Costa Book Awards: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley named debut novel of the year

Stephen King, one of the author’s influences, calls the Gothic work an 'amazing piece of fiction'

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The Independent Culture

A suspense novel which is at the forefront of a new wave of British Gothic fiction has won the Costa First Novel Award.

The Loney was named the debut book of the year – one of five Costa Award category winners announced tonight – marking an extraordinary year for its author, Andrew Michael Hurley.

The novel by Hurley, from Preston in Lancashire, was initially published as a limited edition hardback and ebook before it was picked up by a major publishing house and hailed as a “modern classic”. It is now available in translation and the film rights have been snapped up.

Best in category

Costa First Novel Award: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley. The Gothic novel has been compared to works by Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Horace Walpole.

Costa Novel Award: A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. The companion piece to the 2013 award-winner Life After Life. 

Costa Biography Award: The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf. The scientist has everything from towns and mountains to a penguin and part of the Moon named after him.

Costa Poetry Award: 40 Sonnets by Don Paterson. The highly decorated poet’s new collection. 

Costa Children’s Book Award: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. A “dark, sprawling, fiercely clever novel”, the judges said.

“Winning the prize is fantastic,” Hurley (pictured) told The Independent. “It’s a really lovely surprise after what has been a surreal 12 months.” 

The Costa First Novel Award judges described The Loney “as close to the perfect first novel as you can get”. Stephen King, one of the author’s influences, said it was “an amazing piece of fiction”.

Hurley’s debut was inspired by his Catholic upbringing, English folklore tales and the landscape of north-west Lancashire. It includes tried and tested images from Gothic literature from the crumbling house to the face at the window.

Set in 1976 it follows a family’s annual stay in an old house in Lancashire, a place gripped by the mystery of the death of the local priest. The Loney itself refers to a part of the region’s coastline.

“I was spending a long time in the Morecambe Bay area when I started to think about writing a novel,” the author, who fitted writing around teaching and then library work, said. “The landscape was so atmospheric and inspiring I thought I had to write about it.” He is working on a second novel, which is also Gothic. “I have an interest in setting the first few novels in rural Lancashire. I think it’s a place that’s been missed off the literary map quite a lot.”  

Critics have pointed to the novel as heralding a renaissance in the genre. Greg Buzwell, curator of contemporary literary archives and manuscripts at the British Library, said: “Gothic goes in waves with peaks like in the 1780s with people like Ann Radcliffe and more famously the late Victorian era with Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde. We probably are due another burst of Gothic output. The Loney could be at the forefront of that.”

Each of the five Costa book award category winners receives £5,000 and will compete for the overall book of the year award.