First time author Ben Fergusson has scooped the Historical Writers’ Association 2015 Debut Crown Award for new historical fiction with The Spring of Kasper Meier.
Ben was presented with the coveted award worth £2,000 by broadcaster Mark Lawson at the opening night of the Harrogate History Festival (October 22) at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate.
The event, hosted by Harrogate International Festivals, also saw War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, who has written more than 130 books for children, receive the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award.
Morpurgo said: “I am delighted and honoured to be presented with this special Award. History is the foundation of our society, who we are and where we are going, and it is crucial that we pass this on to our young people. What has happened before shapes the culture of our society.”
New author Ben, a translator and editor, beat off stiff competition from a shortlist of six, for his book set in Berlin in 1946. The post-war thriller traces the strained friendship between black-market trader, Kasper Meier, and Eva Hirsch, his young blackmailer, as occupying soldiers begin to be killed in mysterious circumstances.
Ben said: “It means a huge amount to win this award. There was a lot of warmth in the room, and congratulations to everyone on the shortlist. Firstly, I’d like to thank my mum, who was my first reader, and to thank my husband Tom, who is German and is why I wrote about Germany. I’d also like to thank Clare Smith from Little Brown, and Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.”
The other shortlisted titles were Wake by Anna Hope, The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson, Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements, The Good Italian by Stephen Burke and The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter.
HWA chair Manda Scott said: “This is the fourth year of the prize and it has been growing every year both in the number of books submitted, and their quality. Each of these books is exceptional, it would be good to split the prize six ways, but there had to be a winner.
“Ben Fergusson’s ‘The Spring of Kasper Meier’ is a truly outstanding work of fiction that will, I hope enter into the canon of English literature. It takes the known tragedies of the Second World War and extends them into what was, for most of the judges, an unknown arena: Berlin in the immediate aftermath of war, when the city was in ruins and the rubble gangs foraged for survival. The reality of it, the horror, was visceral and yet told with an immense and compassionate beauty. It’s a masterpiece. To have written it as a first novel is an exceptional achievement.”
Previous award winners
HWA Debut Crown Award for new historical fiction winners:
2012: Mistress of My Fate – Hallie Rubenhold
2013: The Light Between Oceans – M.L Stedman
2014: She Rises – Kate Worsley
Previous winners of the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award:
2014: Bernard Cornwell
The 2015 HWA Debut Crown Shortlist in full
The Spring of Kasper Meier (Abacus) – Ben Fergusson
Wake – Anna Hope (Black Swan)
The Devil in the Marshalsea – Antonia Hodgson (Hodder)
Winter Pilgrims – Toby Clements (Century)
The Good Italian – (Hodder) Stephen Burke
The Strangler Vine – (Penguin) MJ Carter
Manda Scott, HWA Chair
Andrew Taylor, author
Daphne Wright, editor and author
Robert Low, author
Alex Clarke, publishing director of of Penguin
Kate Atherton, Blogger (For Winter Nights blog)
About Harrogate International Festivals
Harrogate International Festivals is the north of England’s leading arts & cultural brand that delivers a year-round programme of arts events, festivals and education and outreach work across the Harrogate district.
Established in 1966, the charitable organisation has a heritage for delivering the world’s most enthralling performers to Yorkshire’s doorstep, as well as nurturing local young talent. Its diverse portfolio has dramatically increased the cultural and tourism offer for Harrogate and the surrounding area.
Its programmes include:
Harrogate International Spring Sunday Series (January – April)
International chamber concert series
Harrogate International Festival (July)
Yorkshire leading international arts festival held throughout July
Raworths Literary & Lecture Series (July)
An exciting literature and lecture series curated by journalist and author Henry Sutton
Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (July)
The Festival is the biggest event of its kind in the world.
Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year (April – July)
Prestigious national literary prize in partnership with WhSmith, The Radio Times and libraries nationwide
Harrogate International Young Musicians: Autumn Series (September – October)
Young musicians concert series showcasing some of the brightest rising stars in classical, jazz, folk and world music.
Reach Out: Year-Round Engagement (January – December)
A year-round programme of events and engagement including Salon North and a wide-ranging programme of community engagement, creative learning and advocacy presented for a broad range of audiences:
Musical Mums – Weekly singing project for teenage parents and their babies, using music as a means of encouraging positive activity between mothers and babies. In partnership with NYMAZ.
Musical Villages – Half-term world music delivery across the rural areas of the District, targeted at mono-cultural and rural areas. In partnership with NYMAZ.
Big Read – The Big Read project increases links across the region between libraries and reading groups, creating new readers.
Little Read – Working with schools; providing support, training and opportunities to meet authors to support the National Curriculum & increase engagement in literacy with young people
Reader in Residence – Supports on-going literacy delivery and the Festivals “You’re Booked” website to create a national hub for aspiring writers and readers.
Young Musicians in Residence – A programme of activity featuring live performance in unusual and unexpected places. Working with local, young musicians and creating a platform for performance.