‘It is like being on psychedelic drugs’: Benjamin Myers on the strange world of literary prizes

Heading to the Scottish Borders to win the Walter Scott prize for historical fiction, Myers takes a strange literary trip involving Gordon Brown and a lot of potted shrimp

A strange thing happened this week: my dreams came true.

When I received a message several weeks ago to say that I had been shortlisted for the Walter Scott prize, the world’s richest prize for historical fiction, I was struck by one immediate thought: “I didn’t know I wrote historical fiction.” My nominated novel The Gallows Pole is the retelling of a true story of a murderous 18th-century criminal gang of forgers known as the Cragg Vale Coiners, who take on the might of an establishment who want to keep them poor and hungry. Up until then, I simply saw it as an allegorical tale for an austerity Britain ruled by a government not entirely favourable towards literature – ...

Folk by Zoe Gilbert review – a dreamlike tapestry of island fables

Dark magic, superstition and foreboding ritual haunt this immersive portrait of the fictional village of Neverness

Perhaps it is too easy to remark on the contemporary relevance of a novel about a self-contained island ruled by its own heavy history. Yet one can’t help but read Zoe Gilbert’s tale of the village of Neverness, an inward-facing society imprisoned by the sea, as a dark historical mirror held up to the harried face of modern Britain.

Though described as a novel, Folk is more a tapestry of character studies and fables untethered from time, each of which works both as incantation and allegory – one chapter, Fishskin, Hareskin, won the Costa short story award for 2014.

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