Sam Leith, the author, columnist and literary editor, will chair the judging panel for the 10th anniversary Desmond Elliott Prize, the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (the Telegraph) in the UK and Ireland. Leith will be joined by the award-winning author, Kamila Shamsie, and specialist book buyer for WHSmith, Iain Rushworth, in the hunt to find the best debut novel of the year.

Currently literary editor of the Spectator, Leith also regularly writes for the Financial Times, Prospect and the Guardian. He was named Columnist of the Year at The Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards 2016 for his column in the London Evening Standard and has published three works of non-fiction and one novel, The Coincidence Engine. Leith was a judge on the panel of the 2015 Man Booker Prize and now follows in the footsteps of the acclaimed authors Iain Pears and Louise Doughty, who chaired the Desmond Elliott Prize judging panel in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

Leith said: “As space given over to books coverage across the mainstream media continues to decrease, first-time novelists are finding it harder and harder to get their books reviewed and read. This is why the Desmond Elliott Prize is so vital – it offers an essential platform to promote the work of debut authors and gives one special writer a year the financial support that will help them complete their second book and hopefully go on to enjoy a long and successful career. I’m delighted and honoured to chair the judging panel in the Prize’s tenth anniversary year.”

Shamsie wrote her own debut, In the City by the Sea, while at university. She has gone on to write a further five novels, the most recent of which, A God in Every Stone, was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

As a specialist book buyer for WHSmith, Rushworth is responsible for all buying for the chain’s stand-alone airport and rail bookshops as well as its concession bookshops in Harrods and Selfridges.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017, the Desmond Elliott Prize has a stellar track record for spotting new talent, with past winners including Lisa McInerney, Claire Fuller and Eimear McBride. The Prize is presented in the name of the late publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, in order to perpetuate his passion for discovering and nurturing emerging authors. The judges, with Desmond’s values in mind, will be looking for vividly written novels with a compelling narrative and arresting characters.

The Chairman of the Prize’s trustees, Dallas Manderson, said: “It is with much excitement that we look forward to discovering our tenth winner. I know that Desmond would be thrilled that his award has brought so much astounding new talent into the spotlight. It’s a delight to be celebrating ten years of dazzling debuts – long may Desmond’s legacy continue.”

A longlist of 10 books will be announced in April and a shortlist in May. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 21st June 2017 where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.