Saturday, April 02, 2011

Historical fiction award news

A few historical fiction award winners and nominees have been announced in recent days.

Lucia St. Clair Robson's Last Train from Cuernavaca (Forge, 2010) is the winner of the 2010 Spur Award for Best Western Long Novel.  Last Train tells the story of two women, one Mexican and one English, caught up in the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20.

For Best Western Short Novel, the winner was Richard S. Wheeler's Snowbound (Forge, 2010), biographical fiction about John Charles Frémont and his fourth expedition, when he was trapped in the Colorado mountains during the winter of 1848-49.

The Spurs are awarded for excellence in Western writing by Western Writers of America.  See their site for more information as well as the finalists.

The winner of the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery award was announced last week at the Left Coast Crime convention.  Kudos to Jacqueline Winspear, who took home the prize with her seventh Maisie Dobbs mystery, The Mapping of Love and Death (Harper, 2010). This award is given to the best historical mystery novel (pre-1950 setting).

Finally, the shortlist for the 2nd Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction was announced yesterday:

Andrea Levy, The Long Song (Headline Review and FSG)
Tom McCarthy, C (Jonathan Cape and Knopf)
David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Sceptre and Random House)
Joseph O'Connor, Ghost Light (Harvill Secker and FSG)
C J Sansom, Heartstone (Mantle and Viking)
Andrew Williams, To Kill a Tsar (John Murray - no US publisher).

More details at The Bookseller. The winner will be announced on June 18th, as part of the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland. (Melrose is a town in the Scottish Borders; the festival has nothing to do with the ill-fated bookseller.)


  1. I can't decide what I think about the Walter Scott award. I can't help but think this is a literary award disguising itself as a historical fiction award. While the books nominated are historically set, I don't think it is the kind of historical fiction that most historical fiction fans I know read.

  2. There's been quite a bit of overlap between this prize and the Booker Prize nominees, so in a sense I think you're right. Not everything here is literary fiction, but most are. That said, I haven't read any of the novels this time but one (the Mitchell) and imho, it deserves to be there. And the Sansom and Williams aren't literary, so they're mixing it up.

    Given that the HF field is dominated by women, it's surprising there aren't more women authors on the list. I say this knowing that a woman won the prize last year; but it's still interesting.

    The historical novels I most often see reviewed on blogs reflects the picks for the RNA longlist, I think.

  3. Ah, see everything I have heard about Mitchell indicates that it is more literary than historical fiction. Sansom would have been the only one that I would have said wasn't but having said that haven't read any of them.

    The RNA award is definitely the one that most reflects my reading tastes, although generally I like at least some of the Orange prize as well, although that is not HF focused.

  4. The Mitchell is easily both literary and historical, just like Wolf Hall was. Lots of great historical detail on the place and period, and an exciting story, too. It wasn't especially promoted to HF fans like the Mantel was, so it may not be on people's radar as much. But I hope it wins (ok, maybe I should read some of the others before saying this, but...) I was shocked it didn't get further with the Booker!

    I agree with you on the Orange Prize.