The 2019 Judges

THE LINE OF BEAUTY AUTHOR ALAN HOLLINGHURST TO CHAIR 2019 DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE

HOLLINGHURST: I KNOW ONLY TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED, THOSE SURPRISES OF STORY, VOICE AND VIEWPOINT WITH WHICH A FIRST NOVELIST CAN SUDDENLY ENLARGE OUR SENSE OF WHAT THE NOVEL — THAT WONDERFUL, INEXHAUSTIBLE FORM — IS CAPABLE OF.

Alan Hollinghurst, author of the 2004 Man Booker Prize-winning The Line of Beauty, is to chair the judging panel for the 2019 Desmond Elliott Prize, the “UK’s most prestigious award for debut novelists” (Daily Telegraph). Hollinghurst will be joined on the panel by the Literary Editor of The Times, Robbie Millen, and Chief Executive of the Booksellers Association, Meryl Halls. The trio of judges are tasked with finding the novel they believe is most worthy of winning the £10,000 Prize and being crowned the best debut of the last 12 months.

Alan Hollinghurst was born in Stroud, Gloucestershire in 1954 and was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. After graduating he was on the staff of The Times Literary Supplement from 1982 to 1995. His acclaimed first novel, The Swimming-Pool Library (1988), gives a vivid account of London gay life in the early 1980s. It was followed, in 1994, by The Folding Star, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. The Line of Beauty won the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and was adapted for BBC Television by Andrew Davies in 2006. His latest novel is The Sparsholt Affair (2017).

Hollinghurst said: “I’m really delighted to have been asked to chair the judging panel for the 2019 Desmond Elliott Prize. It’s a prize that rewards the courage as well as the skill of new writers — the ones who will go on to shape the reading landscape of the future. As a judge, I know only to expect the unexpected, those surprises of story, voice and viewpoint with which a first novelist can suddenly enlarge our sense of what the novel — that wonderful, inexhaustible form — is capable of. It will be a fascinating experience.”

Robbie Millen has been the Literary Editor of The Times for over five years. After gaining a first class History degree from Cambridge University, Robbie began his career at the Daily Express and then the Spectator before joining The Times in 2000 as Features Editor. He has previously been a judge for the British Books of the Year, the Orwell Prizes and the Political Book Awards.

Meryl Halls is the Managing Director of the Booksellers Association and was educated at St Andrews University. She joined the Booksellers Association in 1988 as a Conference Assistant before becoming Conference Manager. Latterly she headed up Membership Services and played a key role on the Senior Management Team before accepting the role of Managing Director after 30 years with the organisation. In 2018 she played an active role in creating a £50,000 grant to tackle the issue of diversity within publishing.

The Desmond Elliott Prize has a track record of spotting outstandingly talented novelists at the very beginning of their careers. Last year, the Prize was awarded to Preti Taneja for her debut novel We That Are Young, subsequently described at its US publication as “a work of epic scope and depth”. Other past winners include Francis Spufford, Lisa McInerney and Eimear McBride. The Prize is presented in the name of the late publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, in memory of his passion for discovering and nurturing emerging authors. The judges, with Desmond’s values in mind, will be looking for vividly written novels with a compelling narrative and arresting characters.

Chair of Trustees for the Prize, Dallas Manderson, said: “The Desmond Elliott Prize has a long history of outstanding judging panels and in 2019 we once again welcome a panel of judges who are leaders in their respective fields. It is an important task that lays before them, but I have no doubt that they will do a tremendous job and look forward to discovering the novel they choose to be this year’s winner.”

A longlist of 10 books will be announced in April and a shortlist in May. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 19th June 2019 where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.

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