When the Walter Scott Prize first came into existence, I - and no doubt many other keen historical fiction readers and writers - hoped it would be one of those awards to recognise the more "popular" titles, i.e. historical novels that a wide readership have enjoyed: that the prize would skirt away from the "literary" (snooty) side of publishing which is already more than well-catered for and perhaps give lesser-known historical fiction authors a chance to shine. So I am somewhat dismayed to see individuals like the multi-lauded literary novelist Martin Amis included in the latest shortlist. Bookseller link here. Yawn ...
What is needed are more international prizes like that of the the Romantic Novelists' Association in the UK, that acknowledge good writing as well as popularity (albeit mostly female in the RNA case). It was a pleasure to see that Hazel Gaynor won the RNA historical fiction award for her delightful The Girl Who Came Home, but a pity that such a book would never find its way into the increasingly esoteric world of the Walter Scott Prize.
Wonder what Sir WS himself would have to say about it all, given that he was the "popular" historical fiction writer of his age who aimed his work at the then-equivalent of the airport stand (stage-coach book peddler?) I'm guessing he wouldn't even make the longlist in his own prize.
The Booker International shortlist here for anyone interested.
|Walter Scott's rousing romantic tale of Lochinvar wouldn't get a look-in these days|
Click here for a great rendition of the poem