WHILE city born author Ali Smith may have missed out on UK fiction’s most prestigious award, the Man Booker Prize, Inverness can at least claim success in rival contest, The Guardian’s Not the Booker.
Former Inverness High School pupil Smith made her third appearance on the Man Book Prize Shortlist when her most recent novel, How To Be Both, was shortlisted for the 2014 award.
However, Cambridge-based Smith was to be disappointed once again when the judging panel led by philosopher A.C. Grayling awarded this year’s Man Booker Prize to Richard Flanagan, the third Australian to win the Booker, for his wartime novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North at Tuesday’s awards ceremony.
There was better news for Inverness a day earlier when Inverness raised Simon Sylvester was announced the winner of the Not The Booker with his debut novel The Visitors.
Unlike the Booker, the public had a strong say in the decision with their votes whittling the 100 strong longlist announced in July down to the six finalists, which included writers as varied as established US bestseller Donna Tartt with her latest book The Goldfinch and Aberdeen author Iain Maloney’s aptly named debut First Time Solo.
The final winner was a mix of votes from the public and the Not The Booker’s own judging panel.
Tying with Sylvester on the public vote was yet another author with Inverness connections, former Highland Capital reporter Tony Black with his Tasmania set historical novel The Last Tiger, but the judges decided that The Visitors, a coming of age set on a fictional Hebridean island, had the edge.
"Throughout this competition, The Visitors has had fervent support. Dozens, if not hundreds of people have spoken about how much they enjoyed this book and how much it moved them. It’s been a very impressive showing," Sam Jordison, the chairman of the judging panel wrote.
Unfortunately for Sylvester, a writer and filmmaker who now lives in Cumbria, the Not The Booker is not as lucrative as that other prize.
While Flanagan, as this year’s Booker Prize winner, can expect to pocket £50,000, all Sylvester will receive is a Guardian mug.
However, this did not prevent him being delighted by the result.
"I’m absolutely blown away. Thank you, everyone — what an incredible thing," he responded.
• The Visitors is published by Quercus Books.
To read our interview with Simon Sylvester, go to