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George Alagiah shortlisted for Society Of Authors award for debut novel

His thriller The Burning Land is about corruption and homicide in South Africa.

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George Alagiah (Murray Sanders/Daily Mail)

George Alagiah (Murray Sanders/Daily Mail)

George Alagiah (Murray Sanders/Daily Mail)

George Alagiah has been shortlisted for a Society Of Authors award for his debut novel.

The BBC news reader is in the running for the Paul Torday memorial prize, which is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60, for his thriller The Burning Land, about corruption and homicide in South Africa.

The award, judged by William Fiennes, Catherine Johnson and Sarah Waters, is named in honour of the Salmon Fishing In The Yemen writer, who published his first novel at the age of 60.

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Author Sarah Waters is among the judges (Yui Mok/PA)

Author Sarah Waters is among the judges (Yui Mok/PA)

PA

Author Sarah Waters is among the judges (Yui Mok/PA)

Also in the running for the prize are Madeleine by Euan Cameron, Reparation by Gaby Koppel, Find Me Falling by Fiona Vigo Marshall, As the Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray and The Stranger She Knew by Rosalind Stopps.

Waters said: “There’s a great range of novels on this exciting shortlist: some have the pace and punch of thrillers and detective stories, others have the lyricism of poetry or the disconcerting shimmer of dream and nightmare.

“What they all have in common, however, is an interest in tackling some of the big issues of our time – issues like injustice and reparation, trauma and recovery. They are powerful books by really talented authors.”

The Society of Authors also announced that Brian Bilston, who is often referred to as the “Banksy of Poetry” and “Twitter’s unofficial Poet Laureate”, has  been shortlisted for The McKitterick Prize, which is awarded for a first novel by a writer over 40, for his work Diary Of A Somebody.

The prize will be judged by Susan Hill, Abir Mukherjee and Christopher Tayler and Bilston will compete with Golden Child by Claire Adam, Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession and The Travelers by Regina Porter.

Mukherjee said: “Once again it’s been an honour to judge the McKitterick Prize and a pleasure to read the entries.

“What is wonderful is the diversity and quality of these debuts, and it proves that age and experience really can contribute to wonderful writing.”

Meanwhile, Costa Award winner Sally Gardner has been nominated for the inaugural Queen’s Knickers Awards, which was founded by Nicholas Allan, author of The Queen’s Knickers, and is awarded for an outstanding original illustrated book for ages children up to the age of seven.

Gardner is shortlisted for her book Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Sea Dragon, illustrated by Nick Maland, alongside Umbrella, written and illustrated by Elena Arevalo Melville, How to Light Your Dragon written by Didier Levy and illustrated by Fred Benaglia, One Fox written and illustrated by Kate Read and Child of St Kilda written and illustrated by Beth Waters.

Judge Emily Gravett said: “There couldn’t be a more timely moment, whilst we have been restricted in so many ways, to celebrate the joy and freedom that great picture books bring.

“This fantastic shortlist reflects a diversity of subject and style and is a triumph of the authors’ and illustrators’ imaginations. Imagination being one freedom that can never be curtailed.”

The winners will be announced online on June 18, with a series of short films to celebrate this year’s winning and shortlisted authors.

It will be part of the SoA @ Home festival, a series of free online events that will run throughout June featuring shortlistees, judges, past winners, and a special in-conversation event with Cressida Cowell.

PA