The Saltire Society Literary Awards have announced their shortlist for 2015 at simultaneous events in Edinburgh and London this evening, and there’s a great mix of established authors and newcomers in contention. There are six book categories to be awarded at next month’s ceremony, including two new ones, who will win £2,000 and go on to compete for Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award, which comes with an £8,000 prize.
So, let’s get to it! Put on your reading glasses, and get ready to add a mountain of titles to your to-be-read pile. Here is the FULL shortlist and some information on each title:
Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award:
- Killochries [Freight], the most recent collection by Jim Carruth, who was appointed poet laureate of Glasgow in July 2014. Through the medium of poetry, it gives the account of a young man broken by drink and drugs who spends a remedial year with an unyielding relative on a bleak country farm.
- Cream of the Well [Luath Press], a collection of new and selected earlier work by Canada-born Scottish poet Valerie Gillies, who was Edinburgh Makar between 2005 and 2008.
- Not All Honey [Bloodaxe Books], by St. Andrews born poet Roddy Lumsden, whose previous works have been variously shortlisted for the Forward Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.
- The Good Dark [Penned in the Margins], by Edinburgh City Libraries’ Poet in Residence Ryan van Winkle, whose first collection Tomorrow, We Will Live Here was awarded the 2009 Crashaw Prize.
Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year Award:
- The People’s Referendum [Luath Press], a record of the feelings and attitudes, hopes and fears of a varied cross-section of Scottish communities and cultures in the lead-up to the referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014, written by Glasgow-based Irish writer, journalist and broadcaster Peter Geoghegan.
- Airstream [Homebound Publications], in which Edinburgh-born, US-based poet Audrey Henderson recounts her travels and passing encounters, snatches of conversation and memory in a first published collection of her poems.
- On the Edges of Vision [Queen’s Ferry Press], a collection of dark short stories and prose poetry about the limits of the conscious and the darkness within from Edinburgh-based writer Helen McClory.
- The Leipzig Affair [Aurora Metro Books Ltd.], a Cold War spy thriller recently serialised on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime in which a Scottish postgraduate student becomes involved with East German dissidents. This is the first novel from Glasgow-based writer, journalist and translator Fiona Rintoul and won the 2013 Virginia prize for the best new fiction by a woman writing in English.
- Lie of the Land [Polygon], a bleak and dystopian vision of a Scotland where an apocalypse (never closely defined) has all but destroyed the familiar and where the survivors are hemmed in and controlled by a never seen but always powerful authority. This is the first book by west-Highland based writer and journalist Michael F. Russell.
- Sixty Degrees North [Polygon], a collection of essays suggested by that line on the atlas and the countries it passes through, bound by the encounters with cold, distance, bleakness and human survival against often challenging conditions. This is the first book from Shetland-born journalist and singer-songwriter Malachy Tallack.
Saltire Scottish Fiction Book of the Year:
- God in Ruins [Transworld Publishers], an historical novel about Bomber Command’s war but also a moving meditation about life and death, about time and ageing and about the novelist’s art itself, written by Edinburgh-based writer Kate Atkinson, a past winner of the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year award in 2005 who also won the 1995 Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year award for her debut novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum.
- The Book of Strange New Things [Canongate], a work compounded of several genres that searchingly discusses human relationships under extreme stress and looks beyond even human relationships. Dutch-born, Scotland-based writer Michel Faber is a past winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year award. Faber’s 2000 debut novel Under the Skin was adapted into a 2013 feature film directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Scarlett Johansson. 2002 novel The Crimson Petal and the White became a four part BBC television series starring Romola Garai and Richard E. Grant in 2011.
- Jellyfish [Freight Books], a short story collection by South-Lanarkshire based writer Janice Galloway which provides incisive studies of human interaction in a wide variety of situations. Janice Galloway is also a previous winner of the Saltire Book of the Year award for her 2002 novel Clara.
- An Dosan [Acair], by Norma Nicleoid, a Gaelic language novel mainly set in an island community and focused on an eccentric character who sets out to write a book, becoming increasingly unhinged as he does so with that book also contained within the novel and the chapters of each book interweaving. The book received the Donald Meek award for Gaelic literature during the 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival.
- The Illuminations [Faber & Faber], a novel that combines two focuses of interest in the form of an old woman’s final failing and loss of independence and a young soldier’s bitter experience of the war in Afghanistan, written by Scottish novelist and non-fiction author Andrew O’Hagan. O’Hagan famously ghost wrote the 2011 unauthorised autobiography of Julian Assange and won the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland award for writing in 2010.
