigeon English, Stephen Kelman uncovers tricks for urban survival such as how to draw on your own Adidas stripes in marker pen. In 1980s Kent, Ellis O’Rourke deals with death, drugs and spiders in Tom Connolly’s The Spider Truces and in 1990s Kashmir, four teenage boys confront the violence of war in Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator.
Acclaimed broadcaster and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Show Edward Stourton chairs this year’s panel of judges and is joined by Fanny Blake, journalist, writer and Books Editor of Woman & Home magazine, and Amy Worth, part of the Kindle team at amazon.co.uk and champion of digital publishing.
The Prize was inaugurated in honour of publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, one of the most charismatic and successful men in this field, who died in August 2003. He stipulated that his estate should be invested in a charitable trust that would fund a literary award “to enrich the careers of new writers”. Worth £10,000 to the winner, the Prize is intended to support new writers and to celebrate their fiction.
A shortlist of three books will be announced on Wednesday 25 May. When narrowing the list to a shortlist of three books, the judges will be looking for a novel of depth and breadth with a compelling narrative. The work should be vividly written and confidently realised and should contain original and arresting characters. Entries have been considered from all fiction genres.
The winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2011 will be announced on Thursday 23 June at Fortnum & Mason, Desmond’s ‘local grocer’, in London.
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Notes to editors
• The Judges of the Desmond Elliott Prize are available for interview. Please contact Colman Getty
• The longlisted authors may be available for interview. Please contact Colman Getty
• Images of the longlisted books, longlisted authors, judges and the Prize logo are available from Colman Getty
• The Desmond Elliott Charitable Trust is a registered charity. It is chaired by Dallas Manderson, Group Sales Director of the Orion Publishing Group. He is joined by Christine Berry, a partner in the charities group at Taylor Vinters, a Cambridge-based law firm, and Liz Thomson, Editor of BookBrunch. Both Dallas and Christine worked with Desmond Elliott at Arlington Books
• The Desmond Elliot Prize is administered by Emma Manderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
• For updates and news, please see www.desmondelliottprize.com
For further information please contact
Caroline Brown or Liz Sich
at Colman Getty
T: 020 7631 2666
The Desmond Elliott Prize 2011 Longlist
The Afterparty by Leo Benidictus (Jonathan Cape)
It’s the story of an April night that never happened. A night that changes everything for nerdy Michael, a Fleet Street worker ant, when he agrees to take his boss’s invitation to an A-list party at a London club.
Inside, reclusive movie star Hugo Marks is announcing his re-entrance to society. And the last thing Hugo needs is Mellody, his junkie supermodel wife, deciding now’s the time to jump off the wagon. Or drop-dead gorgeous pop pup Calvin, hoping he can screw himself into their league.
Yet not one of them sees the real crisis coming. The moment that will tangle their four lives into an intricate disaster. It happens at the afterparty. But then, perhaps, you knew that already…
Leo Benedictus was born in 1975 and read English at Oxford. Upon graduating he spent two years as an advertising copywriter yet decided to pursue his writing further, becoming a sub-editor at the Guardian. Leo’s work has won prizes and has featured in Prospect, Observer, New Statesman, London Review of Books and Literary Review. He lives in London with his wife Sarah and two sons.
Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)
This is a novel for people with breeding. Only people with the right genes and the wrong impulses will find its marriage of bold ideas and deplorable characters irresistible. It is a novel that engages the mind while satisfying those that crave the thrill of the chase.
There are riots and sex. There is love and murder. There is Darwinism and Fascism, nightclubs, invented languages and the dangerous bravado of youth. And there are lots of beetles.
It is clever. It is distinctive. It is entertaining. We hope you are too.
Ned Beauman was born in 1985 and lives in London. He has written for Dazed & Confused, AnOther and the Guardian.
Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla (Quartet)
Coconut Unlimited follows the adventures of three hopeless, hip-hop-obsesses Asian boys in an all-white private school. It’s Harrow in the 1990s and Amit, Anand and Nishant are stuck. Their peers think they’re try-hard darkies, acting street and pretending to be cool, while their community thinks they’re rich toffs, a long way from the ‘real’ Asians in Southall. So, to keep it real, they form legendary hip-hop band ‘Coconut Unlimited’. Pity they can’t rap.
From struggling to find records in the suburbs and rehearsing on rubbish equipment, to evading the clutches of disapproving parents and real-life drug-dealing gangsters, Coconut Unlimited documents every teenage boy’s dream and the motivations behind it: being in a band to look pretty cool – oh, and get girls…
Nikesh Shukla is a London-based author and poet. Coconut Unlimited was shortlisted for the Costa First Book Award 2010. Nikesh is the resident poet for BBC Asian Network. His writing has been featured on BBC2, Radio 1 and 4, Resonance fm and BBC Asian Network. He has been published in the Guardian, Tell Tales, Litro, Bad Idea, Pen Pusher and Transmission Magazine. He is currently working on a sitcom pilot for Channel 4′s Comedy Lab.
