The 59th Authors' Club Best First Novel Award will be presented on Wednesday, chosen from a shortlist of – unusually – five. A panel had negotiated the longlist down to seven titles, the Blagger is told, with two of those receiving equal but not full support. But it was decided that it would be fairer not to choose either of the contentious two – a rare example of a shortlist being reduced because there were too many worthy novels.
The Authors' Club was founded in 1891 as a place where writers could meet and talk. Unofficially, it is known as "the fun
side" of the Society of Authors, which negotiates public lending rights and other serious matters.
The Best First Novel Award was launched in 1954, and in its history has been presented to novels including: Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958); Paul Bailey's At the Jerusalem (1967); Peter Benson's The Levels (1987); Jackie Kay's Trumpet (1998) and Anthony Quinn's The Rescue Man (2010). In 2003, Dan Rhodes won for Timoleon Vieta Come Home, and promised that he would spend his £2,500 prize money "on champagne and exotic dancers".
Among the Authors' Club's past members are Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle and Graham Greene. Guest speakers have included Emile Zola, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, Bram Stoker, TS Eliot and Clement Attlee. At Black's in London, which is currently the club's home, there is a snooker trophy that was won twice by Arthur Conan Doyle, and is engraved with his name.
The Award will be presented by D J Taylor in a ceremony at the National Liberal Club, the Authors' Club's former home. The shortlisted authors are: Leela's Book by Alice Albinia (Harvill Secker); City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Vintage); The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness (Seren); A Book for All and None by Clare Morgan (Weidenfeld); and The Knife Drawer by Padrika Tarrant (Salt).