by Leanne on May 31, 2012 at 10:50 am
The Eagle of the Twelfth: it has a mythic ring to it. The clash of swords on shields, the shining eagle, the hope, the pride, the courage, the despair of a legion… and of course, it has to be lost; because why write about an Eagle if it sits safely on its standard and is never under threat?
From the day I discovered Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth in our village library as a child, I have been entranced by the legions and the power of their Eagle standards to embody the spirit, honour and pride of the men who fought under them. If the Eagle was saved at the end of a battle, even if only one man was saved with it, the legion lived. But if the standard was lost, even if a thousand men survived, the legion was gone. What a powerful, compelling story!
And yet the Eagle of the Ninth was never truly lost: the story of its recovery can only ever be fiction. The day I discovered that the Eagle of the Twelfth really was lost was one of the most exciting of my writing life; more so given that we know from the contemporary historian Josephus how four hundred men gathered to give their lives and to die with it, knowing it was going to be captured. But the Twelfth legion lived on, so it must have been found again; just that nobody knows how. It’s a writer’s gift: for forty years I’ve wanted to write a story that would do justice to the Eagle, and here it was, a gem hidden away in the timeline of the Emperor’s Spy series, and all i had to do was weave a novel around it, bring in Pantera and Hypatia and Mergus from The Coming of the King, and show how the two fitted together. If ever a book wrote itself, it is this one.
The research was inspiring: I read endless war memoirs from battles down the ages and discovered – or perhaps simply came more deeply to know – that some things were always the same; when men live together, train together, fight, kill and die together, the bond that joins them is as strong as any marriage, as enduring as any unrequited love. When you owe a man your life, and he knows it, there is no limit to what you will do for him. And so the Eagle of the Twelfth is a love story as much as it is a story of battles won and lost, of the unluckiest legion in the Roman army and how it dug itself out of its un-luck by sheer force of will and courage and grit-toothed determination: it’s the story of a man’s enduring love for his legion, and the lengths he will go to to help it survive.
The Eagle of the Twelfth is the third in the Rome series. The next, Rome: The Art of War, brings Pantera back to the centre stage, pushing him to the edges of his being and testing a life’s learning as the natural heir to the Spymaster. But for now, I give you Demalion of Macedon; the man who came to love his legion. The man who was prepared to give his life for the Eagle of the Twelfth.
by Kate on May 30, 2012 at 8:52 am
Sir Terry Pratchett has today, been named the winner of the 2012 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction for his novel Snuff. Praised by The Independent for being ‘As funny as Wodehouse and as witty as Waugh’, the judges felt it seemed only fitting for him to win a prize that celebrates fiction that captures the comic spirit of P.G. Wodehouse.
The prize includes the naming of a Gloucestershire Old Spot pig after the novel.
This is the first time Pratchett has won the prize, although he has been shortlisted on three previous occasions for his novels Thief of Time (2002), Going Postal (2005) and Thud! (2006). As the 13th winner of the prize, he joins previous winners including Paul Torday, Ian McEwan, Marina Lewycka and DBC Pierre in an impressive canon of comic fiction.
Snuff is Terry Pratchett’s 50th book and the 39th in the Discworld novels. The book, which sees Commander Sam Vimes investigating a country house murder whilst on holiday, has become one of the fastest-selling hardback novels since records began. AS Byatt, in a review for The Guardian, commented ‘Pratchett is a master storyteller… He is a master of complex jokes, good bad jokes, good dreadful jokes and a kind of insidious wisdom about human nature (and other forms of alien nature).’
Peter Florence, a judge of the prize and Director of The Telegraph Hay Festival, comments: ‘I am thrilled he’s won in this 25th anniversary year of the festival. He’s consistently funny, inventive and with an acute, satirical view of the world.’
Terry Pratchett will be presented with the Prize – a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and a set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection – at The Telegraph Hay Festival on Wednesday 6 June. He will also have the honour of having a locally-bred pig named after the novel.
This great news following the BAFTA that Terry Pratchett won last weekend for Best Single Documentary for his deeply moving and highly provocative BBC Two documentary Choosing to Die.
by Elizabeth on May 27, 2012 at 6:00 am
If the prologue for The Eagle of the Twelfth left you wanting more then you are in luck! Below is the first chapter of this wonderful new hardback, a breathtakingly compelling story of a legion at war.
If you have any questions for Manda Scott, get in touch via twitter @hare_wood or visit her website http://www.mandascott.co.uk/
Hyrcania, on the Caspian Sea, February, ad 57. In the Reign of the Emperor Nero
February, AD 57
Blue-green, iridescent, gleaming in the hazy sun, the peacock feathers shone out at me from a stall in the heart of the market.
The feathers were glorious; bright motes of summer in this place of winter greys that spawned unexpected memories of bright Macedonian mornings, of flower meadows and foaling mares, so that I was left floundering like a landed fish, gagging on the stench of rancid seal fat and gathering stares from the almond-eyed, flat-faced men of the Hyrcanian market.
They despised me; I hated them: these things were taken for granted, but I had never previously made a fool of myself in their presence. That I had done so now gave me yet another grievance against Sebastos Abdes Pantera, the man who served as my superior officer while we remained in this foreign land, and who had sent me, Demalion of Macedon, born a better man than Pantera might ever be, on a slave’s errand.
The familiar sting of ruined pride brought me to my I blinked away the memories, snapped shut my mouth and, as I had been ordered, paid over a silver coin for twelve peacock pinions; six from the left wing, six from the right.
The trader tested the silver between his teeth before he parted with the feathers. His eyes were gimlets of suspicion, buried in the folds of flesh that made his face. His beard was brightly black, oiled with fish oil or seal fat or whatever repugnant mess it was that the men here used to keep the frozen sea-wind from splitting their faces.
I still shaved every day, and kept the cold from my skin with olive oil. The Hyrcanians deemed me no better than a woman for it and were only restrained from saying so because Pantera and Cadus did the same, and Vilius Cadus was a foot larger in each dimension than any of them, hewn from raw granite, with a pugilist’s fists and a nose yet unbroken. None of them dared offend him.
Whether they would have been as impressed had they known Cadus was a Roman, indeed that he was centurion of the Vth Macedonica legion, favourite of the late Augustus, was an open question. Nobody knew Cadus was a centurion just as nobody knew I was his clerk. Here, we were Greek freemen, no more than bodyguard and scribe to Pantera the horse-trader; necessary parts of his subterfuge.
Pantera had a lot to answer for.
‘Archer! Arrows?’ The fat-faced trader was trying to make conversation. His Greek was appalling; he chopped the words as if his teeth were hatchets, and murdered the vowels.
I forced a smile. ‘Not me.’ I made gestures to fit the words. ‘These are for Pantera,’ and, at the man’s incomprehension, ‘for the Leopard.’
The Leopard was their friend, or so they thought. He brought them amber from the far frozen ocean to the west, balsam from the southern deserts, pearls from the Mediterranean that were larger, more lustrous than the ones from the Hyrcanian Ocean on whose shores they lived. Better than all these, he brought horses from all over the world; fast, good, tough horses that might survive a Hyrcanian winter, and carry their owners on many hunts through the balmy, rain-blessed summers.
‘Give these!’ The man thrust a fistful of whole raven feathers into my hand. ‘Good arrows. Go fast. Kill many bear!’
‘I’m sure.’ I pressed my fist to my forehead, and remembered to bow as I backed away. Leaving, I wondered if the men here could read minds, or if it was always the case in Hyrcania that some shafts were fletched with peacock flights and others with raven, for I had been sent to buy both.
The peacock flights were required, so I had been told, for the lighter arrows that Pantera had fashioned through the morning, while the raven feathers were destined for the heavier shafts, with the barbed iron flanges at the tip, designed to stop a bear or a boar.
In Macedonia, where I had grown to adulthood, we had used goose feathers for the lighter arrows and swan for the bear-hunters, but nobody had asked me what I thought and I had not volunteered the information. Rather, I had been stunned that Pantera had bothered to tell me anything useful at all; for the past six months he had told me precisely what I needed to know to get through each day and no more.
