A former newspaper editor has won a major book prize for his biography of media mogul Robert Maxwell.
Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston triumphed in the biography category at the Costa Book Awards and is now eligible for the final prize – book of the year.
Previous non-fiction books by the former arts editor of the Sunday Telegraph include A Very English Scandal and The Dig, both of which have been adapted for the screen, and a TV version of Fall is also in the works.
The win comes shortly after Maxwell’s daughter, British socialite Ghislaine, was convicted of helping to procure teenage girls for disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Costa Book Awards, which are the only major prize open solely to authors living in the UK and Ireland and celebrate books in five categories – first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children’s book.
Short story writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson won the first novel award for Open Water, which has been praised by fellow writers as “a love song to black art and thought”.
Author Claire Fuller took home the novel award for her fourth book, Unsettled Ground, about middle-aged twins Jeanie and Julius who live with their mother in rural isolation and poverty.
Poet and university lecturer Hannah Lowe claims the poetry prize for her third collection, The Kids, a book of sonnets drawing on her decade teaching at an inner-city London sixth form.
Finally, the children’s book award goes to actor, writer and director Manjeet Mann for The Crossing, a verse novel about two teenagers from opposite worlds inspired by hope, grief and the tragedies of the refugee crisis.
Jill McDonald, chief executive of Costa Coffee, said: “We’re celebrating a milestone 50th anniversary year for the Costa Book Awards, and the range and breadth of this year’s category winners illustrates the awards’ longstanding appeal, as the home of enjoyable reads to suit all tastes.
“Congratulations to all this year’s category award-winning authors.”
The authors, each of whom will receive £5,000, were selected from 934 entries.
The overall winner of the 2021 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and will be announced at a ceremony on February 1 2021.
The Mermaid Of Black Conch by Trinidadian-born British writer Monique Roffey was named Book of the Year in 2020.