Historical fiction prize is now open to entrants

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To mark the opening of this year’s Walter Scott Prize, one of the country’s leading literary awards, fascinating research into the period settings of historical fiction has been carried out.

Organisers of the book prize, which has previously been won by Hilary Mantel, Sebastian Barry, Andrea Levy and Robert Harris, and is for “writing of exceptional quality set in the past”, surveyed all its 650 submissions to find out which were the most popular eras for submitted books. Prize shortlists were also analysed, to see whether period setting had an effect on which publications made the shortlist.

Recent history is by far the most popular era for literary fiction with over 38% of all submissions being set in the 20th century. Both world war periods were also favoured, with nearly a quarter (23%) of the books shortlisted for the prize set during WWI.

More than 120 of the books submitted (19%) were set between 1837 and 1901, making the Victorian era a favourite, along with Tudor, Stuart and Regency periods, but novels set in ancient or medieval times had just a scattering of submissions.

The winning novels came from a wide variety of historical settings, from the 14th to 20th centuries.

The Walter Scott Prize is the only one dedicated to historical fiction. Founded by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Alistair Moffat in 2010 to honour the reputation of the inventor of the genre, Sir Walter Scott, the prize rewards writing of exceptional quality set in the past, with a top award of £25,000.

Judges over its eight-year history have included Allan Massie, Professor Louise Richardson and Jackie Kay.

The judges’ criteria are excellence, originality, innovation and longevity. This year’s judging panel comprises Alistair Moffat (chair), Elizabeth Buccleuch, Kate Figes, Katharine Grant, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie and Kirsty Wark.

Entries are now open – publishers can submit up to three titles and books must be set at least 60 years ago. Deadline for entries is January 31, 2018.

The winner will be announced at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose. Full details are available at www.walterscottprize.co.uk.