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2010 Shortlist | 2010 Judges | 2010 Winners

Book Awards 2010 Shortlist

Since their establishment in 1972, the Scottish Arts Council Book Awards have recognised and rewarded literary excellence in literary fiction, poetry, and literary non-fiction by Scottish authors resident in, or out with, Scotland. In 2009 the book awards were re-branded the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards, to represent a long term sponsorship commitment. The Book of the Year award is worth £30,000, and is the biggest literary prize of its kind in Scotland.

First Book


John Aberdein, Strip the Willow (Polygon)


Dark political satire meets wry, salty love story. For years council officer Lucy has felt alone, but as predatory LeopCorp twists the city to its global will, her instinct to resist - along with colleagues, fishermen, immigrants, anarchists - becomes tangled with a deep call from the past. A wounded, ragged stranger comes to town - but can Lucy's heart reopen in time to save herself and her city?

Author Biography

John Aberdein was born and educated in Aberdeen. After some time herring-fishing and scallop-diving on the West Coast, he taught English and outdoor education in Fife, Hampshire and Orkney.

He was the first person to kayak round mainland Scotland; a member of the Kirkland Five who campaigned for more democratic schools; and a main organiser of Labour’s move to ditch nuclear power in 1985-86 – a policy since reversed by ‘the divine fiat of Tony Blair’. His short story Moving was runner-up in the inaugural Scotsman/ Orange short story competition in 2004, and his novel Amande’s Bed (Thirsty/Argyll) won the Saltire First Book of the Year Award in 2005. John Aberdein is based in Hoy and divides his time between writing, gardening and travelling.

Alan Bissett, Death of a Ladies’ Man (Hachette Scotland)


By day, Charlie Bain is the school’s most inspiring teacher. By night, he prowls the stylish bars of Glasgow, seducing women. Fuelled by art, drugs and fantasies of being an indie star, Charlie journeys further into hedonism, unable to see the destruction towards which his desires are leading everyone. One of Scotland’s most dazzling young writing talents tackles the modern phenomenon of sex addiction. Dark, funny and deliciously erotic, Death of a Ladies’ Man is an intense portrait of male vanity, written with verve and emotional rawness.

Author Biography

Alan Bissett was born in Falkirk in 1975. His acclaimed first novel, Boyracers, published whilst he was still a student, was based on his adolescent experiences growing up there. His ambitious second novel, The Incredible Adam Spark, was extremely well received.

He is currently working on his next book, Pack Men. A full-time writer and playwright, he has acted on stage in his own ‘one-woman show’ ‘The Moira Monologues’ which has been a recent stage success along with his other plays ‘The Ching Room’ and ‘Turbo Folk’ He will shortly be appearing in Gregory Burke's new play 'Battery Farm'. Alan has been shortlisted for a BAFTA Scotland New Talent award and won two Jim Poole Best Scottish Short Film awards for The Shutdown. He has been a support act for Malcolm Middleton, The Vaselines and Zoey Van Goey, and is much in demand as a live performer of his own work.

A L Kennedy, What Becomes (Jonathan Cape)


Always attuned to the moment of epiphany, these twelve stories are profound, intimate observations of men and women whose lives ache with possibility – each story a dramatisation of the instant in a life that exposes it all: love and the lack of love, hope and the lack of hope.

These men and women are perfectly ordinary people – whose marriages founder; who sit on their own in a cinema watching a film with no soundtrack; who risk sex in a hotel with an anonymous stranger. They conceal tenderness and disappointment, vulnerability and longing, griefs and wonders – and, with each of them, Kennedy finds and opens up that extraordinary emotional wound, that insight into their experiences: like the woman in ‘Saturday Teatime’ who tries to relax in a flotation tank, before her memories hijack her, taking her back to last weekend’s party – to a boy with a hamster, and his lecherous father – and then further back to another Saturday, when she was nine years old, when the troubling of her life began. A.L. Kennedy’s fifth remarkable collection of short stories shows us exactly what becomes of the broken-hearted. She reveals the sadness, violence, hurt and terror, but also the redemption of love – and she does so with the enormous human compassion, wild leaps of humour, and the brilliantly original linguistic skill that distinguishes her as one of Britain’s finest writers.

