An acclaimed Scottish author has been shortlisted for one of the country’s leading short story prizes. Rob Ewing from Edinburgh is one of three writers shortlisted for the annual Costa Short Story Award.
Mr Ewing has been recognised for his story, The Persistence of Memory, alongside Jess Kidd, from London, and Billy O’Callaghan, from Cork. The announcement caps a successful year for Mr Ewing, a practicing GP. His debut novel, The Last of Us, was praised by critics upon its publication by Borough Press last year.
The book follows a group of five children trying to survive alone on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides after a pandemic wipes out the entire adult population. Told through the voice of an eight-year-old girl, it is billed as an exploration of aftershock, courage and survival.
The plot draws on Mr Ewing’s time living in Barra, where he spent several years, and was hailed by Rebus author Ian Rankin as “bleak, beautiful, and gripping.”
The Scotsman’s critic, Roger Cox, also praised the novel, writing of how “the details of the catastrophe that overwhelmed the island are cleverly drip-fed into the narrative, from rationing and roadblocks to sheer, blind panic, but the main thrust of the story comes from the shifting dynamic within the group of survivors.”
The Costa shortlisting is further recognition of Mr Ewing’s growing stature as a writer. His short stories have appeared in Granta’s New Writing, Aesthetica, New Writing Scotland, and Northwords Now. They have also been performed on BBC Radio Scotland.
The winner of the Costa award – which comes with a £3,500 prize – will be decided by a public vote and announced on 31 January.
The shortlist of three stories was selected by a panel of judges comprising: Sarah Franklin, founder of the Short Stories Aloud initiative; BBC Radio 2 Book Club producer Joe Haddow; author Adele Parks; literary agent Simon Trewin; and author Kit de Waal, herself a finalist for the short story award in 2013.