The winners of the 2016 James Tait Black Prizes for Biography and Fiction (the UK’s oldest book prizes) were announced last night by Sally Magnusson at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Both prizes had a strong shortlist, which had been narrowed down from over 400 books by a dedicated group of academics and students at the University of Edinburgh. Each winner received a prize of £10,000.
Eimar McBride, winner of the 2014 Baileys Prize, took the Fiction Prize for her novel The Lesser Bohemians. The novel tells the story of an 18-year-old Irish girl who ventures to London and ends up falling for an older actor. Described by Dr Alex Lawrie, of the University of Edinburgh, as an “astonishing second novel” which, it was chosen from a shortlist including Jo Baker’s A Country Road, a Tree, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You and CE Morgan’s The Sport of Kings.
Claiming the prize for Biography was Laura Cumming for her excellent book The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velázquez. In this biography, Cumming traces the story of the moment Victorian bookseller John Snare believes himself to have found a lost painting by Velázquez. Dr Jonathan Wild, one of the judges for the biography prize from the University of Edinburgh, called The Vanishing Man “a real gem of a book”, whilst Sally Magnusson praised the “loving detail, enchantment and humanity” used to portray the painter.
The Vanishing Man was selected as winner out of a shortlist including A Life Discarded by Alexandr Masters, Rasputin by Douglas Smith, and A Stain in the Blood by Joe Moshenska.
The James Tait Black Prizes
The James Tait Black Prizes were founded in 1919 by James Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, making them Britain’s oldest literary awards. They are presented by the University of Edinburgh annually to a winner chosen from a selection of writers chosen by PhD students and academics. In 2013, the James Tait Black Prize for Drama was also founded. The drama prize winner will be announced on Monday 22 August at the Traverse Theatre.