By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Morgan: ‘I Love To Write About Place’In Manchester, England, Hachette UK author Sally J. Morgan has been named the winner of the 2022 Portico Prize for Literature for her debut novel Toto Among the Murderers from Hachette’s John Murray Originals (October 2020).
This is a biennial award program, you’ll recall, focusing on “the spirit of the North” of England. It carries a purse of £10,000 (US$13,599) and recognizes work that “explores Northern lives and landscape across fiction and nonfiction.”
Morgan’s book is set primarily in Leeds and Sheffield. The book’s fiction is based on Morgan’s actual experience of being offered a ride by the serial-killer couple Fred and Rosemary West, one or both of whom were active in the killings of at least 12 people between 1967 and 1987 in Gloucestershire.
Morgan is a native of Yorkshire who lives today in Wellington, New Zealand, ironically about as far south of England’s North as you can get.
On learning of her win, Morgan is quoted, saying, “I have Yorkshire and the North—where I spent a lot of my adult life working—as a big place in my heart.
“I love to write about place, and I wanted to write about a place and a time and stories that I felt were being neglected and in danger of being lost. So, to have [Toto Among the Murderers] recognized in this way by the Portico Prize is enormously affirming.”
Jury chair Gary Younge writes a note of rationale, saying, “Finding a winner among this year’s shortlist was not easy but ultimately, while all were serious contenders, we were in broad agreement.
“Sally J. Morgan’s Toto Among the Murderers vividly evokes a period in recent history with themes that carry clear, if painful echoes, to today—a time when women in the North, in particular, lived in mortal fear of sexual violence made explicit by daily headlines about mass murderers targeting vulnerable women.
“But what comes through is the determination of Toto, the main character, to refuse to allow the fears to define her as she lives a life of reckless adventure, longing, and love.”
Joining Younge on the jury panel are Melanie Sykes, editor-in-chief of The Frank Magazine; Momtaza Mehri, a poet and essayist; and Anita Singh, arts and entertainment editor at The Daily Telegraph.
The Portico—named for the 215-year-old Portico Library in Manchester—also works in both fiction and nonfiction. Morgan’s winning book is one of three debuts shortlisted for this cycle of the award.
Portico Prize for Literature, Shortlist
As we reported on December 7, here’s the complete shortlist for the 2022 Portico Prize.
- Ghosted by Jenn Ashworth, Hachette/Sceptre
- The Outsiders by James Corbett, Eye Books/Lightning Books (debut)
- The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain, HarperCollins/HQ (debut)
- Toto Among the Murderers by Sally J. Morgan, Hachette/ JM Originals (debut)
- Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber & Faber) Fiction
- Sea State by Tabitha Lasley, HarperCollins/4th Estate (debut)
The Portico Prize was created in 1985 by library in Manchester “to celebrate the strong regional and literary identity of the North with the aim of raising awareness of its historical, cultural and literary heritage.”
Content eligible for this prize cycle was published between August 1, 2019, and July 31 of this year. In addition to fiction and nonfiction, this award program also accepts submissions in poetry. In its previous cycle, 2020, the prize was won by Jessica Andrews for her debut, Saltwater.
We’ll embed the digital award announcement from this evening below:
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.