- A Decent Ride [Jonathan Cape], an irreverent plunge into an Edinburgh not covered in the guide books by renowned Edinburgh writer Irvine Welsh who has had a number of his previous novels adapted into feature films and was shortlisted for the 2002 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year award for Porno as well as winning the 1994 Scottish Arts Council Book Award for Trainspotting.
Saltire Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year:
- Young Eliot [Jonathan Cape], a meticulous biography of the life of renowned poet TS Eliot that reconstructs the young Eliot as he emerges from a rather unfamiliar US background into early manhood and the tumultuous years which produced his great later poetry. Writer Robert Crawford is currently Professor of English at St. Andrew’s University, has twice won the Scottish Arts Council Book Award and in 2007 won the Saltire Scottish Research Book of the Year Award for Scotland’s Books: The Penguin History of Scottish Literature.
- Adventures in Human Being [Profile Books], a book that takes the reader through surgery, blood, dissection and much besides that keeps the human being ticking over, written by Edinburgh physician Gavin Francis whose book Empire Antarctica was previously shortlisted for the 2013 Saltire Literary Awards.
- Lifeblood [Freight], a book dominated by questions of blood that confronts human error, human bravery and human incompetence, written by Gill Fyffe, who received a blood transfusion contaminated with Hepatitis C in 1988 in one of the UK’s biggest ever medical scandals.
- This is Scotland [Luath Press], a book of photography and short essays focused on an often unexpected and quirkily original selection of Scottish places compiled by writer, TV presenter and historian Daniel Gray and photographer Alan McCredie.
Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year Award:
- Clubbing Together: Ethnicity, Civility and Formal Sociability in the Scottish Diaspora to 1930 [Liverpool University Press], a book by Principal Lecturer in History and Director of International Development and Recruitment at Northumbria University, Dr. Tanja Bueltmann. The book provides the first global study of associations and formal sociability by Scottish migrants that seeks to demonstrate how these are key to explaining how migrants negotiated their ethnicity in the diaspora and connected to social structures in diverse settlements.
- Microbes and the Fetlar Man: The Life of Sir William Watson Cheyne [Humming Earth], a biography of one of Britain’s first medical bacteriologists, whose life spanned the flamboyant era of colonial expansion and some of the most important medical developments of the 19th Century. Based in Spain, writer Jane Coutts is an affiliate researcher with the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at Glasgow University.
- The Voice of the People: Hamish Henderson and Scottish Cultural Politics [Edinburgh University Press], which examines Hamish Henderson’s life-long commitment to finding a form of artistic expression suitable for post-war Europe, explores his ideas in their intellectual, cultural and political contexts and describes how all of his works reflect his desire to see the artist fully reintegrated into society. Originally from Dumfries and Galloway, writer Corey Gibson is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
- The Native Woodlands of Scotland [Edinburgh University Press], an authoritative textbook that provides a convenient single source of up-to-date information about the native woodland habitats of Scotland, putting these into their wider British, European and global contexts. Author Scott Wilson is an independent consultant forester and forest ecologist, based in Aberdeen.
Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year Award:
- A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century [Birlinn], an illustrated account of Scotland’s artists’ responses to and depictions of war in its many manifestations in the twentieth century, written by freelance consultant, researcher and lecturer Dr. Patricia R. Andrew.
- A History of Drinking: The Scottish Pub since 1700 [Edinburgh University Press], surprisingly given the prominence of drink and drinking in Scottish culture, the first serious study of Scotland’s public houses, written by Anthony Cooke, a former lecturer in Scottish economic and social history at Dundee University.
- John Knox [Yale University Press], a fresh account of the life of one of Scotland’s most influential men, researched and written by Jane Dawson who is John Laing Professor of Reformation History at the University of Edinburgh;
- The Going Down of the Sun: The Great War and a rural Lewis community [Acair], a multi-faceted account in English and Gaelic of the experiences of a community in the Outer Hebrides during World War One, edited by Donald A. Morrison.
Saltire Society’s Executive Director Jim Tough said, “The Saltire Literary Awards continue to go from strength to strength with the number of book award categories increasing from five to six this year. The decision to announce the shortlists simultaneously in London and Edinburgh, with the support of Waterstones booksellers, is a very deliberate attempt to broaden media and public interest in these prestigious awards. Hopefully it will help to ensure that the awards, run by a small charity and chosen by a panel of judges who give their time voluntarily, receive the recognition they deserve.”
SYP Scotland are also thrilled to be working with the Saltire Society to put on a shadow judging panel for FOUR of these categories. A mix of students and young professionals will be meeting up to chat about these books in just a few weeks. So stay tuned for that! The Saltire Society Literary Awards will take place on 26th November.