The 2019 McIlvanney Prize longlist was one of the strongest I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been following it, and I say that having read the majority of it before the list was published, and the rest (bar the two debuts, marked *) since.
I mean, just feast your eyes on all that crime fiction goodness: All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew*; No Man’s Land, Neil Broadfoot; Fallen Angel, Chris Brookmyre; Breakers, Doug Johnstone; All That’s Dead, Stuart MacBride; In the Silence, M R Mackenzie*; Broken Ground, Val McDermid; A Breath on Dying Embers, Denzil Meyrick; Conviction, Denise Mina; The Way of All Flesh, Ambrose Parry; In a House of Lies, Ian Rankin; A Treachery of Spies, Manda Scott; Thunder Bay, Douglas Skelton (click through for my reviews – I aim to complete the set at some point, stay tuned!).
So really, any shortlist was going to be outstanding, and the winner worthy. And lo, Manda Scott put the cherry on the cake (and the cat among the pigeons) by accepting the 2019 McIlvanney Prize, and promptly declaring from the stage that she intended to share it with her fellow shortlistees, Doug Johnstone, Denise Mina and Ambrose Parry (aka Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman). It was quite a night…
Whatever your feelings about prizes – and I know judging one book against another isn’t to everyone’s taste – they are something a lot of readers, authors, publishing people and booksellers talk about. They are seen as a shorthand for excellence and a guide for those seeking direction, especially those who may only read a handful of books each year and don’t know what to choose. That’s all discussion for another day, preferably with a drink in hand and a comfy seat in the bar. Suffice to say 2019 was an exceptional year for crime fiction and if you need to help anyone out who is just dipping a toe into the genre, point them towards that longlist as a primer.