East Midlands Book Award 2013

EMBA_coloursThe winner of the East Midlands Book Award is announced on Thursday 20 June and I’m ridiculously excited because it draws attention to my area of the country, that forgotten place that is neither north nor south. LeftLion has always been very supportive of this prize, running reviews of all books in the magazine as well as interviews with the shortlisted authors. Unfortunately this year we were unable to arrange an interview with Jon McGregor in time (but we’ll get around to it) and Graham Joyce had to pull out due to health reasons.

The competition is now in its third year and is easily the strongest shortlist to date. Personally, I would love to see Will Buckingham win because he has made great strives to make philosophy more accessible but I suspect Jon McGregor will take the honours for his short story collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You. It’s an incredible collection and I imagine it gave his publisher a nice headache as many of the stories could easily have grown into books. But I suspect McGregor has many more up his sleeve. He’s a Booker prize winner waiting to happen. He has such a distinctive voice you can smell him the minute you peel back the cover. Like his other work this is firmly rooted in place, though he’s always peering in rather than out. He’s a master at suturing seemingly alien lives together and finding emotional connections, this time the landscape and atmosphere of the Lincolnshire fens is the binding link.

Graham Joyce is a master craftsman and also a firm favourite. I find his novels are often laments, love letters written to his younger self, each capturing his unquenchable thirst for life. He has that fantastic ability to hit you in the gut and the head with one punch. So often books tend to do either one or the other. Then there’s Alison Moore‘s debut The Lighthouse. Having made it onto the Booker shortlist it would be great to see her notch up an award to further build up confidence. I’ll be working with Alison very soon on a project called Dawn of the Unread but more of this in a future post. If the judge is after some literary fiction with a dark undercurrent then Jonathan Taylor‘s Withnailian debut Entertaining Strangers is a good outside bet. I’ve not read John Gallas Fresh Air, and The Story of Molecule nor Neil Roberts biography of Peter Redgrove, so it’s difficult to comment on these. Follow the links and see what the authors had to say for themselves.

In the latest issue of LeftLion I forgot to mention Jonathan Taylor’s book in the introduction to the WriteLion page (but have updated the website version). This is because I counted out six books and wrongly presumed this was the entire shortlist. There were of course seven books and so my sincerest apologies go to Jonathan. Having said this, the organisers may wish to think about their shortlisting for the next prize as we’ve now had eight books and seven as the shortlist. This strikes me as a little indecisive and confusing and hopefully they will settle on a round number. Eight is far too high. Six is perfect.

The winner will be announced at the start of the Oakham Festival, at Barnsdale Lodge, Oakham on 20 June 2013, and will receive a cheque for £1000. www.oakhamfestival.co.uk

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About James

James is the Literature Editor of LeftLion magazine. He is also an academic and a writer who has been published in various magazines and books. This means he spends most of his time in front of a computer screen writing about life instead of living it. Therefore, do not trust a word he says.