Cadus always seemed at least three steps ahead of me, but he was my centurion, and while he had never once used that to hold me to silence, I was too young to ask anything, too deeply imbued with a legionary discipline that did not allow a man to question his superiors, too in awe of his battle majesty: I was nineteen years old, a conscript with two years’ training behind me, and I had not yet drawn blood.
My lack of a kill, more than anything, was what I read in the flat stares of the Hyrcanian men. In this land – in all of Parthia, as far as I could tell – the boys killed a man or a boar or they died trying. Those who lived became men in that single act and were given women and horses to prove it. If a man was mounted, it was because he had taken at least one life in battle or in the hunt; and everyone rode.
I despised myself for my weakness. I may have dreamed all my youth of life as a horse-trader like my father; I may have railed against my conscription and loathed the legions on principle, but even so, every morning in this place I cursed my lack of valour and every night, when I slept, my traitorous mind brought me dreams drenched in the blood of our enemies as my comrades in the Vth launched themselves into battle, taking risks, winning glory, rising in the ranks, killing the enemy and so becoming men . . . all without my being there.
The fact that it was winter, when the weather forced a kind of peace on both sides, and that my comrades were currently enduring endless forced marches over the mountains in western Armenia because their general had deemed them unfit for battle, did nothing to hamper my fantasies.
The Parthian merchants were staring at me still. I shook my head clear of imagined gore and continued on through the market, past the reeking stalls of dried and smoked fish, past bushels of shelled nuts that smelled of autumn and threatened more memories, past pickled eggs in stone jars and skinless seabirds packed in salt-barrels.
Near the shoreline, I found the stall marked with the redstained ewe’s hide where waited a bundle with my name on it that I had orders to open on the spot.
Inside, I found a tunic made of fine undyed lamb’s wool, and trousers the same, and boots that might have been made of bearskin and a belt that certainly was, and a silver brooch the size of a duck’s egg to pin the woollen cloak that was wrapped around the bundle.
All of this was my gift from the new, young, extravagant King of Kings, that a horse-trader’s scribe might attend a day’s hunting in the royal party without offending the royal proprieties. I should have been grateful, but I had had enough of Hyrcania and was churlish enough to disdain it as no more than my due.
When I returned to the tavern – in Macedonia it would have been counted less than a shack and free men would not have deigned to enter – neither Pantera nor Centurion Cadus was present.
They did not return that day, but both were there when I woke the next morning. Cadus lay on his back on the straw pallet, sleeping with the peace of a man who knows that the legionary watch-horns have no power to rouse him.
Pantera, as always, was awake. He sat near the window, fletching the last of his arrows by a thin, grey light that bled in past the shutters.
Pantera the Leopard, trader and friend of traders; Pantera the Roman spy who claimed to have come from the emperor himself, and had letters enough to persuade a legionary commander in Oescus to give him two men; Pantera, who had picked me from four thousand others because, alone of my century, possibly of my cohort, perhaps of my legion, I could read and write Latin as well as Greek.
Out of habit, I cursed my mother’s father, who had paid for the tutor, believing that all his grandsons should be literate. For good measure, I cursed my father, and my father’s father and all the way back up the line to the misbegotten son of a she-ass who had sold the great Bucephalos to Alexander and thus guaranteed that his descendants would be horse-traders for ever more.
Because that was the other thing that had sealed my fate: Pantera might conceivably have been able to find another scribe in one of the legions who could write Greek and Latin rome – the eagle of the twelfth with equal ease, but there was none who also had a lifelong eye for a horse, and could ride as well as he could march; better, in my case.
I chose not to think about that; like Macedonian mornings, some things were best remembered through a haze. I drew in a breath and tasted ice on the air and threw back the bed-hides, so that I might not be tempted to stay long in the warm.
‘You can open the window,’ I said. ‘It can’t get any colder in here than it already is.’
‘It may even be warmer outside,’ said Pantera. ‘They say spring throws itself on a man fast here, like a woman in drink, and you can never tell when the sun will outweigh the chill.’ He threw open the shutters and leaned on the sill to finish his work. His tone was mildly pensive. ‘Have you found the women forward here?’
Surprised, I laughed aloud. ‘They wouldn’t dare. Fathers give their girl children in marriage to their friends the day after their first bleeding, and if a woman looks askance at another man she’ll find herself spreadeagled on a cartwheel and that cart pushed into the sea.’
‘That’s what I thought. It must be the women of other nations who are forward.’
The new light showed Pantera dressed in a tunic of the same fine-woven lamb’s wool as the one I had collected from the market, except that it was black, so that the silver brooch – his was the size of a child’s fist and bore amber at its centre – was shown off more brightly.
I watched him tie off the last of the arrows; a raven’s wing flight on one of the heavy bear-killing shafts. He lifted it and it vanished and I, still sleepy, was transported temporarily to childhood, mouth agape, a little worried, a little charmed by his sleight of hand, until he stood and his good black cloak flew a little with the movement and I saw that the entire quiver hung from his hip and he had not performed magic at all. The peacock flights outnumbered the raven by two to one. In my disappointment, I counted them, and tried to think what the quarry might be.
Pantera had no thought for me. He had turned to look east, towards the place where the lowering sky pressed down on the leaden sea. The flat, crushed sun cast him in sulphur and citron, gilding his hair to the rich red-gold of the Gauls, and the peacock flights at his hip became as living jewels, ablaze with ice and fire in their hearts. By a trick of the light, his hands were a god’s hands, and his face, caught on the threequarter turn, held a like divinity.
It was more than a morning in Macedonia, that look; it caught me deeper, and twisted harder, so that I caught my breath.
Hearing it, Pantera turned fully round, one brow raised. This once, his features were clear, his gaze steady over a mouth that could hold a thousand expressions and currently held none, and in that moment it seemed to me that I saw the true man for the first time in half a year of looking; and that
Pantera was taut as his own strung bow.
I looked away, down, at my hands, at my feet, at Cadus, rising muzzily to waking. When I looked back again, Pantera had stepped away from the light and was the Leopard again, lost in the lazy shadows that clung to the room’s margins; a man neither big nor small, with hair the colour of the brown bears in the forest, and eyes the brown-green of a river I had swum in as a child. Like that, he could have walked into a crowd and men would barely have noticed he was among them. I had seen him do exactly that.
‘Are you ready?’ he asked. His voice did not sound tight. I thought I had imagined the tension, perhaps had wanted it to be there.
‘As much as I ever am.’ I stood at the window and let the freezing air knife into my lungs, let it pare away whatever impossible longing might have taken root.
I made myself read the land, as I had been taught. To the north, layers of cloud lay draped across the horizon in a way I had come to know these past six months.
‘Besides snow,’ I asked, ‘what should I be ready for?’
‘For a hunt such as you have never known.’ Pantera’s smile was bright. ‘Whatever happens, do exactly what Cadus tells you. His job is to keep you both alive.’
by Kate on May 24, 2012 at 10:47 am
Announced today, Rachel Joyce’s novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has joined the shortlist of 3 for the 2012 Desmond Elliott Prize. The Prize celebrates the very best of debut fiction by the rising stars of the literary world.
The shortlist for The Desmond Elliott Prize 2012 is as follows:
• The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Chatto & Windus)
• The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness (Seren)
• The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)
This year’s shortlist has been selected from a longlist of ten, announced in April. The three shortlisted authors are: poet and academic Patrick McGuinness, whose novel The Last Hundred Days was inspired by his years in Bucharest in the lead up to the Romanian revolution; Transworld’s award-winning radio playwright Rachel Joyce, whose book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was originally drafted as a radio play for her dying father, and Grace McCleen with The Land Of Decoration, a story based on the author’s own upbringing in a Christian fundamentalist sect in Wales.
