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New winners for oldest book prize

22 August 08 21:46 GMT

Two little-known writers have collected £10,000 each as the latest winners of Britain's oldest literary awards.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are awarded to one work of fiction and one work of biography each year.

Rosalind Belben's Our Horses in Egypt won for fiction, and Rosemary Hill's God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain won for biography.

Former winners of the prize, announced earlier in Edinburgh, include DH Lawrence, EM Forster and Graham Greene.

'Thrilled and honoured'

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes have been awarded since 1919 and are the only major British literary awards judged by scholars and students.

Ms Hill, who took 15 years to finish her biography, said she was "thrilled" and "honoured".

She said: "I first heard of this award not as a writer but as a reader, where I found it set like a seal on everything I most admired in biography.

"It has been given, fearlessly, to books of many kinds - scholarly, experimental and iconoclastic. As a result it has become a gold standard and I am thrilled and very honoured to have won it."

Ms Belben, the fiction winner, said: "The history of the James Tait Black is stunning, the life of past winners matchless, the process of selection agreeably academic."

"I'm very gratified and honoured. I'm also rather touched," she added.

The University of Edinburgh's Professor Colin Nicholson, a judge for the awards, said all the shortlisted books were worthy of the prize.

But he added: "Two books shone for their readability.

"Rosalind Belben's novel was innovatively plotted and convincingly executed, while Rosemary Hill's first book is a biography that does justice to the many facets of the man Augustus Pugin and his work."

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