TWO Irish authors are among four winners announced today in the inaugural Nero Book Awards.
Paul Murray has been revealed as the winner of the Fiction category, for his 2023 novel The Bee Sting.
Described by the judges as “funny and tragic in equal measure”, the book tells the story of a middle-class Irish family in crisis, as the effects of the post-2008 Irish banking crisis take their toll on their finances.
It took Murray five years to write the tale, which he claims was inspired by world events, including Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Dublin-based author completed the 650-page tome during lockdown.
It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023 and follows his critically acclaimed 2010 novel Skippy Dies, which made the Booker Prize Longlist, and The Mark and the Void in 2015, which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize the following year.
Fellow Irish author Michael Magee has also won a prize in the inaugural book competition.
The Belfast-based writer has won the Debut Fiction category, with his book Close to Home.
Inspired by the author’s upbringing in west Belfast, the semi-autobiographical novel focuses on two working-class brothers and their lives in post-Troubles Northern Ireland.
Set in Belfast, where Magee is the fiction editor of literary magazine The Tangerine, the book tackles themes of masculinity, violence, poverty and trauma.
It won the Rooney Prize for Literature in 2023 as well as the Waterstones Irish Book of the Year 2023.
Elsewhere today, Beth Lincoln won the Children’s Fiction category for her best-selling book The Swifts, and comedian Fern Brady won the Non-Fiction category for her book Strong Female Character, a memoir which reflects on her delayed autism diagnosis.
The four category winners each win £5,000 and will now vie for the overall title of Nero Gold Prize Book of the Year – who will receivew an additional £30,000 prize.
Commenting today, as the inaugural category award winners were announced, Caffè Nero Founder and Group CEO Gerry Ford, said they created the awards to “support creative excellence”.
“The Nero Book Awards are a hugely important part of our programme to sponsor the arts and support creative excellence,” he said.
“The four winning books represent the very best writing from the UK and Ireland and we are proud at Caffè Nero to create a platform that celebrates home-grown talent, and to offer a total prize pot of £50,000.”
He added: “Our judges have selected four brilliant books that will appeal to readers of all tastes.
“My congratulations to the winning authors, and thank you to our judges, partners and the wider publishing industry for engaging with these Awards so enthusiastically in our first year.
“It is our goal that these Awards come to represent a badge of exceptional quality which is seen as aspirational for authors and within the industry and a trustworthy recommendation for readers.”
The category award winners were chosen by 12 judges, made up of a mix of authors, booksellers and journalists.
Award-winning author Bernardine Evaristo was today announced as the chair of the final judges, who will be responsible for selecting the £30,000 Nero Gold Prize winner.
“At a time when literature is under threat from the addictive distractions of social media and the internet, literary prizes not only celebrate individual writers and elevate careers, but draw attention to a beautiful art form that requires and rewards sustained concentration and engagement with words, other people’s lives, and the imagination,” she said.
“The Nero Book Awards are a major new prize,” she added.
“I’m looking forward to chairing the Nero Gold Prize, and selecting a book from the category winners that offers readers exceptional riches, one which we judges think deserves to be honoured as the overall book of the year.”
The overall Nero Gold prize winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday, March 14.
To be eligible for the Nero Book Awards 2023, books must have been first published in English in the UK or Ireland between December 1, 2022 and 30th November 2023.
At the time of entry, authors must have been alive and resident in the UK or Ireland for the past three years.