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scottish mortgage investment trust book awards

Fiction |  Non-fictionPoetry | First book

First book shortlist

Elaine di Rollo, The Peachgrower's Almanac
David Knowles, Meeting the Jet Man
Andrea McNicoll, Moonshine in the Morning
Greg Michaelson, The Wave Singer
Andrew Nicoll, The Good Mayor

Commenting on the First Book shortlist Professor Alan Riach on behalf of the judges said:

“This list is rich in unexpected pleasures: brilliantly accomplished thrillers, gently anecdotal stories, rich historical reconstructions with gripping narratives, lucid travel accounts in Scotland’s less familiar archipelagos. The world, it seems, from Thailand to the Baltic, is becoming increasingly explored by Scottish imaginations, while the under-explored facets of Scottish life and character, contemporary and historical, from Shetland to Aberdeen and Glasgow, are exciting the scrutiny and imaginations of our finest new writers.”

Elaine di Rollo, The Peachgrower's Almanac
(Chatto)

Synopsis - Set in 1857 between England and India, The Peachgrowers’ Almanac is a rollicking novel about feisty women, the devotion of sisters and the Victorian obsession with empire, experiments and photography.
The peachgrowers of the title are 27 year-old twin sisters with a passion for botany. Lilian, in mysterious disgrace, has been married off to a dreary missionary. Alice is left at home, curator to her father’s monstrous collection of artefacts under the watchful eye of the malevolent Dr Cattermole.
Book cover of Elaine de Rollo's The Peachgrowers Almanac

The Peachgrowers’ Almanac is a dazzling debut. Tongue-in-cheek and inventive, comic and horrifying, it illuminates the dark heart of Victorian hypocrisy and selfishness, yet at the same time is engaging and highly enjoyable. Readers will become completely involved with Alice and Lilian – and their hair-raising escapades.

Author Biography - Elaine di Rollo comes from Lancashire and now lives in Scotland. She has a PhD from Edinburgh University in the social history of medicine, and is currently a lecturer at Napier University. This is her first novel.

David Knowles, Meeting the Jet Man
(Two Ravens Press)

Synopsis - This book comes direct from the cockpit of a modern fighter-bomber. It brings the sparse poetry of aerial warfare up-to-date, aiming neither to glorify nor to apologise. Knowles’ dogged pursuit of himself in the guise of the Jet Man takes us into the aircraft with him, moving us beyond the CNN video-clips of surgical strikes and collateral damage. Meeting the Jet Man is about a young pilot growing up in thrall to past icons of war and aviation – and following that vision into the heart of the high-tech killing machine that is modern warfare. At a time when the natural distance between our society and its military risks becoming chasm of incomprehension, these poems throw one thin thread across the growing divide.

Author Biography - Soon after graduating in Philosophy and Physics at Oxford, David Knowles abandoned a long-standing ambition to become a philosopher – in order to train as a pilot in the RAF. During the whole of his twenty-five-year RAF career David was assigned to flying duties, and for most of that time on front-line Tornado ground-attack squadrons, amassing over 3000 flight hours on one of the most potent airborne weapons systems of its day.

photo of David Knowles in fighter pilot's uniform

From the closing years of the Cold War, through a decade of peace-keeping, the military victory in Iraq and then into its aftermath – David was strapped into the cockpit trying to make sense of what he was seeing, experiencing and participating in. Awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for actions during the opening phase of the invasion of Iraq, David has first-hand experience of aspects of modern warfare which have scarcely been touched upon in poetry before. In 2008 David retired from the RAF to run independent publishing house Two Ravens Press with his wife, fellow writer Sharon Blackie. He lives on a working croft in the north-west Highlands of Scotland and in his spare time looks after his small flock of Hebridean sheep. His short fiction has been published in two anthologies; Meeting the Jet Man is his first poetry collection.
www.tworavenspress.com/

Andrea McNicoll, Moonshine in the Morning
(Alma Books)