The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed (Penguin, Viking)
It is Kashmir in the early 1990s and war has finally reached the isolated village of Nowgam, close to the Pakistan border. Indian soldiers appear as if from nowhere to hunt for militants on the run. Four teenage boys, who used to spend their afternoons playing cricket or singing Bollywood ballads down by the river, have disappeared, one by one, to cross into Pakistan and join the movement against the Indian army. Only one of their friends, the son of the headman, is left behind.
The families in the village begin to think it’s time to flee, to search for a place of greater safety. But the headman will not allow his family to leave. While he watches his dreams give way beneath the growing violence, his son, under the brutal, drunken gaze of the Indian army captain, is seemingly forced to collaborate and go into the valley to count the corpses, fearing, each day, that he will discover one of his friends lying among the dead.
Mirza Waheed was born and brought up in Srinagar, Kashmir. He moved to Delhi when he was eighteen to study English Literature at the University of Delhi and worked as a journalist in the city for four years. He came to London in 2001 to join the BBC's Urdu Service, where he now works as an editor.
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (Bloomsbury)
Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second-best runner in the whole of year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers – the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen – blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him.
With equal fascination for the local gang – the Dell Farm Crew – and for the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his life in England: watching, listening and learning the tricks of urban survival.
But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start his own murder investigation. In doing so he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try to keep them safe.
Stephen Kelman was born in Luton in 1976. Stephen had his first short story published in an adult anthology at the age of 16, and after finishing his degree he worked variously as a warehouse operative, a careworker, and in marketing and local government administration. He decided to pursue his writing seriously in 2005, and has completed several feature screenplays since then.
Pub Walks in Underhill Country by Nat Segnit (Penguin, Fig Tree)
Graham Underhill is a much-loved local watercolourist, ale enthusiast and self-published guidebook writer – the ‘Wainwright of the West Midlands’. But our narrator and guide is a rambler in more ways than one, and what begins as a set of walk instructions soon gives way to what Graham would rather talk about – mostly, his marriage to the beautiful and erudite Sunita.
When a well-connected environmentalist and would-be MP takes an interest in Sunita’s childhood memoir, Graham’s happiness seems complete. Or it would be, were it not for the shoddy state of the local footpath network. And inconsiderate mountain bikers. And litter louts, pretentious landscape photographers, idiots who consider light trainers suitable for mountainous terrain, and the Highways Agency’s plan to build a bypass through his house.
At least he has his beloved Sunita. Or does he? Graham, it turns out, is not the most reliable guide. And neither is ‘Underhill country’ the sleepy idyll it seems…
Nat Segnit was born in London and educated at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he gained a first in English. His short stories and journalism have appeared in several national newspapers and his play Dolphin Therapy, and two co-written comedy series, Series on Trains and Beautiful Dreamers, were broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph (Fourth Estate)
Mohan is a contemplative man who has spent his life observing people from his seat as a letter-writer outside Bombay’s main post office, but his lack of engagement is creating a rift between him and his wife. At this delicate moment they are joined at their home in Saraswati Park by their nephew Ashish, a diffident, sexually uncertain 19-year-old who has to repeat his final year of college. As the novel unfolds, the lives of the three characters are thrown into relief by the comical frustrations of family life. When Lakshmi loses her only brother, she leaves Bombay for a relative’s home to mourn not only the death of a sibling but also the vital force of her marriage. Ashish, meanwhile, embarks upon an affair with a much richer boy in his college and, later, succumbs to the overtures of his private tutor.
As Mohan scribbles away in the margins of the sort of books he secretly hopes to produce one day, he worries about whether his wife will return, what will become of Ashish, if he himself will ever find his own voice and write from the margins about the centre of which he will never be a part.
Anjali Joseph was born in Bombay in 1978. She read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, and has taught English at the Sorbonne. More recently she has written for the Times of India in Bombay and been a commissioning editor for ELLE (India). She gained an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia with distinction in 2008.
The Spider Truces by Tom Connolly (Myriad Editions)
Ellis is obsessed by the spiders that inhabit the crumbling house where he lives with his dad, his older sister and Great-aunt Mafi – and also by a need to find out more about his mother, whose death overshadows the family’s otherwise happy existence. He is a sensitive soul: awkward and out-of-place most of the time but funny, and endearing too.
From early attempts at relationships, to unskilled jobs, flatshares and drug-addled nights on the beach, Ellis muddles his way towards adulthood. What endures is the strength of the bond with his dad Denny and his affectionate relationship with his intrepid sister Chrissie, who turns up whenever he needs her. The family banter is Ellis’s lifeline and a counterpoint to the constant heartache of his desire to know something – anything – about his mother. Meanwhile Denny, an ex-Merchant Navy man, bottles up his grief at the loss of his wife, refusing to talk about her.