Sam Llewellyn, 2012 Chair of Judges and one of Desmond Elliott’s own protégés, commented:
‘It has been extraordinarily hard to choose a shortlist of three from such a powerful and diverse longlist. Desmond Elliott once told me that his ideal novel was a cross between a treasure hunt and a race. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is both these things, and a lot more besides. The Last Hundred Days, written with wit and irony, is a really fine and original addition to the literature of disintegrating empires, and The Land of Decoration is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s a rollercoaster of a book that makes the reader laugh and cry at entirely unpredictable intervals.’
Sam Llewellyn is joined on the judging panel by Tom Gatti, Editor of The Times Review section, and Caroline Mileham, Head of Books at Play.com.
William Hill spokesman, Graham Sharpe, commented that ‘despite having dramatically varying themes, it is very difficult to differentiate between three brilliant debut novels’, but gave Rachel Joyce a narrow lead with the following odds:
• The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce – 5/4
• The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness – 7/4
• The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen – 2/1
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the £10,000 award for a first novel published in the UK, set up in memory of the celebrated publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott to ‘enrich the careers of new writers’.
The winner will be announced on Thursday 28 June
by Elizabeth on May 24, 2012 at 6:00 am
M C Scott’s The Eagle of the Twelfth is published today in Hardback, the breathtakingly compelling story of a legion at war in the tradition of Conn Iggulden and Simon Scarrow.
Follow Manda on Twitter @hare_wood and to find out more about the author, visit http://www.mandascott.co.uk/
To celebrate the publication of Manda’s fabulous new hardback, we will be posting the prologue of The Eagle of the Twelfth on History Tellers tomorrow and Saturday so watch out for that! http://historytellers.co.uk/blog/
They are known as the Legion of the Damned…
Throughout the Roman Army, the Twelfth Legion is notorious for its ill fortune. It faces the harshest of postings, the toughest of campaigns, the most vicious of opponents. For one young man, Demalion of Macedon, joining it will be a baptism of fire. And yet, amid all of the violence and savagery of his life as a legionary, he realizes he has discovered a vocation – as a soldier and a leader of men. He has come to love the Twelfth and all the bloody-minded, dark-hearted soldiers he calls his brothers.
But just when he has found a place in the world, all that he cares about is ripped from him. During the brutal Judaean campaign, the Hebrew army inflict defeat upon the legion – not only decimating their ranks, but taking away their soul, the eagle.
There is one final chance to save the legion’s honour – to steal back the eagle. To do that, Demalion and his legionaries must go undercover into Jerusalem, into the very heart of their enemy – where discovery will mean the worst of deaths – if they are to recover their pride.
And that, in itself, is a task worthy only of heroes.
by Leanne on May 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm
To coincide with the publication of the brilliant and compelling new hardback Rome: The Eagle of the Twelfth, MC Scott will be touring parts of the UK – see below for event details:
Thursday 7th June
Manda will be at Booka Bookshop on from 7pm.
Tickets are £4, and are available in store
Address: Booka Bookshop, 26-28 Church Street, Oswestry, Shropshire SY11 2SP
Friday 6th July
Manda will be at Bookshrop from 7pm.
Address: 12 Green End, Whitchurch, Shropshire SY14 1AA
Saturday 7th July
Manda will be signing at The Castle Bookshop from 11am – 1pm
Address: 5 Castle St, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 1AS
Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July
Festival of Historical Writing: Kelmarsh
Manda will appearing at the Kelmarsh festival . To view the full programme of events, please visit the website at: http://www.thehwa.co.uk/content/festivals
Tickets can also be purchased online, or by calling 0870 333 1183
by Kate on May 18, 2012 at 9:25 am
Congratulations to Richard Dawkins and illustrator Dave McKean who’s book The Magic of Reality has been shortlisted for the 2012 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize announced today.
The Prize celebrates the best books that communicate science to young people aged up to 14 and Dr Andrea Brand FRS FMedSci, Chair of the judges said: “The books on this year’s shortlist are all very different, but each of them uses skilful writing and creative design to get across a huge range of scientific content. Some of the books cover well-trodden subjects in unusual ways, while some of them explore areas that we don’t often see in science books for young people, but all of them manage to get the science across in a way that is fun, fresh and engaging. We can’t wait to find out what the real experts – our judging panels from schools and youth groups across the UK – think of them!”
