The Blagger's Guide to... the Desmond Elliott prize

All you need to know about the hottest literary topic of the week

The longlist for the seventh annual Desmond Elliott Prize will be formally announced at a reception at Foyles bookshop in central London on Tuesday.

It will include: The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber (Sceptre); The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence (Hodder & Stoughton); The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan (William Heinemann); The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland (Harper Fiction); Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman (Serpent’s Tail); The Fields by Kevin Maher (Little, Brown); Signs of Life by Anna Raverat (Picador); Seldom Seen by Sarah Ridgard (Hutchinson); Jammy Dodger by Kevin Smith (Sandstone Press); The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace (Simon & Schuster). That’s 70 per cent women. Anyone would think women were good at writing fiction.

The prize, for new fiction, was founded thanks to a condition in the will of the literary agent and publisher Desmond Elliott (right), a five-foot-tall dandy who discovered Jilly Cooper, among others. Frequently described as “waspish”, Elliott drank only champagne, flew on Concorde and bought his groceries at Fortnum & Mason (or at least, his staff did), where the prize ceremony is now held. “Travelling west of Marble Arch gives me a nosebleed,” he said. Elliott was educated at the Royal Masonic Orphanage in Dublin after his father died, leaving his mother able to support only one of her two sons. He travelled to London, aged 16, with only £2 in his pocket, aiming to become a publisher. Having been sacked from most of the grand old British publishing houses, he set up business on his own and ended up representing authors including Penny Vincenzi, Linda Lee-Potter, Candida Lycett Green and Claire Rayner. Among his more questionable achievements was introducing Tim Rice to Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

...

Elliott spent his holidays on Fire Island, New York, and at Key West, Florida, taking with him supplies from Fortnum’s. He never left without real angelica for making trifles. “If I hadn’t gone into publishing I would have worked in perfumes,” he once said.

Winners of the prize have gone on to varying success. Last year’s winner, Grace McCleen, said afterwards: “I am not very proud of this book”, The Land of Decoration, and promptly announced her retirement from writing. “The writing is a symptom of [my] unhappiness,” she said, adding that giving it up would be “brilliant”.

...

Anjali Joseph was the winner in 2011 with Saraswati Park, and Ali Shaw in 2010 with The Girl With Glass Feet. In 2009, Edward Hogan won for Blackmoor, thanking the judges especially for awarding him the £10,000 prize because he was “skint”. Hogan listed his former occupations as “grass-strimmer, pot-washer, conservatory salesman, bloke holding the board in Leicester Square, and teacher”. In 2008, Nikita Lalwani won the prize with her novel, Gifted, and donated all of her winnings to Liberty.

One of 2008’s judges, Penny Vincenzi, used to work in Harrods’ lending library. Vincenzi looked after readers whose names began with S, and said that Sir Malcolm Sargent was “an absolute sweetheart, very polite”, but another customer once threw a book at her for being a “complete idiot”. Vincenzi is now the author of novels including The Decision, Old Sins and Love in the Afternoon and Other Delights.

...

The Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist will be announced on 23 May, and the winner on 27 June.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine