I awoke this morning to the thrilling news that my novel, Randall, or The Painted Grape, has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, which goes to the best debut novel of the year. Ten books, which will be whittled down to three, and then to one. As always, it’s interesting to see how the list divides up – into male and female writers; into publishing big hitters and indie outsiders (including Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake, from the crowdfunding imprint Unbound); into those that have already appeared on other shortlists and those that haven’t; into those I’ve read and those I haven’t. Elliott himself was a literary agent – “an elfin agent of genius” – who made his way in publishing by getting an interview at Macmillian aged 16, getting himself fired from all the best houses, then going on, as an agent, to discover Jilly Cooper. A profile on the prize website describes him as “waspish, witty, an uncanny mimic and a sometimes outrageous raconteur”. Edith Sitwell called him “a most impertinent person”, while to Leo (wife of Jilly) Cooper he was “a consummate showman”. D’you know what? I think Elliott would have loved Randall. He would have made him laugh. You can read more about Randall on my website here, and then why not head over to the Galley Beggars website where they are celebrating the longlisting by selling the book at the excellent price of £7.50! And if you’re a bookshop, or a book group, or a festival, or a street corner, and you fancy a reading from Randall – laughter, cleverness, art theory and toilet humour all guaranteed – then please get in touch!
* The shortlist for the Desmond Elliott Prize was announced on 15 May, with the three books to make it through Carys Bray’s A Song for Issy Bradley, Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days and Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing.