Thursday, 18 January 2007

The Costa book awards (formerly the Whitbread book awards)

The book awards has five categories - first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children's book - and an overall winner (who receives £25,000) is chosen from the category winners. The category winners were announced on January 10, and the overall winner will be revealed on February 7.


Winner of the Costa Award for Best First Novel

One author of interest to the crime genre is Stef Penny, published by the young Turks at Quercus. Stef was born and grew up in Edinburgh. She studied at Bristol University before turning to script writing and film-making. She was selected for the Carlton Television New Writers Scheme and has since written and directed two short films. The characters in The Tenderness of Wolves originally started life in a screenplay and during a period of unemployment, Stef decided that they had become something much more complex than a screenplay format could cope with and so decided to write a novel – which she did in secret.

On leaving university, Stef became agoraphobic and could barely travel. She couldn’t fly and has never been to Canada. This inability to visit far flung countries made her all the more fascinated by them. She researched all the places mentioned in the book at The British Library – using information from the Hudson Bay Company employees that goes back a couple of centuries. Through the central character in the book, Mrs Ross, Stef explores what it would have been like to have been agoraphobic in the past when there would have been no treatment available. Happily, Stef has now recovered from her own agoraphobia.

If you missed The Tenderness of Wolves in hardback, then buy the paperback out this March Quercus, £7.99

Category winners
Restless by William BoydJudges: "Beautifully crafted. Boyd gives us a page-turner, despite the story's complex wartime intrigue. Restless is packed with riveting detail: it is a novel reeking of authenticity."

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef PenneyJudges: "The Tenderness of Wolves is atmospheric, gripping and compassionate and perfectly evokes the snowy wastes of 19th century Canada."

Keeping Mum by Brian Thompson Judges: "From a loveless wartime childhood comes a generous and loveable memoir written from a child's-eye view. Utterly lacking in self-pity, it's laugh-out-loud funny."

Letter to Patience by John HaynesJudges: "A vivid, thoughtful and multi-faceted verse-letter, which moves skilfully between life in post-colonial Nigeria and England."

Set in Stone by Linda Newbery Judges: "A novel of intrigue and deception. Newbery's landscape is a joy to walk into."

The shortlists
Novel award
Saving Caravaggio by Neil Griffiths Judges: "A powerful and discomforting story of one man's obsession and its consequences. A thriller with real momentum and atmospheric force."

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon Judges: "An absolute pleasure to read, with a lightness of touch overlaying real insight into chaotic family life."

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell Judges: "A telling and touching account of a vanishing childhood, with all its impossibilities and its comedies."

First novel award
The Meaning of Night by Michael CoxJudges: "Michael Cox's recreation of the underbelly of Victorian high society brings a great revenge tale to life. It is a powerful achievement of research, style and plotting."

Cloth Girl by Marilyn Heward MillsJudges: "Cloth Girl is remarkably self-assured for a first novel. It brings the gold coast of Africa and the pre-war colonial world to life - it is warm, vibrant and moving."

The Amnesia Clinic by James ScudamoreJudges: "This delightful book about the friendship between two boys in Ecuador is full of tall tales and fantasy. The line between reality and bizarre fiction is always blurred, always mesmerising."

Biography award
George Mackay Brown : The Life by Maggie Fergusson Judges: "Maggie Fergusson's extraordinary biography illuminates the life of a neglected genius and the place that inspired him. Even if you're unfamiliar with George Mackay Brown, it's a captivating read."

Donne: A Reformed Soul by John Stubbs Judges: "A vivid portrait of John Donne and his world: the religious turmoil, political intrigues, the sex and the violence. A majestic read and everything you want from a literary biography."

Nabeel's Song by Jo Tatchell Judges: "After the most dramatic opening of any of the books on the shortlist, Nabeel's Song evokes the lost world of Iraq before Saddam, as well as the terrors that ensued. This beautifully-written book reminds us that poetry is stronger than tyranny."

Poetry award
The Book of Blood by Vicki FeaverJudges: "Fierce poems with striking imagery and fine control ofpace and tone."

District and Circle by Seamus HeaneyJudges: "Elegiac and contemporary - haunting and haunted poems of immense intelligence and freshness."

Dear Room by Hugo WilliamsJudges: "Elegantly crafted poems which have an emotional narrative that is both wistful and raw."

Children's book award
Clay by David Almond Judges: "Clay is a powerful, moving and unusual story which works on every level. It is beautifully and plainly written, and comes straight from the heart."

The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding Judges: "A rollicking 18th century theatrical romp with a fantastically feisty heroine."

Just In Case by Meg Rosoff Judges: "A razor-sharp portrait of a teenage boy and his relationship with his image, his inner life and fate itself."

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