We are delighted to reveal the judges for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize – the flagship in our Early Career Awards portfolio.

The Desmond Elliott Prize, which is the country’s largest prize for first novels and worth £10,000 to the winner, will be chaired by its 2016 winner, Lisa McInerney. McInerney will be joined by journalist and author Chitra Ramaswamy and book reviewer and YouTuber Simon Savidge. They are together tasked with finding the novel they believe is most worthy of being crowned the best debut novel of the last 12 months.

Lisa said:

‘It is a personal delight to chair the judging panel of the Desmond Elliott Prize five years after Iain Pears, Sam Baker and Katy Guest chose The Glorious Heresies as their winner. So we can keep literature in rude health, a writer who finds success should never pull the ladder up after herself, and this is one way for me to hold that ladder for emerging writers, to pass on the welcome and encouragement and assistance I’ve been so lucky to get from my peers. This is why I was so pleased to hear of the inclusion of a programme of support from the National Centre for Writing — what a positive and important expansion to the prize. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Chitra, Simon and I.’

Lisa McInerney was awarded the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize for her debut The Glorious Heresies (John Murray), which also won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, the 2018 Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award and the 2018 Primo Edoardo Kihlgren for European literature. Its sequel, The Blood Miracles, won the RSL Encore Award for the best second novel of the year. The final book in the trilogy, The Rules of Revelation, will be published by John Murray in May 2021.

Read more about the judges here.

‘a writer who finds success should never pull the ladder up after herself, and this is one way for me to hold that ladder for emerging writers’

The Desmond Elliott Prize is run by the National Centre for Writing as the flagship in its Early Career Awards portfolio, which also includes the UEA New Forms Award and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship.

NCW Chief Executive Chris Gribble said:

‘We’re really excited to have Lisa, Chitra and Simon join us as judges for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize. All three are champions of new writing and have their ears to the ground when it comes to knowing where the very best first novels are coming from. It’s hard to underestimate the importance of reading, and by extension writers, in recent months. The Desmond Elliott Prize will bring a long list of outstanding new novels to the attention of a hungry reading public and we can’t wait to make a start!’

The Desmond Elliott Prize longlist will be announced in April and the shortlist will be announced in May. The winners of all three prizes will be revealed on 1 July 2021.