He may be represented by the smallest publisher on the shortlist, but author Benjamin Myers is now vying for one of literature’s biggest - and most prestigious - prizes. Based in the Upper Calder Valley, Mr Myers’ The Gallows Pole has been nominated for this year’s £25,000 Walter Scott Prize, set up to celebrate the best in historical fiction.
The novel, published by Hebden Bridge-based Bluemoose Books, was inspired by the true story of the Cragg Vale coiners, who almost brought the Bank of England to its knees when they began minting their own coins in the hills of West Yorkshire in the 18th century.
Mr Myers said: “I could live off that prize money for three years, but to be honest I feel like I have won just by being on the shortlist. Bluemoose is fantastic to work with, but it doesn’t have the marketing spend of some of the big publishing houses. The success of The Gallows Pole is really down to social media and it has been great to see how word has spread.
“I grew up in Durham, but when I moved to Yorkshire a few years ago I realised what a rich seam of stories there are in this part of the world. The Cragg Vale coiners is a great tale and when I realised that people five miles down the road hadn’t heard about it I knew I had to tell their story.”
The other books on the shortlist are Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, Sugar Money by Jane Harris, Grace by Paul Lynch, The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath and Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik.
The winner will be announced on June 16 and a spokesman for the judging panel, which includes the broadcaster Kirsty Wark, said: “This year’s shortlist encompasses the rural and the urban, the exotic and the everyday, the epic and the intimate. We are now relishing the challenge of alighting on a winner.”