Each of the shortlisted books should prove inspiring to their young readers and the winning book will be selected entirely by groups of young people from over 100 schools and youth groups. These groups together form a judging panel that will look at all the shortlisted books and choose a winner.
The six books shortlisted by the judges are:
How the Weather Works, by Christiane Dorion, illustrated by Beverley Young
“We loved this beautiful and imaginative book, which uses pop-ups to explore an unusual subject – how the weather works. We particularly liked the way that the pop-ups aren’t just there for decoration, but are thoughtfully used to explain the science behind the weather.”
Out of this world: All the cool bits about space, by Clive Gifford
“This is so different to other astronomy books we’ve seen – it’s a fast-paced, funny and fact-packed guide to the very coolest bits of astronomical science. Older readers will love dazzling their friends with the out of this world facts that they read in this book.”
Plagues, pox and pestilence, by Richard Platt, illustrated by John Kelly
“Not for the fainthearted, this imaginative and informative book covers a huge range of science while telling the story of deadly diseases. It uses fabulous illustrations to get across some serious scientific content, and although it’s definitely gruesome in places, it’s never gratuitous.”
Science Experiments, by Robert Winston and Ian Graham
“This brilliant book contains clear instructions for loads of great experiments, from things that you can try yourself (without getting in trouble from your parents), to spectacular tricks to try with adults present. Lots of books on experiments cover the same old ground, but this book goes way beyond the usual content and contains plenty of experiments that we’d never seen before.”
See Inside Inventions: An Usborne Flap Book, by Alex Frith, illustrated by Colin King
“It’s wonderful to see a whole book devoted to the stories behind the world’s most important inventions and we hope that this one might inspire the next generation of young entrepreneurs. The book packs in a huge amount of science without being overwhelming, and it’s great to see the history of science covered too.”
The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins, illustrated by Dave McKean (Bantam Press)
“This challenging and thought-provoking book explores how human beings have explored the natural world over time and tackles these ideas in a way that we’ve never seen before. Combining a comprehensive account of science, philosophy and culture with beautiful illustrations, this is an unusual book that adults might well enjoy too.”
The winner will be announced on 15th November 2012.
For more information on the Royal Society and the judges visit: http://royalsociety.org/awards/young-people/shortlist/
by Kate on May 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm
Don’t miss out on the live webchat that Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat will be doing on 25th May hosted by Red Magazine as a lunch hour literary salon.
Joanne will be talking about her forthcoming novel Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, returning to , and ready to answer your questions on writing.
Here’s the link you will need which has more information: http://www.redonline.co.uk/red-women/red-chat/joanne-harris-red-book-club-red-chat
Peaches for Monsieur le Curé:
‘Her characteristic love affair with texture – scents, smells and sounds – immerses the reader in a bath of seductive imagery in a brave and grippingly confected story.’ – Sunday Times
‘Like Chocolat, this book is a feast for the senses. Every page of the book is steeped in scents, colours and tastes, without ever tipping into the pretentious or showy… Peaches for Monsieur le Curé is a wonderful return to form for Harris.’- Literary Review
‘A wide-ranging, powerful and very readable novel. I loved it.’ – Viv Groskop, Red
You can read more on her return to the world of ‘Chocolt’ on Telegraphonline
To order your copy now click here. Peaches for Monsieur le Curé is available to buy from 24th May 2012.
by Kate on May 10, 2012 at 9:09 am
Congratulations to Sir Terry Pratchett and John O’Farrell who are amongst the five writers on the shortlist for this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction announced today.
It is the fourth time Pratchett has been nominated for the prize, having previously been shortlisted for his novels Thief of Times (2002), Going Postal (2005) and Thud (2006). John O’Farrell appears on the list for a second time.
