On a typically wet November evening, the historical literati gathered at Crypt on the Green in Clerkenwell, London to award the 2017 Crowns for the best historical writing of the last year. The rain didn’t dampen spirits – over 100 publishers, agents, authors and fans were in attendance to see the winners take home the coveted prizes. It was an evening of period costumes, firkins of ale, lots of cheese and, most importantly, books.
Kate Williams, historian, novelist, broadcaster and our host for the evening spoke about the importance and commercial success of historical writing – both fiction and nonfiction – with particular focus on the impressive range of subjects, knowledge and writing talent evident in the Crown Award shortlists, before moving on to announce the winners.
The HWA Debut Crown was won by Beth Underdown for The Witchfinder’s Sister, published by Viking Books.
The judging panel, chaired by author Emma Darwin commented: “In The Witchfinder’s Sister, Beth Underdown has imagined her way into a society’s collective madness, and recreated it in a terrifying and utterly convincing story.”
Next was the announcement for the HWA Non Fiction Crown which was won by Jerry Brotton for This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World, published by Allen Lane Books.
The judging panel was chaired by author Clare Mulley who said, “In revealing the extent and nature of Elizabethan England’s relationship with the Islamic world, This Orient Isle restores a forgotten narrative to our history in a way that resonates powerfully today. This is original, intelligent and compelling history with huge impact.”
The judges, chaired by Toni Senior, said: “The North Water is a tale of murder and despair on board a nineteenth century whaling ship, and it reeks of blubber and blood. As a feat of historical imagination it is extraordinary; as a novel it is stunning. Like the Arctic waters it describes, this book is violent and unsettling, yet unforgettably beautiful.”
Annie Whitehead was also congratulated for winning the HWA Dorothy Dunnett Short Story competition – sponsored by the Dorothy Dunnett Society – for her short story A Poppy Against the Sky (published soon on Historia). The two Highly Commended authors were Majella Cullinane for End of the Rope and Sarah Evans for Us girls.
Imogen Robertson, Chair of the HWA, said, “We are delighted with the success of this year’s awards celebrating the range and quality of historical writing in the UK including both established stars and up and coming authors. It’s been wonderful to discover these fantastic books and spread the word among fans of historical writing about the many and varied writers producing such excellent work. Many thanks to our sponsors and congratulations to the winners.”
Entries for the 2018 Crown Awards are now open. Find out more at www.hwacrowns.co.uk.
All images by Fran Hales.