The 10 titles to be longlisted for the 2017 Desmond Elliott Prize, the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (Telegraph), were revealed on Friday 31st March. The Prize is celebrating 10 years of supporting debut authors this year and is awarded in the name of the late, acclaimed literary agent and publisher, Desmond Elliott.

Authors longlisted for the 2017 Prize come from a diverse range of professional backgrounds, from an actor and bar owner to a quantitative analyst working for a hedge fund manager. Kit de Waal, who is longlisted for her bestselling novel My Name is Leon, worked in criminal and family law and was a magistrate for several years before turning her hand to writing. David Savill (They Are Trying to Break Your Heart) was a current affairs journalist for the BBC, working on shows such as The World at One and Panorama, and Paul Stanbridge (Forbidden Line) counts builder, bookseller and pensions administrator amongst his former careers.

Love and loss are at the heart of many of the longlisted novels, with absent parents, missing children and unhappy unions all explored. Harmless Like You (Rowan Hisayo Buchanan), My Name is Leon (Kit de Waal) and Ithaca (Alan McMonagle) each touch on the impact that missing parents have on the children they leave behind. In Little Deaths, Emma Flint explores the tragic disappearance of two children and the subsequent accusations directed at their mother, while Thomas Maloney’s The Sacred Combe tells the story of Samuel Browne, whose wife unexpectedly leaves him to ‘live a better life’ without her.

Pan Macmillan imprint Picador leads the field with two longlisted titles, Little Deaths by Emma Flint and Ithaca by Alan McMonagle, while independent publisher Galley Beggar Press is longlisted for the fourth year in a row with Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge. Fellow independent Scribe, has another title – The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney – longlisted this year, after Gavin McCrea’s Mrs Engels reached the shortlist in 2016.

Chair of Judges and literary editor for the Spectator, Sam Leith said: “I’m delighted to be contemplating a longlist with such a range of styles and registers, such a variety of publishers, and such a diverse list of authors. This very strong longlist affirms the vitality of debut fiction in the UK. And here’s a reminder too, in the sheer range of the authors’ day-jobs, that there’s no one route to becoming a novelist. But each of our authors has shown determination, imagination, optimism and – to nod to Kingsley Amis – the all-important ability to apply the seat of the trousers to the seat of the chair. Congratulations to them all.”

The Chairman of the Prize’s trustees, Dallas Manderson said: “The aim of the Desmond Elliott Prize is to champion first-time novelists and it’s a real delight to take the opportunity of our 10th anniversary to look back at the huge success and recognition that our past winners have gone on to achieve. I’d like to think Desmond would be proud of his Prize’s track record for spotting the stars of the future. There’s no doubt amongst the Trustees that this is our strongest ever longlist, so we wish our judges the very best with their daunting task of whittling this down to just three extraordinary debuts.”

The Desmond Elliott Prize 2017 longlist in full (in alphabetical order by author):

  • Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Sceptre)
  • My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (Viking)
  • Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Picador)
  • Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary (Harvill Secker)
  • The Transition by Luke Kennard (4th Estate)
  • Ithaca by Alan McMonagle (Picador)
  • The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney (Scribe UK)
  • They are Trying to Break Your Heart by David Savill (Bloomsbury)
  • Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (Faber & Faber)
  • Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge (Galley Beggar Press)

The Desmond Elliott Prize has an established record for spotting up-and-coming novelists in the UK and Ireland and propelling them to greater recognition and success. Its 2016 winner was Lisa McInerney, whose novel The Glorious Heresies achieved critical acclaim and has since been optioned for television. McInerney’s hotly anticipated second novel, The Blood Miracles, is set to be published in April. Other past winners include Claire Fuller, Eimear McBride, Grace McCleen, and Ali Shaw.

Sam Leith is joined on the judging panel by the award-winning author, Kamila Shamsie, and specialist book buyer for WHSmith, Iain Rushworth. A shortlist will be announced on 5th May, and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 21st June where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.