Synopsis - As sharp and delicious as a Thai red curry, the beautifully crafted interlinking narratives of Moonshine in the Morning present an unforgettable cast of strong-minded women and their wayward husbands clinging to village life in Thailand before the relentless advance of modernity. How can Mother Nong and Mother Pensri save their menfolk from terrifying visions of “widow ghosts”, when Uncle Lai’s moonshine stall does such brisk business? What drastic steps will Mother Suree take to curb her husband’s infidelities on the eve of the Loy Krathong festival? And is the sacred banyan tree dying because the men are gambling about its size, or because the women are lighting too many oil lamps under its ancient boughs? Achieving both charm and authenticity, Andrea McNicoll subtly builds up her characters and themes to create a world so distant in its geography, and yet so familiar in its intimate human dramas, as to be utterly irresistible. Book cover of Andrew McNicoll's Moonshine in the Morning

Author Biography - Andrea McNicoll is a fluent Thai speaker who lived and worked in Thailand for twelve years. A graduate of Glasgow University’s prestigious Creative Writing MPhil programme, she lives and works in Glasgow. Moonshine in the Morning is her first book.

Greg Michaelson, The Wave Singer
(Argyll Publishing)

Synopsis
‘If you challenge the song
        then you challenge our stability.’

When will something make some sense?
After The Event, the Arkists find hope through singing fragments of what has passed into history. The Colonists live in the future, hoarding pieces of technology which can no longer be powered. The Villagers live in the present, living as it is and as it will be.
A nameless young man is growing up in a stark, harsh world of deceptive options. Chosen as a Wave Singer, he finds himself caught between tradition and his fear that his future will be the same as his past. He has his Song; his singing. But, like the tales his mother writes, is he just an unwitting player in their game?
‘What¹s the point of being a good singer
         if it isn¹t your life?’

Book cover of Greg Michaelson, The Wave Singer

Publication coincides with the UK release on CD of Hercules Mandarin’s specially commissioned song inspired by the book.

Author Biography - Greg Michaelson has had short stories published in numerous magazines.
He was born in Shepherd’s Bush and lives and works in Edinburgh.

Andrew Nicoll, The Good Mayor
(Black & White Publishing)

Synopsis - The Good Mayor is a magical novel. Set in the little town of Dot in a forgotten part of the Baltic, this is the story of Tibo Krovic, the good and honest Mayor of Dot, and his love for his secretary, the beautiful, lonely but married, Mrs Agathe Stopak.
In the quiet, respectable town of Dot, there is nothing that Tibo can do about his love for Mrs Stopak but one day, when she accidentally drops her lunch into a fountain, everything changes and their lives will never be the same again.
Book cover of Andrew Niccol, The Good Mayor

The Good Mayor contains love, loss, magic, friendship, wonderful food, a brass band, an Italian witch, a large lawyer, an occasional dog and a car chase that takes place at walking pace.
Beautifully written, this is simply one of the best and most exciting debut novels for many years.

Author Biography - After a brief stint as a lumberjack, Andrew Nicoll has spent his working life in daily newspapers. Although he has been writing for nearly thirty years, The Good Mayor is his first novel.
He began his career on the Courier, based in his home town of Dundee and now covers the Scottish Parliament for the Sun where he has worked since devolution ten years ago. It’s a job which has taken him from murder scenes in city tenements, to the handover of Hong Kong, from the blazing oil wells of Kuwait to African feeding stations, from Trump Towers to No 10 Downing Street. His short stories have appeared in a range of magazines and journals, including last year’s 25th anniversary edition of New Writing Scotland. He wrote The Good Mayor on the train during the long commute to work, scribbling it onto notebooks and transcribing at the weekend but it took almost two years to find a publisher. Black and White signed the book just ten days before a self-imposed deadline when he planned to abandon the project for good. Andrew, 46, is married to Anne, a school teacher and they have with three children. He lives in an old Victorian house on the beach at Broughty Ferry near Dundee. Rights for The Good Mayor have been sold to fourteen countries with publication in America scheduled for next summer and Andrew has already been invited to the prestigious Perth Literary Festival in Western Australia to talk about his work.

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