The five shortlisted novels are:
- Capital by John Lanchester
Described as having ‘a touch of Dickens’ by Clare Tomalin, this chronicle of London life post-financial meltdown follows a small cross-section of the inhabitants of one south London street. The Guardian calls the book ‘a brainy state-of-the-nation novel’
- Jude in London by Julian Gough
The sequel to his previously shortlisted Jude: Level 1, Jude in London follows penniless Irish orphan Jude as he walks the length of England on a quest to find his True Love, winning the Turner Prize and killing the Poet Laureate on the way. The book was shortlisted for The Guardian’s 2011 ‘Not the Booker shortlist’
- Snuff by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers
‘As funny as Wodehouse and as witty as Waugh’ (Independent), Snuff is Terry Pratchett’s 50th book and the 39th in the Discworld novels. The book, which sees Commander Sam Vimes investigating a country house murder whilst on holiday, has become one of the fastest-selling novels since records began
- The Woman who went to bed for a year by Sue Townsend
‘An exquisite social comedy’ (Daily Telegraph), this is the story of Eva who, on the day her gifted twins leave home for university, climbs into bed and stays there
- The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers)
‘A heart-warming comedy of marriage – and divorce’ (Guardian), this is the story of Jack Vaughan who, after an amnesiac episode on the tube, can remember nothing about his life, including his wife. But when he next sees his wife – to whom he’s getting divorced – it’s love at first sight and sets Vaughan on a mission to rescue his marriage
The judges of the prize are: James Naughtie, broadcaster and author; David Campbell, Everyman’s Library publisher and Peter Florence, Director of The Telegraph Hay Festival. Peter Florence comments on the shortlist:
‘It’s a really happy list which resonates with lots of the verbal wit, delightful characterisation and satirical edge of Wodehouse’s own work. There are three great comic writers on top form – O’Farrell, Pratchett and Townsend, John Lanchester’s masterly novel Capital that teems with humour and Julian Gough’s picaresque satire Jude in London.’
This year’s winner will be announced just ahead of the Hay festival in late May, followed by an audience with the winner during the festival.
by Lynsey on May 10, 2012 at 8:42 am
Today marks the publication of the two winners of the inaugural Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Award. To mark this occasion we asked Michael Logan, author of Apocalypse Cow what it felt like to become a published author…
“Six years after the idea crystallised and one year after winning the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award, my debut novel Apocalypse Cow is finally on the shelves, introducing social satire through the scandalously neglected medium of zombie cows to the unsuspecting, and possibly horrified, literary world.
It’s hard to escape the clichés when describing my emotions upon realising a lifelong dream. Of course, I am overjoyed, proud, excited and nervous, but I can’t shake of the sense of unreality. I wrote Apocalypse Cow largely for fun. I certainly never expected it to be published given the odd subject matter. In fact, I almost didn’t enter the competition, only doing so when my wife grabbed a firm hold of my ear and kept twisting until I pressed ‘send’ on my submission. I still have the deformed earlobe to prove exactly how much force she had to apply.
When I was shortlisted, I at first assumed it was practical joke as the email arrived on the eve of April Fools’ Day. Then, when I won alongside David Logan with his fantastic novel Half Sick of Shadows, I couldn’t shake the feeling it was an administrative error. For months, I expected to receive an email saying: ‘Can we have our award back, please?’
Now that the book is out there, I think I am ready to accept this is actually happening.
Getting here has been a long journey. I wrote my first short story – a 300-word sci-fi epic entitled ‘My Push-Button World’ – when I was nine. The trauma of failing to secure a five-book deal on the strength of this ground-breaking work – which involved a full-size football pitch that sprung up, complete with 21 robots to play with, upon my command – crushed my budding literary aspirations. I barely wrote a word, save for frequent punishment exercises, throughout the rest of school.
In fact, I didn’t really start writing again until ten years ago. Even then it was a case of squeezing it in between jobs, raising a young family, and glamorous international travel – if you count two weeks in Tajikistan nursing a dodgy stomach and being forced to wear a bracelet made from goat flesh in Northern Kenya as glamorous. I wrote literary short stories with some modest success, and a very serious novel focusing on sectarianism in Glasgow that I hid from the world, but when the zombie cows called, I had to answer.
And so, here we are. Apocalypse Cow is out there in the world. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.”