The shortlisted titles for this year’s East Midlands Book Award have been announced and they could not be a more diverse group of books. Nominated authors will probably claim “it’s an honour just to be shortlisted” and they'd surely be right here. I’m not sure how much value can be added by winning the award – aside from the monetary one – as comparing such a varied collection must be like picking a favourite piece of cutlery: they have different jobs to do.
This year’s judges must select from seven titles that include a picture book for young children, a complex crime thriller, a history of forensic science, a love story set in last days of the Raj, a poetry collection, an emotional journey set in mid-20th Century Jamaica, and a short story collection. Good luck with that then.
Surely this year it is the ‘being nominated’ that counts, especially given the quality of books that missed out (I won’t dwell on the noticeable omissions). That said, I like a bit of competition (I’d pick the spoon) so, at the very bottom of this article, I’ll let you know who I think will win.
And the shortlisted books are:
The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne
The fourth of Dunne’s DI Brook series set in Derbyshire. Brook is in the constabulary’s basement, forced to work in the Cold Case Unit when an unsolved murder piques his interest leading to an investigation that spots a string of deaths spanning half a century.
The Unquiet Grave is vivid, chilling and complex. My full Nottslit review should appear in the Left Lion later this year.
Derby’s Steven Dunne is a former freelance journalist and secondary school teacher.
Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen
An ill-fated marriage unravels, setting in motion a devastating chain of events that bring Sophie face to face with a past she has tried desperately to forget. This is a tender story of love, loss of innocence, and the aftermath of a terrible decision no one knew how to avoid.
A captivating, evocative and heart-breaking love story of scandal and hope; set in a forbidden world in the last days of the Raj.
Alison McQueen lives in a quiet village in rural Northamptonshire.
Silent Witnesses by Nigel McCrery
This book lifts the lid on the important work of the forensic scientist, with a globe-trotting look at the history of forensics over the last two centuries, and some of the influential individuals at its forefront, proving that, in order to solve ever more complicated cases, science must always stay one step ahead of the killer.
An interesting, at times enlightening, work from the ex-police officer and creator of the BBC series Silent Witness.
Nigel McCrery lives in West Bridgford, Nottingham.
Division Street by Helen Mort
Helen Mort is an award-winning poet and this is her much-anticipated debut collection. Published by Chatto & Windus, Division Street was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 2013 and the Costa Poetry Award 2013.
One of the rising stars of British poetry.
Helen Mort has been appointed as the new Derbyshire Poet Laureate.
The Pre-War House and Other Stories by Alison Moore
This is a debut collection of short stories from Alison Moore (no stranger to a shortlist herself). The stories range from an early publication to new works, many of which have received critical acclaim. The tales are intriguing with several dark and psychological themes that stay with you.
The collection has been described by Dan Powell as ‘…a controlled and powerful piece of prose fiction…’
Alison Moore lives near Nottingham.
Gloria by Kerry Young
Gloria Campbell is sixteen years old when a single violent act alters the course of her life forever. Living a new life in Kingston, Jamaica, Gloria faces tough decisions in this story of love in many forms. We follow her evolution from a frightened girl on the run to a woman fully possessed of her own power.
An enthralling and illuminating story of love and redemption set against a turbulent historical backdrop.
Now based in the East Mids, Kerry Young was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Chinese father and mother of mixed Chinese-African heritage.
Too Small for My Big Bed by Amber Stewart (author) and Layn Marlow (Illustrator)
This story about Piper, a little tiger cub, his bedtime routine and his mother, provides a reassuring message for toddlers who find it hard to settle themselves back to sleep.
‘…a touchingly sweet story about growing up and taking the first steps towards independence. (Daily Mail)
Amber Stewart lives in Buckinghamshire.
This year's two judges - Kathy Daszkiewicz and Laura Malpass will be joined by "guest judge" Anne Zouroudi (the 2012 winner) to select their favourite. The winning author will receive a cheque for £1000 at the EMBA finale in mid-May in Northamptonshire.
The award is administered by Writing East Midlands on behalf of Trustees Kathy Bell, Ross Bradshaw, John Lucas and Jane Streeter, all acting in an individual capacity.
Shortlisted authors will be invited to read at West Bridgford Library on 8th May and Five Leaves Bookshop prior to the winner being announced.
My prediction to win is Alison McQueen but I hope the award returns to Nottingham.