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Guantanamo Bay diary and Jack the Ripper book nominated for Samuel Johnson Prize

Published 22/09/2015

Yahid Ould Slahi holds open Guantanamo Diary - showing redacted pages - written by his brother Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Yahid Ould Slahi holds open Guantanamo Diary - showing redacted pages - written by his brother Mohamedou Ould Slahi

A "shocking" first person account from inside Guantanamo Bay is up against a historical work about Jack the Ripper for the UK's top non-fiction award.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi's experience of the detention centre and They All Love Jack: Busting The Ripper, by Bruce Robinson, are among the 12 titles in the running for this year's Samuel Johnson Prize.

Journalist and author Anne Applebaum, who chaired the judging panel, described Guantanamo Diary as "a really extraordinary document" and "quite shocking".

"It's amazing it got published really," she added.

Mr Robinson's historical work explores Victorian London with a radical theory on how the notorious serial killer escaped justice.

The author is famous for writing and directing Withnail And I, a cult classic drawing on his experiences as an actor in London during the 1960s.

Ms Applebaum said: "What I was most pleased about is the range of books that turned up on the list, ranging from quite personal narratives to really great biographies to books of journalism to a couple of history books.

"There's really a range of different kinds of history and journalism and books about science as well.

"Whittling it down is always difficult, particularly dealing with non-fiction because the range is so broad, sometimes choosing between radically different genres."

Emma Sky is the only female writer to be selected with her first-person account of the Iraq war, The Unravelling.

Ms Applebaum said she had not realised there were 11 men and one woman on the list.

"I wouldn't say it's significant," she added.

The shortlist will be announced on October 11 before the winner of the £20,000 award is declared on November 2.

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