The Booker Prize - Scottish Successes

In 2002, Scottish publisher Canongate shot to literary fame and success when it published Life of Pi, by Spanish-born Canadian author Yann Martel. Life of Pi won the 2002 Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious English-language literary prizes in the world.

"this enormously lovable novel is suffused with wonder: a willed innocence that produces a fresh, sideways look at our habitual assumptions, about religious divisions, or zoos versus the wild, or the possibility of freedom." The Guardian, May, 2002

Five years later, Canongate published Kate Grenville's The Secret River - set in 19th century London and Sydney, and MJ Hyland's Carry Me Down, set in 1970s Ireland. Both were both longlisted and then shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. The eventual winner was The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.

"The Secret River is a sad book, beautifully written and, at times, almost unbearable with the weight of loss, competing distresses and the impossibility of making amends." The Observer, January, 2006

[Carry Me Down] "In the main, though, her touch is expertly light, and her creation - with his logician's mentality, eccentric obsessions and good intentions - is instantly likable and convincing." The Times, 2006

In 2011 Canongate's novel Jamrach's Menagerie, by Carol Birch, was longlisted for the Man Booker prize, alongside Sandstone Press, another Scottish publisher, with Jane Rogers' novel The Testament of Jessie Lamb.

2013 saw Canongate and Sandstone Press in the Man Booker limelight again with an appearance on the longlist for both. Sandstone's The Marrying of Chani Kaufmann didn't make the final cut but Canongate found itself on the shortlist again with A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

Canongate are the only Scottish publisher to have won the Booker, but Scottish authors have had many more successes.

Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark

Dame Muriel Spark was first shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction in its inaugural year, 1969 (then called the Booker-McConnell Prize). Her short novel The Public Image is tale of the degradation and moral recovery of an Italian movie star. The New York Times said of Spark:

"Spark's writings demonstrate how secondary... are innovations of style and form to the work of the truly gifted. Such innovation is a natural by product of their originality rather than its main object. Such are the pleasures to be derived from the first volume of a projected series of Mrs. Spark's collected stories and from her new, short novel."

Muriel Spark returned to the Booker shortlist in 1981, with Loitering With Intent. Seen by some as semi-autobiographical, Spark explores the nature of fiction and invention, and how one might lose one's way amongst lies and embellishments. One reviewer described Loitering With Intent as:

"A delirium of delight... robust and full bodied, a wise and mature work, and a brilliantly mischievous one."

Unfortunately, The Public Image is out of print in the UK.

Spark's success continued - Spark was one of the 18 writers nominated for the 2005 Man International Booker Prize, which was launched in Edinburgh at the 2005 Edinburgh International Book Festival. The Prize was eventually won by Albanian Ismail Kadare. Kadare's The Successor has since been published in English by Canongate.

William Boyd

© Jerry Bauer

William Boyd

In 1982, Ghanian-born Scottish author William Boyd was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize with his novel An Ice-Cream War. Set in East Africa during WWI, An Ice-Cream War is a historical fiction at its best, both satirical and serious novel of love, passion and war.

"Funny, assured, and cleanly, expansively told, a seriocomic romp. Boyd gives us studies of people caught in the side pockets of calamity and dramatises their plights with humour, detail and grip." Harper's

James Kelman

James Kelman

James Kelman was the first Scottish author to win the Man Booker Prize, in 1994, but he was first shortlisted in 1989 for A Disaffection. This novel also won him the James Tate Black Memorial Award for Fiction in that year, Scotland's most prestigious literary prize.

But it was the 1994 winner How Late It Was, How Late that was Scotland's first - and, to date, only - Booker Prize winner. It was a controversial choice, even for the Booker judges. Rabbi Julia Newberger described How Late It Was, How Late as "a disgrace" and said "Frankly, it's crap", before storming off the judging panel. In The Times, journalist Simon Jenkins called Kelman "an illiterate savage."

The New York Times gave a more favourable review:

"it is a work of marvellous vibrance and richness of character"

While one online reviewer gave a 5-star review, comparing it to:

"Virgina Woolf being dragged through a gutter by her hair."

In 2011, James Kelman was shortlisted for the bi-annual Man International Booker Prize, which recognises the achievements of a writer's overall career.

George MacKay Brown

George Mackay Brown

1994 was a good year for Scotland. Kelman won the prize, but Orcadian author George Mackay Brown was also shortlisted, for his Viking coming-of-age novel Beside The Ocean Of Time. Mackay's final novel, it also won the Saltire Society's Scottish Book of the Year award.

Bernard MacLaverty

Bernard MacLaverty

"'Prozac-lit' rarely comes as uplifting as Bernard MacLaverty's Grace Notes" said Graham Dickson of the Richmond Review. Although born in Belfast, MacLaverty has been living and writing in Scotland for many years.

"MacLaverty summons up a time and a place with an unerring exactness reminiscent of Joyce's Dubliners... a magnificent portrait of the sources and ends, wretchedness and rewards, or creativity."

Grace Notes was also shortlisted for the Whitbread and JT Black Fiction Prizes in 1997.

Andrew O'Hagan

Andrew O'Hagan

Andrew O'Hagan's debut Our Fathers was shortlisted in 1999. It is a novel of construction and destruction, where character Jamie Bawn demolishes the decaying high-rises his grandfather once built as visionary homes for the future.

"Our Fathers is powerful and vivid, populated by characters given a depth and complexity... burns with fierce intelligence." Spike Magazine

Ali Smith

Ali Smith

Ali Smith has been shortlisted twice, in 2001 for Hotel World and in 2005 for The Accidental. Both novels are about misplaced, almost ethereal women. Hotel World is:

"a disturbing, many-layered book... Ali Smith's writing is haunting and acute... Hotel World might have been depressing were it not for the invigoratingly sharp writing." The New Statesman

The Accidental, which won the Whitbread novel of the year and was shortlisted for both the Orange and JT Black Fiction prizes, is, according to The Times:

"as good as anyone who has been watching the progress of this talented author could have possibly hoped."