Walter Scott historical fiction shortlist announced

Andrea Levy at the Borders Book Festival Last year's award was won by Andrea Levy for her novel The Long Song

The shortlist for the third Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction has been announced in the Scottish Borders.

Sebastian Barry, Patrick de Witt, Esi Edugyan, Alan Hollinghurst, Andrew Miller and Barry Unsworth are this year's contenders for the award.

The winner will be announced at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose in June.

Previous editions of the £25,000 award went to Andrea Levy for The Long Song and Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall.

The shortlist for the prize was announced by the Duke of Buccleuch at the launch of the Borders Book Festival programme.

The books included are by authors from Ireland, Canada and England, and cover such diverse subjects as the jazz age in Nazi-occupied Europe, slavery in the English coalmines, and the closure of a cemetery in 18th-Century Paris.

Shortlist for the 2012 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction

  • On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt
  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
  • The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
  • Pure by Andrew Miller
  • The Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth

The prize, founded in 2009, claims to be the "largest annual UK prize to be judged outside London" and honours the legacy and achievements of Sir Walter Scott, considered to be the founder of the historical novel.

The judging panel this year includes new judges Kirsty Wark, Prof Louise Richardson, and Jonathan Tweedie, who join existing judges Elizabeth Laird and Elizabeth Buccleuch, and chairman Alistair Moffat.

Their selection criteria included "originality and innovation, quality of writing, and the ability of a book to shed light on the present as well as the past".

They described selecting the shortlist as "very difficult" from the "strongest longlist for the prize so far".

Shortlisted authors are invited to attend the award announcement and ceremony on 16 June in the Borders.

It will include exclusive readings from the works by the actor John Sessions, and a presentation by former prizewinner Hilary Mantel.

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