Author Biography

The author of five previous novels, two books of non-fiction, and three collections of short stories, A.L. Kennedy’s most recent book, Day, was the Costa Book of the Year.

She has twice been selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists and has won many prizes including the Lannan Literary Award, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the Somerset Maugham Award, the Encore Award and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award. She lives in Glasgow and is a part-time lecturer in creative writing at Warwick University.

Liam McIlvanney, All the Colours of the Town (Faber)


When Glasgow journalist Gerry Conway receives a phone call promising unsavory information about Scottish Justice Minister Peter Lyons, his instinct is that this apparent scoop won't warrant space in the Tribune. But as Conway’s curiosity grows and his leads proliferate, his investigation takes him from Scotland to Belfast.

Shocked by the sectarian violence of the past, and by the prejudice and hatred he encounters even now, Conway soon grows obsessed with the story of Lyons and all he represents. And as he digs deeper, he comes to understand that there is indeed a story to be uncovered - and that there are people who will go to great lengths to ensure that it remains hidden.

Vividly written and shocking, All the Colours of the Town is not only the story of an individual and his community, but also a complex and thrilling enquiry into loyalty, betrayal and duty.

Author Biography

Liam McIlvanney was born in Ayrshire. He is the Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He won the Saltire First Book Award for Burns the Radical in 2002, and his work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. He lives in Dunedin with his wife and three sons. All the Colours of the Town is his first novel.

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Robert Crawford, The Bard: Robert Burns, a biography (Pimlico)


Drawing on a surprising variety of untapped sources – from rediscovered poetry by Burns to manuscript journals, correspondence, interviews and oratory by his contemporaries – this new biography presents the remarkable life, loves and struggles of the great poet.

Inspired by the American and French Revolutions and moulded by the Scottish Enlightenment, Burns was in several senses the first of the great Romantics. With a poet’s insight and a shrewd sense of human drama, Robert Crawford outlines how Burns combined a childhood steeped in the peasant song-culture of rural Scotland with a consummate linguistic artistry to become not only the world’s most popular love poet but also the controversial master poet of modern democracy.

Written with accessible elan and nuanced attention to Burns’ poems and letters, The Bard is the story of an extraordinary man fighting to maintain a sly sense of integrity in the face of overwhelming pressures. This incisive biography startlingly demonstrates why the life and work of Scotland’s greatest poet still compel the attention of the world a quarter of a millennium after his birth.

Author Biography

Robert Crawford was born in Lanarkshire in 1959. His first collection, A Scottish Assembly, was published in 1990. His Selected Poems (Cape, 2005) was awarded the Poetry Book Society’s Special Recommendation. Author of Scotland’s Books (Penguin, 2007) and co-editor of The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse, Robert Crawford is Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at the University of St Andrews.

William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search of the Modern India (Bloomsbury)


A Buddhist monk takes up arms to resist the Chinese invasion of Tibet – then spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the violence by hand printing the best prayer flags in India. A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her best friend ritually starve to death.

A woman leaves her middle-class family in Calcutta, and her job in a jute factory, only to find unexpected love and fulfilment living as a Tantric skull feeder in a remote cremation ground. A prison warden from Kerala becomes, for two months of the year, a temple dancer and is worshiped as a deity; then, at the end of February each year, he returns to prison.

An illiterate goat herd from Rajasthan keeps alive an ancient 4,000-line sacred epic that he, virtually alone, still knows by heart. A devadasi – or temple prostitute – initially resists her own initiation into sex work, yet pushes both her daughters into a trade she now regards as a sacred calling.

Nine people, nine lives. Each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. Exquisite and mesmerising, and told with an almost biblical simplicity, William Dalrymple’s first travel book in over a decade explores how traditional forms of religious life in South Asia have been transformed in the region’s rapid change. A distillation of twenty-five years of exploring India and writing about its religious traditions, Nine Lives is a modern Indian Canterbury Tales.

Author Biography

William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth. He wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was twenty-two. City of Djinns won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award.

