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Contenders booked in for prizes

28 April 08 13:07 GMT

An award-winning poet, a best-selling American author and a Man Booker Prize contender are on the shortlist for Britain's oldest literary award.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are awarded annually by Edinburgh University for best fiction and best biography published the previous year.

Writers John Burnside, Daniel Mason and Mohsin Hamid are on the 2008 shortlist for the £10,000 awards.

Rosalind Belben and newcomer Gee Williams are also on the list.

Contenders for the biography prize include accounts on philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill and architect Augustus Pugin, who designed the Houses of Parliament.

Also in the running are novels about blues singer Blind Willie McTell, writer Edith Wharton and Stalin.

The awards were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband's love of literature.

Past winners include DH Lawrence, Graham Greene and Salman Rushdie.

Best-selling writers Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith are on the advisory committee.

The winners will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

Manager of the awards, professor Colin Nicholson of Edinburgh University, said: "This year's short-listed novels combine cracking story-telling with exceptional writing skills, as do the nominated biographies, which additionally offer fascinating insights into the lives of some extraordinary people."

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