A Coronation Street actress turned playwright, a former head of English at Newcastle-under-Lyme School and the owner of a city centre game shop are on the longlist for this year’s Arnold Bennett Prize.

The annual book award was established in 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arnold Bennett. Each year one author connected to North Staffordshire takes away a £500 prize.

The winner had been due to be announced at the Bennett Society Conference in June, but the event was postponed due to COVID-19.

The judging panel has now released a longlist of 10 books, with a shortlist set to be announced within the next few weeks.

The chair of the judging panel, freelance lecturer Morag Jones, said: “We received entries of a very high standard and from a diverse range of genres. It’s a great pleasure to be able to release the longlist after a delay imposed by COVID-19. We hope to release the shortlist very soon.”

Arnold-Bennett
Arnold Bennett

The longlist includes Deborah McAndrew for her play The D Road, former teacher Peter Cash for his poetry anthology Pitying The Planet and Eddie Skelson, owner of GTG Games in Hanley, for his novel Rocks Fall Everyone Dies.

Also included are short story anthology It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s by Lisa Blower, Arnold Bennett and Frederick Marriott Parallel Lives by academic John Shapcott, The Raven Wheel, the debut novel by AF Stone, and Philip Astley biography The First Showman by Karl Shaw.

The longlist is completed by debut crime novel Shamus Dust by Janet Roger, The Wardle Family and its Circle by Brenda M King, an investigation into Leek’s textile industry, and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A.Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn.

The judging panel also included Dr Leslie Powner, an honorary research fellow at  Keele University  and chairman of the trustees of the Arnold Bennett Society, Arnold Bennett Society trustee Dr Catherine Burgass, journalist Jenny Amphlett plus Penny Michell and Pat Marshall, also both trustees of the Arnold Bennett Society.

Jenny Amphlett said: “It’s never easy to put a longlist together and the judges have spent many hours reading and discussing the entries before reaching a decision.”

This year’s prize is for books published during 2019 by authors who were born in or are currently living in North Staffordshire. The prize is also open to writers living anywhere in the world if their work deals with life in North Staffordshire. Books can be of any genre, fiction or non-fiction, and of any length. The books must exist in physical form, rather than purely digitally, and must have an ISBN.

Last year’s prize was won by Guardian columnist Charlotte Higgins for her book Red Thread, a study of mazes and labyrinths.

(Main image the Arnold Bennett statue in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Image by Tony Woolliscroft.)

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