The Age of Kali won the French Wolfson Prize for History 2003 and the Scottish book of the Year Prize. His most recent book, The Last Mughal, was long listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. He lives with his wife and three children on a farm outside Dehli.

Donald Worster, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (Oxford university Press)


A Passion for Nature is the most complete account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club ever written. It is the first to be based on Muir's full private correspondence and to meet modern scholarly standards. Yet it is also full of rich detail and personal anecdote, uncovering the complex inner life behind the legend of the solitary mountain man.

It traces Muir from his boyhood in Scotland and frontier Wisconsin to his adult life in California right after the Civil War up to his death on the eve of World War I. It explores his marriage and family life, his relationship with his abusive father, his many friendships with the humble and famous (including Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson), and his role in founding the modern American conservation movement.

Inspired by Muir's passion for the wilderness, Americans created a long and stunning list of national parks and wilderness areas, Yosemite most prominent among them. Yet the book also describes a Muir who was a successful fruit-grower, a talented scientist and world-traveller, a doting father and husband, a self-made man of wealth and political influence; a man for whom mountaineering was "a pathway to revelation and worship."
For anyone wishing to more fully understand America's first great environmentalist, and the enormous influence he still exerts today, Donald Worster's biography offers a wealth of insight into the passionate nature of a man whose passion for nature remains unsurpassed.

Author Biography

Donald Worster is Hall Distinguished Professor of American History, University of Kansas and the author of many books, including A River Running West (OUP 2000); The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination (OUP 1993); and Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West (OUP 1993)

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John Burnside, The Hunt in the Forest (Jonathan Cape)


Taking its title from Uccello’s famous painting of a band of men – on foot and on horseback – massing for the chase, John Burnside’s new poems take us on a journey out of the light and into the darkness, where we may just as easily lose ourselves as find what we are looking for.

In these poems of hunting and predation, Burnside explores our most deep-rooted and primeval pursuits: romantic love, memory, selfhood, grief, the recollection of the dead. Yet just as we seek, so are we sought out: at any moment we may slide into loss or be gathered in by some otherworldly light; at any moment, the angel of the annunciation may seek us out and demand some astonishing transformation.

With this extraordinary collection of fleet and deftly beautiful poems, John Burnside confirms his place at the forefront of writing, as one of a handful of truly important British poets working today.

Author Biography

John Burnside has published five works of fiction and ten collections of poetry, including The Asylum Dance, which won the 2000 Whitbread Poetry Award. His memoir, A Lie About My Father, was published in 2006 to enormous critical acclaim.

Thomas A Clark, The Hundred Thousand Places (Carcanet Press)


as you look out
over the hill shapes
you feel your way
over the hill shapes
your eyes walk
over the slopes

To walk through a landscape is to be part of a slow unfolding of time and distance, to commit yourself to an adventure. The Hundred Thousand Places is a single poem that travels across seasons, through a variety of Scottish highland and island landscapes, from dawn to dusk. Make an early start, 'feel your way out / into what might…take form'. It is a long walk, along the coast, over mountain and moorland, through pine and birch forest, ending on a shore where the sea offers 'another knowledge / wild and cold'.

Attentive and responsive, the unhurried pace of Thomas A. Clark's writing draws the reader into a shared journey, pausing on the possibilities of a phrase, the music of the names of trees and flowers, or turning the page to open new horizons.

Author Biography

Thomas A. Clark lives in the small fishing village of Pittenweem, on the east coast of Scotland.  He has published four previous collections of poetry, and numerous small books and cards with his own Moschatel Press. Clark collaborates regularly with the artist Laurie Clark, and his work often appears as installations or interventions in galleries, public spaces or in the landscape.

Don Paterson, Rain (Faber)


In this, his first volume of original verse since the award-winning Landing Light, Don Paterson is found writing at his most memorable and direct. In an assembly of masterful lyrics and monologues, he conjures a series of fables and charms that serve both to expose us to the unsettling forces within the world and simultaneously offer some protection against them.

Whether outwardly elemental in their address, or more personal in their direction, these poems - to the rain and the sea, to his young sons or beloved friends - never shy from their inquiry into truth and lie, embracing everything in scope from the rangy narrative to the tiny renku.

