A former mental health nurse from Bristol who teaches creative writing was named the surprise winner of the Costa Book of the Year for his first ever book.
Nathan Filer, 32, won the £30,000 award with his novel The Shock of the Fall, about a 19-year-old boy who descends into mental illness ten years after the death of his special-needs brother.
The book, which had won the best first novel category earlier this month, has only just been published after an 11-way publisher’s auction netted Filer a six-figure sum.
Although the mood swings of its unreliable narrator have some echoes of Vernon God Little and The Wasp Factory, The Shock of the Fall is not regarded as derivative, and Filer’s background as a trained mental health nurse gives it added authority.
Before tonight’s announcement, Edinburgh novelist Kate Atkinson had been the hot favourite to win the award for her her novel Life After Life, which was the bookie’s favourite at odds of 11/8 and which last year was voted one of the 50 best Scottish novels of the last 50 years. Life After Life also won Costa’s Novel of the Year award earlier this month. Filer’s novel had was the second-least favourite among the five category winners.
The other contenders were Michael Symmons Robert’s Drysalter (best poetry book), Goth Girl and Ghost of a Mouse by political cartoonist Chris Riddell (best children’s book) and Lucy Hughes-Hallet for The Pike, her study of controversial Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio (winner of the best biography category).