Empire Antarctica named Scottish Book of the Year

image captionGavin Francis wrote Empire Antarctica after working as a doctor at a research station

An Edinburgh GP who wrote a book after spending 14 months at a research station in Antarctica has won Scotland's largest literary prize.

Gavin Francis won the £30,000 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year for Empire Antarctica.

The prize was announced at the Lennoxlove Book Festival, with three runners up also receiving £5,000.

The awards recognise authors from or who reside in Scotland, or those whose book has particular Scottish interest.

Mr Francis wrote the book while working as base camp doctor at the Halley research station on the Caird coast. It is said to be so remote, it is easier to evacuate a casualty from the International Space Station than it is to bring someone out of Halley in winter.

He said: "Winning an award like this, for any writer, is a tremendous endorsement of what it is that they're trying to achieve."

The author said he was "astonished and delighted" to have won.

"Scotland has a tradition of looking out beyond its borders, even as far as Antarctica, and Scottish literature has always punched above its weight," he added. "I'm conscious that to be part of that tradition, and that literature, is an immense privilege."

'Evocative narrative'

Empire Antarctica is described as "the story of one man and his fascination with the world's loneliest continent, as well as the emperor penguins who weather the winter with him.

"Combining an evocative narrative with a sublime sensitivity to the natural world, this is travel writing at its very best."

Mr Francis was competing against three other shortlisted authors in the Fiction, Poetry and First Book categories - Ewan Morrison, Richard Price and Kerry Hudson respectively.

Kirsty Logan, panel Judge and books editor at The List, said: "The quantity and quality of writing being published in Scotland is truly inspiring.

"Gavin Francis is a worthy winner: Empire Antarctica is vivid, captivating, and will be enjoyed by readers from the very north of Scotland to the very south of Antarctica."

Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer said: "Big congratulations to Gavin and all of the finalists of this year's Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards.

"From poets to storytellers, screenwriters and playwrights, the Scottish Book Awards has been celebrating Scotland's exceptional writing talent and spotlighting the very best of our excellent literary works for many years, and each year the shortlist has captured the incredible quality and scope of literature produced in Scotland."

Short films

In a first for any British book award, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards worked, in partnership with Ko Lik Films, to commission four young Scottish animators to interpret readings by the authors from the first page of each of their books.

Cat Bruce, Anna Pearson, Michael Hughes and Kate Charter, who are all graduates from Edinburgh College of Art, were invited to create the short films.

The Awards selection panel included Clare English, BBC Radio Presenter; David McCormack of Waterstones; Peggy Hughes, Programme Director at Dundee Literary Festival; Kirsty Logan, Books Editor at The List; and Aly Barr, Development Officer at Creative Scotland.

The Category winners each receiving £5,000 are:

· Fiction - Ewan Morrison for Close Your Eyes (Vintage)

· Poetry - Richard Price for Small World (Carcanet)

· First Book - Kerry Hudson for Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (Chatto & Windus)

Awards have previously been made to Janice Galloway for her memoir All Made Up (2012); Jackie Kay for her autobiography Red Dust Road (2011); Donald Worster for his biography A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (2010).

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