Among every writer’s dreams, getting published by a major publication is up there. However, getting literary recognition must be at the very top of that list. When Benjamin Myers learned that he was shortlisted for the Walter Scott prize – the richest prize for historical fiction – he was flabbergasted.
His novel The Gallows Pole was a retelling of a true story detailing a gang of murderous 18th-century forgers known as the Cragg Vale Coiners. Myers has always thought of his novel as an allegorical tale for rich Britain which was ruled by a system that did not like literature. It wasn’t until he won the award that he knew he was writing about history the entire time. He was describing the landscapes and highways while adding beauty to the truth and recapturing the history of the time.
He and his wife found themselves driving down the highways of the Scottish borders to the town where he’d join other shortlisted authors for the prestigious award. He found that all the other authors were just as nervous and curious as him and they had cradled together. Although it was a competition, they had a connection as shortlisted authors going through the experience together.
A panel discussion and many conversations later, they finally got to the ceremony. Myers’ parents were there and so was the Duke of Scotland. During the presentation the presenters read a passage from each of the shortlisted novels.
His novel wins and he goes through the motions of his speech. Proud to be the winner of the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, he describes the experience as ‘psychedelic.’ He banks the cheque and decides to celebrate by buying drinks for all of his friends. He is sure to have a successful career in writing having won such a prestigious award.