Scots author James Robertson has won the Walter Scott Prize for his novel News of the Dead.
The £25,000 prize is awarded annually to a novel in the English language whose story takes place at least 60 years before the date of publication. Named after Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, whose novel Waverley is considered to be the first work of historical fiction, the award represents one of the largest literary prizes in the UK, with each of the shortlisted authors receiving £1,500 on top of the publicity generated by the nomination.
Robertson beat out Rose Nicolson, Andrew Greig, Amanda Smyth and Colm Toibin to take the 2022 prize for his novel set in the fictional Glen Conach in north east Scotland. The story follows three vastly different characters born at different times between the era of the Picts and the modern age, and the way their lives are shaped by their small, myth-laden glen.
A novel to be richly savoured
Announced at the Borders Book Festival by the Duke of Buccleuch, this year’s judges described News of the Dead as a novel to be “richly savoured”:
“The novel fulfils in abundance the prize’s key criteria of ambition, originality, innovation, enduring appeal and quality of writing, and we hope readers will enjoy not just the glen itself with all its ‘dangers and gifts, its capabilities and limitations’, but the cast of characters the author assembles, always with a twinkle in his eye.”
Robertson, the first Scot to receive the award in its 12 years history, had the following to say in accepting the prize:
“Scott’s life and work have had an influence on my own writing. I don’t think of myself as a historical novelist but as a writer with a deep interest in history and time. I’m speechless at winning this award.”
The author was presented with a cheque for £25,000 as well as an original print of a Borders landscape taken by well-known photographer Walter Dalkeith. The event also acknowledged the talent of two up-and-coming writers with the Young Walter Scott Prize, awarding Leo Wilson and Oliver Dhir with £500 travel grants and printed anthologies containing their work.
News of the Dead is published by Penguin Books.