Tom Connolly was born in Farnborough and grew up in the Weald of Kent. He enjoys windsurfing, swimming and walking, and is a keen Arsenal supporter. Tom is a film maker and writer and has directed award-winning short films for the cinema and for the BBC and Channel 4. He lives in the Rother Valley, East Sussex.
A Vision of Loveliness by Louise Levene (Bloomsbury)
Jane James knows that she was born to better things than a dingy bedroom in her dreadful Aunt Doreen’s house in Norbury. She practises her French turns and her killer smile, and dreams of one day being a part of the world she scrutinises through the windows of the cashmere shop where she works.
A crocodile-skin handbag left by chance in a pub leads her to Suzy St John, a girl-about-town with the glamour, confidence and irresistible allure that Jane has rehearsed for so long. Jane installs herself under Suzy’s wing and becomes Janey, a near carbon-copy of her new best friend, who catwalks effortlessly through an easy, sleazy world of part-time modelling and full-time man-trapping. But Jane can never drown out the carping voice of her past – or the nagging doubt that there might be slightly more to life than a mutation mink jacket or an engagement ring.
Louise Levene is a journalist, academic and one-time saleslady. She is currently the ballet critic of the Sunday Telegraph, and used to write and present Radio 4’s Newstand among other programmes. She lives in London and has two teenage children.
Who is Mr Satoshi? by Jonathan Lee (William Heinemann)
Reclusive photographer Rob Fossick has come adrift from both society and his creative urge. But when his mother dies, Rob is suddenly presented with an unwanted yet intriguing problem to solve – minutes before her death, he discovers that she was hoping to deliver a package to an enigmatic character called Mr Satoshi, but the name and contents of the parcel are shrouded in mystery.
So begins a quest that takes Rob out of his isolation and plunges him, anxious and unprepared, into the urban maelstrom of Tokyo. With the help of a colourful group of new acquaintances – an octogenarian amateur detective; a beautiful ‘love hotel’ receptionist; an ex-sumo wrestler obsessed with Dolly Parton – Rob edges closer to uncovering the mystery surrounding Mr Satoshi, and in the process comes face to face with some demons of his own.
Jonathan Lee was born in Surrey in 1981. He graduated from the University of Bristol with a First in English Literature and then, after spending some time living in South America, went on to become a solicitor at a City law firm. In 2007 he was posted to the firm’s Tokyo office, and during his time there became increasingly interested in Japanese culture and history. On his return to London he began writing his first novel, Who is Mr Satoshi?.
About the judges
Edward Stourton (Chair) is a presenter of BBC Radio Four programmes including The World at One, The World this Weekend, Sunday and Analysis and is a regular contributor to the Today programme where for ten years he was one of the main presenters. He has written and presented several high-profile current affairs programmes and documentaries for radio and television and also writes for national newspapers and magazines.
Born in Nigeria in 1957 and educated at Cambridge University, he is the author of Absolute Truth (Viking 1998), In the Footsteps of St Paul (Hodder & Stoughton 2004), Paul of Tarsus: A Visionary Life (Paulist Press 2005), John Paul II: Man of History (2006) and It's a PC World: What it Means to Live in a Land Gone Politically Correct (2008) published by Hodder & Stoughton.
Fanny Blake is a journalist and writer and is currently Books Editor for Woman & Home magazine. She worked in publishing for over 20 years, lastly as editorial director at Viking/Penguin. More recently she has written a number of non-fiction titles and has also worked with high-profile celebrities on both fiction and non-fiction. Her own first novel, What Women Want, is published by Blue Door this April.
Amy Worth recently made the exciting move to digital and joined the Kindle team at Amazon where she works with publishers to make more e books available to Kindle customers. Prior to that, Amy was head of books buying at amazon.co.uk and was heavily involved in such launches as Amazon Rising Stars, Amazon Author Pages and Look inside the Book.
About Desmond Elliott
Desmond Elliott’s life reads like a page-turning rags to riches story. From humble beginnings in an Irish orphanage, he came to England in 1947 at the age of 16 with just £2 in his pocket, to start his publishing career at Macmillan. After a colourful career in-house, Desmond set up as an agent and subsequently went on to establish his own publishing company, Arlington Books, in 1960.
This dedication, coupled with creative business sense, was key to the creation of a list of hugely successful blockbuster novelists; Jilly Cooper, Leslie Thomas and Penny Vincenzi, to name but a few. Respected and loved by his authors, in the words of Candida Lycett Green, Desmond was simply “magic”.
Charismatic, witty, and waspish, Elliott lived his life with verve. He drank only champagne, always crossed the Atlantic on Concorde and used Fortnum & Mason as his local shop. His office was in Mayfair and he had homes in London’s St. James’s and New York’s Park Avenue. Desmond Elliott died in August 2003 at the age of 73.
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