The Judges


The Judges for this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize are:

  • SAM LEITH (Chair) – Author, columnist and literary editor of the Spectator
  • KAMILA SHAMSIE – Award-winning author of A God in Every Stone
  • IAIN RUSHWORTH – Specialist book buyer for WHSmith

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.

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.”

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.”

About the Judges

Sam Leith, former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph and current literary editor of the Spectator, also regularly writes for the Financial Times, Prospect, and the Guardian. He has a column in the London Evening Standard and was named Columnist of the Year at The Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards 2016. He has published three works of non-fiction – Dead Pets, Sod’s Law and You Talkin’ to Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama – and one novel, The Coincidence Engine. Leith was a judge on the panel of the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Kamila Shamsie is the author of six novels: In the City by the Sea; Kartography (both shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize); Salt and Saffron; Broken Verses; Burnt Shadows (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction) and, most recently, A God in Every Stone, which was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Three of her novels have received awards from Pakistan’s Academy of Letters. Kamila Shamsie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2013 was named named on Granta’s list of the Best of Young British Novelists. She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.

Iain Rushworth is a specialist book buyer for WHSmith, responsible for all buying for the chain’s stand-alone airport and rail bookshops as well as its concession bookshops in Harrods and Selfridges. He is also involved in the selection process for WHSmith’s Fresh Talent promotion, providing a place for new and emerging writers to be seen in an increasingly competitive market.