The Wales Book of the Year 2011 was announced last night. The gong went to Parthian author John Harrison – a remarkable travel writer – for Cloud Road, a book recounting his adventures walking the great road of the Incas, the Camino Real. John’s a very nice man as well as being accomplished. This recognition of his work is pleasing indeed – and it comes with a £10,000 cheque, too, which is always handy for a writer. Also on the shortlist were Alistair Reynolds, for his SF novel Terminal World, and the unique Pascale Petit, for her arresting verse biography of Frida Kahlo, What the Water Gave Me – a poetry collection from 2010 which I’ve especially admired.
It was heartening to see such an intelligent but varied collection of books and genres from the judges – from the longlist right through to the shortlist. Francesca Rhydderch, Jon Gower and Deborah Kay Davies have done, I think, a very fine job of producing a list of books from Wales or with Welsh connections that reminds us all of the leaps and bounds our literature has made since the renaissance that began a decade ago.
I should add that the Readers’ Choice Award went to Tyler Keevil for Fireball. If you haven’t read it yet, then do. It’s a wonderful, gripping, moving, coming-of-age novel, with echoes of Hinton’s The Outsiders, King’s The Body (later made into the iconic film Stand by Me) and Nicholas Ray’s star-making Rebel Without a Cause. In a wonderful twist on our open and international nation, Tyler’s a Canadian, the book is set in Vancouver, and he’s published by Wales’s Parthian Books. I interviewed Tyler last year, and it proved to be one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had with an author about their book. He knows what he’s about and what the work is about. Good luck to him with his future projects.
So: congratulations to the winners. And congratulations to all those who made their way onto the longlist in such a vintage year.