Marie Colvin biography wins literary award in Edinburgh
A biography of a war correspondent killed in Syria has won a literary prize in the centenary year of the awards.
Journalist Lindsey Hilsum picked up the James Tait Black Prize for biography with In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin.
Colvin was killed in a rocket attack in Homs, Syria, in February 2012, with the Syrian government found liable for her death by a US court earlier this year.
The winners of the two £10,000 prizes, for best biography and best work of fiction, were announced by broadcaster Sally Magnusson at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Saturday.
Olivia Laing won the fiction prize for her book Crudo, which charts the personal transformation and love affair of a female protagonist during the political turbulence of the summer of 2017.
Biography judge Simon Cooke, of the University of Edinburgh, said of the winning entry: “This is a uniquely informed, passionate and balanced testament to the legendary war reporter Marie Colvin in all her human complexity and a searching inquiry into her extraordinary dedication to bearing witness to the stories of those living in extremis.”
Commenting on Crudo, fiction judge Alex Lawrie, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is fiction at its finest, a bold and reactive political novel that captures a raw slice of contemporary history with pace, charm and wit.”
Crudo topped a shortlist that included Murmur by Will Eaves; Sight by Jessie Greengrass, and Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires.
The other books shortlisted in the biography category were Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala; The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library by Edward Wilson-Lee, and The Life of Stuff: A Memoir about the Mess We Leave Behind by Susannah Walker.
The James Tait Black Prizes have been presented every year since 1919.
Each year, the books are considered by senior staff from the English literature department at the University of Edinburgh, assisted by a reading panel of postgraduate students.
To mark the centenary of the prizes, and to honour the founder, this year the university presented an additional prize – a creative writing award for short story writing.
The Janet Coats Black Prize was awarded to Julie Galante for the best short story by a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh.
The creative writing student won £1,500 and a mentoring opportunity with last year’s James Tait Black Prize fiction winner, Eley Williams.
Judge of the prize, author Claire Askew, writer-in-residence at the university, said: “Thanks to Janet Coats Black, the James Tait Black Prizes were created in 1919.
“This student prize honours Janet Coat Black and her support for literature and the written word.”
Four winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature have been awarded a James Tait Black Prize.
Earlier in their career William Golding, Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee each collected a fiction prize and Doris Lessing was awarded a prize for biography.