Book Awards: July 2008 Archives

Kate Summerscale wins Johnson prize

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The story of a murder case that gripped Victorian England won Britain’s richest nonfiction book prize Tuesday.

Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Or the Murder at Road Hill House beat five other titles for the $60,000 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction.

Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

Summerscale’s best-selling book tells the story of an 1860 child murder that tested the mettle of one of Scotland Yard’s first detectives and inspired writers including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Named in honor of the 18th-century critic and lexicographer, the Samuel Johnson Prize is open to English-language books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.

The other finalists were The World Is What It Is, Patrick French’s often unflattering biography of writer V.S. Naipaul; Mark Cocker’s bird book, Crow Country; Orlando Figes’ chronicle of Stalin’s Russia, The Whisperers; Blood River, Tim Butcher’s account of retracing the steps of Victorian explorer H.M. Stanley; and New Yorker music critic Alex Ross’ The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

Last year’s winner was Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, about life in Baghdad’s Green Zone.


Read the Sun-Times review of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.

Marcus Sakey wins Strand award

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Congratulations to Chicago mystery novelist Marcus Sakey, who has won the 2007 Strand Magazine Critics Award for best first novel for The Blade Itself. Laura Lippman won the best novel award for What the Dead Know. The winners were announced at an invitation only cocktail party in Manhattan, by bestselling author Jonathan Santlofer.

"This was such a great group of nominees, it must have been difficult to choose the winner," said Frank Simon, Associate Publisher of The Strand. "Laura and Marcus were worthy winners, in the past few years Laura has produced a fantastic body of work and Marcus is a new talent who I have no doubt in the future will be nominated for the best mystery novel award."

1-9 white chicagolit 7.jpg The Blade Itself
Marcus Sakey set his debut novel, The Blade
in Chicago, the city he calls home.
(John H. White~Sun-Times)

The Blade Itself, which has been optioned by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's production company, is about childhood friends who take different paths after they partner in a pawnshop robbery that ends up going horribly wrong.

Sakey spoke to the Sun-Times last year about the book's connection to Chicago:

"The book couldn't be set anywhere else," he said. "Chicago is really a character and something of a crucible, too. It's a beautiful city with tons of opportunity, but at the same time it's a city of tremendous divisions. South Side vs. North Side and white collar vs. blue collar and opportunity vs. lack of hope. I really wanted to make that into the frenetic backdrop of the novel."

Sakey has since been quite productive. His latest novel, At the City's Edge (St. Martin's Minotaur) came out in January, and another new one, Good People (Dutton), comes out next month.

Lippman a former journalist for The Baltimore Sun, has won several other top crime fiction prizes, including the Edgar, the Anthony, the Shamus, and the Barry. Her latest novel, Another Thing to Fall, was released in March by William Morrow.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Book Awards category from July 2008.

Book Awards: June 2008 is the previous archive.

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