Book on John Lennon’s spiritual journey shortlisted for award

John Lennon features in Beatlebone, which is a contender for the  James Tait Black prize. Picture: Getty Images

John Lennon features in Beatlebone, which is a contender for the James Tait Black prize. Picture: Getty Images

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A fictionalised account of John Lennon’s spiritual journey to an uninhabited island off the west coast of Ireland has been shortlisted for Britain’s oldest literary prize announced today.

The novel Beatlebone, by Kevin Barry, is among the contenders for this year’s James Tait Black prize for fiction.

The £10,000 prize is one of two awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh for books published during the previous year - one for the best work of fiction and the other for the best biography.

The winners of both categories will be announced on 15 August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Beatlebone is one of four novels shortlisted, along with The Wolf Border, by Sarah Hall; The First Bad Man, by acclaimed American screenwriter Miranda July; and You Don’t Have to Live Like This, by Benjamin Markovits.

Past winners of the prize include distinguished names such as DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Muriel Spark and Evelyn Waugh.

Contenders for this year’s biography prize include The Blue Touch Paper: A Memoir by English playwright and film director Sir David Hare; Bloomsbury’s Outsider: A Life of David Garnett by Sarah Knights; John Aubrey: My Own Life by Ruth Scurr; and 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear, by James Shapiro.

Previous biography winners include Peter Ackroyd, Martin Amis, Quentin Bell and John Buchan.

The James Tait Black Awards are made annually by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures – the oldest centre for the study of English Literature in the world, established in 1762.

The prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband’s love of good books.

A unique aspect of the prizes is that they are judged entirely by university English scholars and postgraduate literature students. More than 400 books were read by University of Edinburgh academics and postgraduate students.

Fiction judge Dr Alex Lawrie of Edinburgh University said: “The 2015 shortlist showcases the wit, energy and innovation that characterised a remarkably strong year.”

Biography judge Dr Jonathan Wild added: “Our team of postgraduate readers have pointed us towards the cream of biographical writing.”

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