WHEN the judges of Vogel Literary Award failed to find a winner last year, Geordie Williamson, speaking on their behalf, said it would diminish the prize to pick a winner for the sake of it, not least because “readers can sniff out a compromise in an instant’’. He added that the award, which has launched the careers of Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, Gillian Mears, Mandy Sayer, Brian Castro, Rohan Wilson and many others since 1980, “counts enough to deserve a pause, when a pause is what is called for’’. He was right of course, and the pause has been followed by a proliferation: this year we have a winner, chosen from a strong shortlist of six.
There were 100 entries in total for the Vogel, which is worth $20,000 and open to unpublished manuscripts by writers under 35. The winner, to be announced on April 22, will be published by Allen & Unwin — and I am confident it will not be the only shortlisted work to find a publisher.
This year’s judges were writer Danielle Wood, who won the Vogel in 2002, bookseller Fiona Stager and yours truly. We were impressed by the quality of the entries and the range of their interests — the shortlist spans social satire, historical drama, gritty realism and fantasy. Following are brief extracts from each of the shortlisted works. Congratulations to all the writers.