Walter Scott Prize longlist revealed

Books newsletter: all the latest news and a preview of Saturday’s pages

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis-Goff of Tramp Press look back on their first decade as publishers of their ground-breaking and award-winning small press. Working-class Belfast poet Scott McKendry tells me about his debut collection Gub. Chris Mullin writes about his role in exonerating the Birmingham Six as an updated edition of his influential book, Error of Judgement: The Birmingham Bombings and the Scandal That Shook Britain, is published. And there is a Q&A with Clara Dillon about her debut novel, The Playdate.

Reviews are John Connell on Remembering Peasants by Patrick Joyce; John Self on American Mother by Colum McCann and Diane Foley; Declan Burke on the best new crime fiction; Brian Hanley on Workers, Politics and Labour Relations in Independent Ireland, 1922–46 by Gerard Hanley; Val Nolan on How I Won a Nobel Prize by Julius Taranto; Brian Maye on Politics in the Republic of Ireland, edited by John Coakley, Michael Gallagher, Eoin O’Malley and Theresa Reidy; Kerri ní Dochartaigh on Alphabetical Diaries by Sheila Heti; Pragya Agarwal on Splinters by Leslie Jamieson; Fergus Mulligan on A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks by David Gibbins; Pat Carty on Fourteen Days, edited by Margaret Atwood; and Jenny McAuley on Byron: A Life in Ten Letters by Andrew Stauffer.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason book offer is by Andrea Mara. You can buy her latest best-selling thriller for €5.99, a €5 saving, with your paper at any branch.

My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor, the first in his trilogy about Vatican priest and war hero Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, has been longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, one of 12 novels in contention for the £25,000 prize. A shortlist will be announced in May, and a winner announced in mid-June at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland.


Chair of Judges, Katie Grant, said: “This year’s longlist sweeps us from one end of the world to the other, and from the Dark Ages to the 20th century – almost a millennium-and-a-half. Along the way we hear tales of 15th-century Norwich and of the Highland Clearances of the 1800s; of the secret railroad through the Americas during the mid-19th century and of forbidden love in London at the turn of the twentieth; from tropical Jamaica to Japan and Korea in the late 1800s, and to sultry Penang as the twentieth century dawns; onwards to Trinidad, to Rome, to Crete and to New Zealand during the second World War years; and to London and Paris in the swinging 1960s when anything seems possible.

‘From the epic to the intimate, from the philosophical to the swashbuckling, from the traditional to the experimental, in each book emotions run deep. If you read the whole list, just like the panel of judges, you’ll never be short of conversation.”


Little Acorns Bookstore in Derry, The Company of Books in Dublin, Woodbine Books in Kildare, Bridge Books in Dromore, Co Down, The Secret Bookshelf in Carrickfergus and Tertulia Bookshop in Westport have been shortlisted in the island of Ireland category for the Independent Bookshop of the Year Award at the British Book Awards 2024. Banshee Press in Cork, The Lilliput Press and Little Island Books in Dublin and Irish Pages in Belfast have made the shortlist in the Irish category of the Small Press of the Year award. The presses will compete to win their region first before contending for the overall prize at the ceremony in Grosvenor House London on May 13th.

HarperCollins Children’s Books is to publish Where to Hide a Star, a new picture book by Oliver Jeffers featuring his much-loved characters, the boy and the penguin, 20 years after his debut picture book, How to Catch a Star.

The Boy and the Penguin books have sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone, with overall sales of Oliver’s publishing now exceeding 18 million copies worldwide and translations in 49 languages. The stage adaptation of How to Catch a Star will run at the Polka Theatre in London in July.

Jeffers said: “I always said I would never make another Boy and the Penguin book. Unless the right idea came along. And after many years, it did. I could barely remember how to paint the boy and the penguin, but once my watercolours were dusted off for first time since the last time these characters were painted, the colour combinations, techniques and brushstrokes all came back to me like a forgotten part of myself. It felt like a reunion with long lost family. Then to be able to continue the momentum of this old familiar world into new territory felt exciting enough to remind me of the time I made How to Catch A Star 20 years ago, and hopefully a whole new generation of kids will share that excitement.”

There will be a very special evening on March 20th at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway celebrating the work of poet Rita Ann Higgins. Readers of her work will include writers Elaine Feeney, Mary O’Malley, Eva Bourke, Michael Gorman and Sarah Clancy. There will be a public interview with Vincent Woods.

“The forthcoming celebratory event in the Town Hall makes me believe there is still great warmth and goodwill out there,” Higgins said. “To be held in such high esteem in my own town by poets and other artists whose work I have admired and respected for years is deeply humbling. I have nothing to compare this event to, I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude to all concerned.”

Higgins was born and lives in Galway. Pathogens Love a Patsy (Pandemic and other Poems) is her 11th book of Poetry. Our Killer City in 2019 (essays and poems) and a memoir, Hurting God, in 2010 are all from Salmon. In 2020 Rita Ann became the Poet Laureate of The Brendan O’Connor Show on RTÉ Radio 1. Bloodaxe Books published several of her collections including; Throw in the Vowels (New and selected poems 2005. Ireland is Changing Mother 2011/14. Tongulish in 2016. In 2025 Bloodaxe will publish her Collected poems for her 70th birthday. She has written both plays and screenplays and in 2021 she received The Living Poets Society Award. She was shortlisted for The Ireland Professor of Poetry in 2022. She is a member of Aosdána. Tickets are available at

Irish authors Jane Casey and Liz Nugent are special guests at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the world’s largest and most prestigious celebration of crime fiction. Other special guests include global best-sellers and fan favourites Richard Osman, Chris Carter, Elly Griffiths, Erin Kelly, Vaseem Khan, Dorothy Koomson, Shari Lapena, and Abir Mukherjee. Returning to Harrogate for its 21st year, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival runs from July 18th – 21st.

Osman announced this week the start of a new book series: We Solve Murders, publishing on September 12th.