The 2020 HWA Crown Awards shortlists are announced, with 18 outstanding books in three categories: Gold Crown, Non-fiction Crown and Debut Crown. The judges on all three panels found it hard to choose from the longlisted books; nevertheless their shortlists represent the breadth – and depth – of recent historical writing.
Congratulations from all at the HWA to the authors shortlisted for HWA Crowns in 2020!
The shortlisted books are:
HWA Gold Crown Award 2020
The Year Without Summer, Guinevere Glasfurd (Two Roads Books)
In 1815 an Indonesian volcano erupts, the impact of which plays out across six lives – some are well-known historical figures, others imagined. A stark warning about climate disaster that is entrenched within the period but with a message that could not be any more urgent today. Rich in voice, beautifully told, and with a chilling sting in its tail.
Whiskey When We’re Dry, John Larison (No Exit Press)
An utterly compelling western about 17-year-old Jessilyn who disguises herself as a man and becomes a sharpshooter in order to survive. With her wonderfully distinctive voice, it’s impossible not to root for Jess in a story that has more twists and turns than a rattlesnake.
The Darker Arts, Oscar de Muriel (Orion)
In Victorian Edinburgh, lovable sleuths Frey and McGray investigate a multiple murders. With a devilishly clever plot, vivacious characters, rich period atmosphere, witty dialogue and a rip-roaring story, historical crime has never been this much fun.
The Bastille Spy, CS Quinn (Corvus)
It is 1789 and France is set for revolution as well as the introduction of a wonderfully spirited spy. This fast-paced and atmospheric thriller is not only packed with period detail but also grabs you by the throat and is impossible to put down.
The King’s Evil, Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)
Andrew Taylor gives you the genuine feeling of being transported back in time to the royal court of King Charles II where murder is afoot. With its rich and exuberant writing and wonderfully realised period setting, The King’s Evil is a thrilling, immersive ride.
The Hiding Game, Naomi Wood (Picador)
Set within the Bauhaus movement amidst the rise of Nazi Fascism, this suspenseful mystery is about art, expression, freedom and love. Wood’s portrayal of the Bauhaus is a thrill, whilst her playfulness with language is an absolute joy.
HWA Non-fiction Crown Award 2020
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, Jung Chang (Jonathan Cape)
A great idea, great research and great writing. This remarkable biography of the Soong sisters zips along, meshing the personal and the political with style.
The Anarchy, William Dalrymple (Bloomsbury)
Deeply researched yet easy to read, this landmark history of the East India Company is unputdownable. This is pure narrative joy.
The Scoundrel Harry Larkyns and his Pitiless Killing by the Photographer Eadweard Muybridge, Rebecca Gowers (W&N)
A fascinating piece of historical detective work and fresh writing that brings the extraordinary Larkyns to life. This is a book that stays with you.
A Fistful of Shells, Toby Green(Penguin)
A revelatory new history of West Africa based on an extraordinary breadth of original research. Gripping and vital.
Burning Down the Haus, Tim Mohr (Little, Brown)
A moving, powerful and highly innovative sidelight on the fall of Communism in East Germany through punk style and music. This is a complete original.
The Regency Revolution, Robert Morrison (Atlantic Books)
A lively, imaginative and impeccably researched tour around the Regency world, this book is thought-provoking and full of surprises.
HWA Debut Crown Award 2020
The Book of Echoes, Rosanna Amaka (Doubleday)
Powerful, thought-provoking look across the generations, evocative history.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins (Penguin)
Such a unique voice and a very well-written and fascinating story.
The Lost Ones, Anita Frank (HQ)
A gothic gem of intrigue and atmosphere.
The Animals at Lockwood Manor, Jane Healey (Mantle)
Evocative, with a chilling sense of place.
The Doll Factory, Elizabeth Macneal (Picador)
What a chilling setting! A wonderful exploration of society, creativity and the art world of that time.
American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson (Dialogue Books)
Brilliant Cold War spy thriller. A gripping tale and an unusual take on the spy genre told from an intriguing perspective.
The hardest choice of all lies ahead: choosing one book from each list to win the 2020 HWA Crown Awards.
Thank you to all the judges who have given us their time and their expertise:
Gold Crown Award: Kate Atherton, Robin Carter, LP Fergusson, Jean Fullerton, Jean Goodhind, Jason Hewitt (chair), Frances Owen and Gill Paul.
Non-fiction Crown Award: Yasmin Khan, Keith Lowe, Timothy Phillips and Alex von Tunzelmann (chair).
Debut Crown Award: Susan Heads, Ayo Onatade (chair) and Simon Savidge.
The three winning books will be announced on 25 November, 2020.
Several of the shortlisted authors have featured in Historia. Get a sense of their writing:
The Darker Quacks – Between folklore and science by Oscar de Muriel
The monarch with the magic touch (about The King’s Evil) by Andrew Taylor
Hooked on History by Andrew Taylor
Unforgettable legacies of the East India Company, in which Vayu Naidu talks to William Dalrymple about The Anarchy
Historia interviews: Elizabeth Macneal
Review: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal