Scottish author tipped for Booker success with new crime novel

Scottish author Graeme Macrae Burnet. Picture: PA
Scottish author Graeme Macrae Burnet. Picture: PA
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The tale of a brutal triple murder in a Highland crofting village is tipped to land this year’s Man Booker Prize.

Kilmarnock-born author Graeme Macrae Burnet made the six-strong shortlist for the prestigious award with His Bloody Project, a crime story and memoir based on a 19th Century murder trial.

The book uses court transcipts, medical reports, police statements and newspaper articles to recount the murders of three people in Applecross in 1869 and the subsequent trial of 17-year-old Roderick Macrae, one of the writer’s ancestors.

The nomination is also a coup for its publishers, Contraband, a tiny publishing house based in Glasgow.

His Bloody Project has been made favourite to win the £50,000 prize, which will be announced on 25 October, with odds of 5/2, displacing former winner Deborah Levy (3/1) into second spot.

Macrae Burnet, who has degrees from Glasgow and St Andrews Universities, spent years trying to get his work published without success.

His first novel, The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau, was only published in 2014 after he submitted it himself to Contraband, an imprint dedicated to Scottish crime.

The author, who lives in Glasgow, is currently working on two further novels featuring Georges Gorski, the haunted detective in Adele Bedeau.

He had spent several years working as an English teacher in London and Europe before returning to Glasgow and working for independent television companies.

The shortlist also features debut novelist Ottessa Moshfegh with Eileen, fellow US author Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout, Canadian-British writer David Szalay with All That Man Is and Canadian author Madeleine Thien with Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

Lead judge Amanda Foreman, an award-winning historian, said: “As a group we were excited by the willingness of so many authors to take risks with language and form.

“The final six reflect the centrality of the novel in modern culture – in its ability to champion the unconventional, to explore the unfamiliar, and to tackle difficult subjects.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led the congratulations to Macrae Burnet, tweeting: “Congratulations to @GMacraeBurnet and @SarabandBooks on making the @ManBookerPrize shortlist. Fantastic achievement.”

Top Scottish crime writers Val McDermid described it as a “gripping, unsettling read.”