Irvine Welsh, Janice Galloway in race for Scots literary prize

IRVINE Welsh, Kate Atkinson, Michel Faber, Janice Galloway and Andrew O’Hagan will be among the contenders for Scotland’s flagship literary prizes this year.

Irvine Welsh is among the nominees. Picture: Toby Williams
Irvine Welsh is among the nominees. Picture: Toby Williams

Biographies of 16th century preacher John Knox, celebrated poet TS Eliot, and the Scottish singer and folklorist Hamish Henderson are in the running for honours at next month’s Saltire Literary Awards.

Also nominated are a history of Scottish pubs and drinking habits since the early 17th century, a biography of the 19th century bacteriologist Sir William Watson Cheyne and a woman’s fight for survival after contracting Hepatitis C.

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The contenders include two books inspired by the independence referendum – Peter Geoghegan’s cross-country account of how the debate “gripped the nation” and a photographic portrait of Scotland in the run-up to the poll, by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie.

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The awards, which date back to 1937 and have recognised some of Scotland’s great modern-day writers, have undergone a shake-up for this year, with fiction and non-fiction writers now being recognised separately in the main nominations.

The winners of six categories – which also recognise research, history and poetry books – will go on to compete for the overall Saltire Scottish Book of the Year title.

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It was won last year by the late historian Charles McKean, one of the nation’s most respected experts on architectural history, who spent a decade working on an epic study of 18th century life in Scotland before passing away in October 2013.

Former Saltire Scottish Book of the Year winners in the running for the main fiction title, include Galloway, who is nominated for short-story collection Jellyfish, and Atkinson, who is shortlisted for historical novel God in Ruins. Welsh is shortlisted in the same category for A Decent Ride, which was billed by his publisher as his “funniest, filthiest book yet,” while O’Hagan’s Man Booker-nominated novel The Illuminations explores the impact of the war in Afghaniston on a young Scottish soldier.

Highlands-based writer Faber, who won the Saltire First Book of the Year prize in 1999, is shortlisted for The Book of Strange New Things.

The final contender is Lewis writer Norma Macleod, who landed a publishing deal after winning an Edinburgh International Book Festival prize for Gaelic language novel An Dosan, about an eccentric islander who sets out to write a book but becomes “increasingly unhinged”.

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Nominees for best non-fiction book include Lifeblood, former teacher Gill Fyffe’s memoir charting the dramatic effect on her life of being infected with Hepatitis C through a contaminated blood transfusion.

Nominees in the history category include A Chasm in Time, which explored the response of Scottish artists to war throughout the 20th century, and The Going Down of the Sun, an account in English and Gaelic of the exeriences of islanders in the Outer Hebrides during the First World War.

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They will be up against A History of Drinking, which was billed as the first serious social history of Scotland’s inns, ale houses and taverns, and their links to the likes of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Dorothy Wordsworth, James Hogg and Robert Southey.

Jim Tough, executive director of the Saltire Society, said: “The awards continue to go from strength to strength with the number of book award categories increasing from five to six.

“Spanning science and academia, alongside biography, creative poetry and prose, the sheer scale and variety of writing talent on display here is truly inspiring. In terms of showcasing today’s Scottish literary output in its many varied forms, I think this year’s shortlists have to be the broadest and most comprehensive yet.

“I know the judges will find it very difficult to decide who should emerge as the overall winner.”

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Saltire Literary Awards shortlists in full

Scottish Research Book of the Year

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Clubbing Together: Ethnicity, Civility and Formal Sociability in the Scottish Diaspora to 1930 (Liverpool University Press), by Dr Tanja Bueltmann.

Microbes and the Fetlar Man: The Life of Sir William Watson Cheyne (Humming Earth), by Jane Coutts.

The Voice of the People: Hamish Henderson and Scottish Cultural Politics (Edinburgh University Press), by Corey Gibson.

The Native Woodlands of Scotland (Edinburgh University Press), by Scott Wilson.

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Scottish History Book of the Year

A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century (Birlinn), by Dr Patricia Andrew.

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A History of Drinking: The Scottish Pub since 1700 (Edinburgh University Press), by Anthony Cooke.

John Knox (Yale University Press), by Jane Dawson.

The Going Down of the Sun: The Great War and a rural Lewis community (Acair), by Donald Morrison.

Scottish Poetry Book of the Year

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Killochries (Freight), by Jim Carruth.

Cream of the Well (Luath Press), by Valerie Gillies.

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Not All Honey (Bloodaxe Books), by Roddy Lumsden.

The Good Dark (Penned in the Margins), by Ryan van Winkle.

Scottish First Book of the Year

The People’s Referendum (Luath Press), by Peter Geoghegan.

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Airstream (Homebound Publications), by Audrey Henderson.

On the Edges of Vision (Queen’s Ferry Press) by Helen McClory;

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The Leipzig Affair (Aurora Metro Books Ltd), by Fiona Rintoul.

Lie of the Land (Polygon), by Michael F. Russell.

Sixty Degrees North (Polygon), by Malachy Tallack.

Saltire Scottish Fiction Book of the Year

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God in Ruins (Transworld Publishers), by Kate Atkinson.

The Book of Strange New Things (Canongate), by Michel Faber.

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Jellyfish (Freight Books), by Janice Galloway.

An Dosan (Acair), by Norma Nicleoid.

The Illuminations (Faber & Faber), by Andrew O’Hagan.

A Decent Ride (Jonathan Cape), by Irvine Welsh.

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Saltire Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year

Young Eliot (Jonathan Cape), by Robert Crawford.

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Adventures in Human Being (Profile Books), by Gavin Francis.

Lifeblood (Freight), by Gill Fyffe.

This is Scotland (Luath Press), by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie.