Small publishing houses dominate Booker longlist


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The Independent Online

A publisher operating out of a bedroom in a flat in the Scottish Highlands has had one of its novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Sandstone Press, which has published only seven novels in its nine-year history, began doing fiction last year. Now its book The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (pictured below), released in February, will take on the country's biggest publishing groups for the world's most prestigious literary prize. The winner gets a £50,000 cheque.

"We are all thrilled," said 62-year-old Robert Davidson, a retired former engineer who lives in Dingwall, 15 miles north of Inverness. Mr Davidson initially founded the company to publish poetry pamphlets. He said: "We are happy for Jane and for this wonderful book. Hopefully this will begin our progression into a British publisher of note."

Ms Rogers said: "I am completely stunned, amazed. I've been doing my mother-in-law's garden and got back in the car and saw I had six messages. I am speechless." Her book is the story of a "near future" where pregnant women are dying from an incurable disease, praised by The Independent for being a "small, calm voice of reason in an nonsensical world".

According to an awards spokesman, all but four of the 13-strong longlist is from a "non-conglomerate" publisher. Judging chair, Dame Stella Rimington, denied there was any agenda to represent smaller publishers. "It was a competitive shortlist but we didn't have any specific agenda in mind," she said.

This year's longlist is headed up by Alan Hollinghurst with The Stranger's Child, the bookies' favourite to win. Dame Stella said his latest novel was "interesting" with a "fascinating central character". Julian Barnes, who had been shortlisted for the award three times but never won, is on the list for The Sense of an Ending. He joined four first-time writers on the list: Stephen Kelman, AD Miller, Yvvette Edwards and Patrick McGuinness. Other notable authors include The Independent columnist DJ Taylor for Derby Day, a Victorian drama about a betting sting.