Rain, which includes the winner of the 2008 Forward Prize for the Best Individual Poem and an extended elegy for the poet Michael Donaghy, is Don Paterson’s most intimate and manifest collection to date.

Author Biography

Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963. He teaches poetry at the University of St Andrews, and also works as a musician and editor. He has written four collections of poetry, Nil Nil (1993), God's Gift to Women (1997) - winner of both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, The Eyes (1999), Orpheus (2006) and Landing Light, which won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry. He lives in Dundee. In 2009 he was awarded the Queen's Medal for Poetry.

Tom Leonard. Outside the Narrative (Word Power/Etruscan Books)


Outside the Narrative publishes the great majority of Tom Leonard's poetry to date with prose pieces such as Honest and A Night at the Pictures. Amongst previously uncollected new work is the sequence An Ayrshire Mother in memory of the poet’s mother: Tom Leonard describes this as "ordinary everyday flowers from her own mouth laid before a final constructed metaphor of a tombstone."

Author Biography

Born in Glasgow in 1944, Tom Leonard has made the city’s voices heard throughout Scotland, and beyond. Leonard’s political, aesthetic and linguistic concerns are inextricable. His poetry contrasts different voices, social classes, emotional registers, philosophies. It is often funny but fiercely so.

He has been writer-in-residence in libraries and universities, and in the anthology Radical Renfrew, he trawled the Paisley archives to reconstruct the region’s literary past from the French Revolution to the First World War. His own work has been collected in Intimate Voices (1984), Reports from the Present (1995) and access to the silence: poems 1984-2004. He retired last September from being Professor of Creative Writing at Glasgow University.

Richard Price, Rays (Carcanet Press)


Rays is a profound yet mercurial exploration of love and desire by one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary poets. Price’s acclaimed virtuosic abilities display here an intimate understanding of sonnet and canzone and a corresponding depth of knowledge of human nature, charging these traditional forms of love poetry with psychological insight and a very modern energy. Here love is seen in all it richness – teasing, tender, anguished – and in breathtaking narratives of desire.

At times invoking past masters Guido Cavalcanti and Louise Labé, Price’s voice is yet all his own, delivering his most assured and individual work to date, singing the complex beauties of passion with a poetry of delicacy and depth.

Author Biography

Richard Price was born in 1966 and grew up in Scotland. His books are most concerned with memory, love, and modernity's breathless rate of change. His collection Lucky Day (2005) was shortlisted for the Forward, Jerwood and Whitbread prizes and was a Book of the Year in the Guardian and Scotland on Sunday.

His next book, Greenfields (2007), was shortlisted for the Scottish Book of the Year Award. His poems have been translated into French, Finnish, German, Hungarian and Portuguese. Price is Head of Modern British Collections at the British Library and collaborates with the music ensemble Mirabeau. His first novel, The Island, a suspenseful meditation on fatherhood in crisis will be published later in 2010.

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First Book

Nick Currie (Momus), Solution 11-167: The Book of Scotlands (Sternberg Press)


In the spirit of Italo Calvino, Bruno Schulz, and French animation series Les Shadoks (using any language, that is, except the "wooden tongue" of official discourse), The Book of Scotlands outlines, in a numerical sequence, one hundred and fifty-six Scotlands which currently do not exist anywhere. At a time when functional independence seems to be a real possibility for Scotland—and yet no one is quite sure what that means—a delirium of visions, realistic and absurd, is called for.

Published in the Solution series edited by Ingo Niermann, The Book of Scotlands provides one answer—and a few more—to this appeal for focused dreaming about potential parallel world Scotlands.

Author Biography

Momus is the pseudonym of Scottish musician, artist, and writer Nick Currie. Born in Paisley, Scotland in 1960 and brought up in Edinburgh, Currie lived in cities like Athens and Montreal as a child thanks to his father’s work as an academic.

Since graduating from Aberdeen University with a first in literature in the mid-1980s, Currie has spent thirteen years in London, two years in Paris, two years in New York, and a year in Tokyo. Since 2003 he's been based in Berlin. Best known for his twenty-odd literate pop albums, Currie also writes regularly about art, design, and culture for publications like The New York Times, Frieze, Spike, and 032c.

He recently published his first novel, The Book of Jokes. As a performance artist he often plays The Unreliable Tour Guide, telling tall tales in public spaces.  The Unreliable Tour Guide’s motto is: "Every lie creates a parallel world – the world in which it is true."

Sarah Gabriel, Eating Pomegranates (Jonathan Cape)


Full of passion, hope, and despair, this is an extraordinary book about the journey through a devastatingly common disease.

Sarah Gabriel intended to write a novel about relationships. After a troubled, unhappy upbringing that saw the deaths of her mother and aunt, she now had a loving partner and two beautiful children, and finally felt secure in her world. Then, at 43, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she realized that while you can turn your back on your past, you can never escape your genetic legacy.

This is not an account of how to accept the inevitable. It is a fight; a fight to survive, to stay sane, to protect her children from sharing the terrors that kept her awake at night and to stop BRCA1 - the rare and deadly genetic mutation that had caused her cancer - from claiming another victim. It is a book about mothers, and about motherless daughters; and about love and fear. It is a book that is both beautiful and brutal, revealing how small moments of tenderness can illuminate a day, while a thoughtless action — a friend turning away for fear misery can be contagious — can almost break you. But it is also a memoir of breast cancer itself, from its first identification in the nineteenth century through to the founding of a hospital to help sufferers, and the treatments developed to fight it.

Sarah Gabriel’s memoir exposes what it means to live in a world where medicine is sophisticated enough to identify the dangers that lie within our genes but not always powerful enough to defuse that danger. Laced with black humour, and full of passion, hope, and despair, this is an extraordinary book about a devastatingly common disease.

Author Biography

Sarah Gabriel is an author and journalist who has written for such British publications as The Independent, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times. Married with two daughters, she lives in Oxford, England.

JO Morgan, Natural Mechanical (CB Editions)


Handicapped at school by his dyslexia and facing the strap at home, Rocky seeks out his own education from the fields and streams around him on the Isle of Skye. He develops an instinctive talent for improvisation: cord to snare rabbits fashioned from nettle stalks, a bicycle from scrap metal, a trip to France with just a few coins in the pocket of his shorts. Lyrical and continually surprising, this is a heroic narrative on a down-to-earth scale.

Author Biography

J.O Morgan was born in East Lothian; aged in his early thirties, he currently lives in the middle Highlands of Scotland. This is his first book.

Andrew Philip, The Ambulance Box (Salt Publishing)


The Ambulance Box heralds the arrival of a strong and passionate new voice. Striking a fine balance between thought and feeling, Andrew Philip’s poetry is by turns lyrical, allusive and direct; subtly experimental and unafraid of traditional form. Above all, it is intense, tender, inquisitive writing, alive to the wonder as well as the hurt of the world we inhabit.

At the heart of this book—dedicated to Philip’s first child, who died shortly after birth—is a deeply moving exploration of loss and discovery. In poems of unsentimental and unsettling beauty, The Ambulance Box examines the sudden transformations of grief.

Nonetheless, this is a wide-ranging volume and not without a sense of playfulness. A central sequence of poems, written to accompany an exhibition by award-winning Scottish painter David Martin, recasts John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” as a contemporary journey through faith and doubt, certainty and ambiguity. Environmental concerns are wrapped up in a mathematical meditation or a tribute to the music of Olivier Messiaen. The great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke is claimed for Philip’s home nation in several fine Scots translations, including the stunning “Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.”

This is poetry that will draw you back with its music, its mystery and its power.

Author Biography

Andrew Philip was born in Aberdeen in 1975 and grew up near Falkirk. He lived in Berlin for a short spell in the 1990s before studying linguistics at Edinburgh University.

He works part-time for the Scottish parliament’s official report ( www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialReports/about.htm ) and is involved in running Linlithgow Book Festival (www.linlithgowbookfestival.org/). The Ambulance Box, which is his first book of poems, was shortlisted for the 2009 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.

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See also
* Book Awards 2009
* Book Awards 2008
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