George Alagiah’s debut novel up for author’s award

BBC newsreader George Alagiah has been shortlisted for a Society of Authors award for his debut novel.

Alagiah’s The Burning Land, is up for the Paul Torday memorial prize, awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60.

The thriller’s plot revolves around corruption and homicide in South Africa.

Others in contention for the award include Madeleine by Euan Cameron, Gaby Koppel’s Reparation and Find Me Falling by Fiona Vigo Marshall.

Also competing are Donald S Murray’s As the Women Lay Dreaming and The Stranger She Knew by Rosalind Stopps.

‘Powerful books’

The prize will be judged by fellow authors William Fiennes, Catherine Johnson and Sarah Waters.

“There’s a great range of novels on this exciting shortlist: some have the pace and punch of thrillers and detective stories, others have the lyricism of poetry or the disconcerting shimmer of dream and nightmare,” said Waters.

“What they all have in common, however, is an interest in tackling some of the big issues of our time – issues like injustice and reparation, trauma and recovery. They are powerful books by really talented authors.”

Alagiah tweeted to say he was “so proud to be in the company of such amazing talents in the shortlist”.

Last year, the 64-year-old said he’d been “overwhelmed” by supportive comments from viewers welcoming his return to BBC One’s News at Six.

The journalist, who is being treated for bowel cancer, also revealed last month that he had had a mild case of coronavirus.

“In some ways, I think that those of us living with cancer are stronger because we kind of know what it is like to go into something where the outcomes are uncertain,” he told colleague Sophie Raworth.

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Media captionBBC newsreader George Alagiah on living with coronavirus and cancer

The Society of Authors also announced on Thursday that Diary of a Somebody by Brian Bilston – sometimes referred to as the “Banksy of Poetry” and “Twitter’s unofficial Poet Laureate” – has been shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize, awarded to a first novel by a writer over 40.

Elsewhere, Costa Award-winner Sally Gardner has been shortlisted for the inaugural Queen’s Knickers award for her children’s book Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Sea Dragon, illustrated by Nick Maland.

All the winners will be revealed online on 18 June, along with a series of short films marking each of the selected works, as part of the free digital SoA@Home Festival.

It will also feature an in-conversation event with How to Train Your Dragon writer, Cressida Cowell.

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