Faber to publish authorised biography of John McGahern by Frank Shovlin

A preview of Saturday’s pages and round-up of the latest literary news

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Emily Ratajkowski talks to Laura Kennedy about her book of essays, My Body. Titles reviewed are Oliver Farry on Keep Calm and Trust the Science by Luke O’Neill & A State of Emergency: The Story of Ireland’s Covid Crisis by Richard Chambers; Mia Levitin on The Fell by Sarah Moss; Michael Cronin on the best new translations; Keith Duggan on The Nation Holds its Breath by George Hamilton; Richard English on Ernie O’Malley: A Life by Cormac KH O’Malley and Harry F Martin; Margaret Kelleher on All Strangers Here: 100 Years of Personal Writing from the Irish Foreign Service, edited by Angela Byrne, Ragnar Deeney Almquist and Helena Nolan; John Boyne on The Pawnbroker’s Reward by Declan O’Rourke; Niamh Donnelly on Aisling and the City by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen; Dean Jobb on The Dublin Railway Murder: The Sensational True Story of a Victorian Murder Mystery by Thomas Morris; and Sarah Gilmartin on Today a Woman Went Mad by Hilma Wolitzer.

If you buy a copy of The Irish Times in Eason’s this weekend, you can also buy Snow by John Banville for €4.99, a saving of €6.

Faber is to publish the authorised biography of John McGahern by the academic Frank Shovlin.

Shovlin is professor of Irish literature in English at the University of Liverpool and editor of The Letters of John McGahern, which Faber published in September. For over a decade he has been researching the author’s life via his archive at the National University of Ireland, Galway, as well as in private papers and exclusive interviews with his widow, Madeline McGahern, with whom he will work closely on this biography.

Faber said: “This will be the definitive biography of one of the 20th century’s most significant writers. As Frank says, a portrait of McGahern’s life is inextricably a history of modern Ireland, giving a unique insight into a society on the cusp of transformation. Yet this will also be an intimate portrait of an enigmatic artist, illuminating both the man himself and his soul-shattering novels as never before.”


From the town famed for its love of a good festival, Dingle Lit is expecting sell-outs at their venues from 19th-21st November, with tickets for Michael D. Higgins, Declan O’Rourke and Diarmaid Ferriter sold to capacity.

Claire Keegan will discuss her eagerly anticipated new novel Small Things Like These, while the short story will be celebrated with Nicole Flattery and John Patrick McHugh. Wardens of the Skelligs, Catherine Merrigan & Robert L. Harris, will discuss their very unique experiences of life on Skellig Michael.

Hybrid in more ways than one, Dingle Lit has events in Irish and English, live and online! For further details, visit dinglelit.ie


Isabel Waidner has won the £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize for their “mind-bending” novel Sterling Karat Gold, published by Peninsula Press.

Sterling Karat Gold is their third novel and their second to be shortlisted for the prize, following We Are Made of Diamond Stuff (Dostoyevsky Wannabe) in 2019.

Peninsula described the winning novel as: “Kafka’s The Trial written for the era of gaslighting. A surreal inquiry into the real effects of state violence on gender-nonconforming, working-class and Black bodies.” Sterling is arrested one morning having done nothing wrong and is “plunged into a terrifying and nonsensical world”. Sterling, with the help of their three best friends, must defy bullfighters, football players and spaceships to exonerate themselves and hold the powers that be to account.

The shortlist included Claire-Louise Bennett’s Checkout 19, Natasha Brown’s Assembly, Keith Ridgway’s A Shock, Leone Ross’s This One Sky Day and Rebecca Watson’s little scratch.

Chair of judges Dr Nell Stevens said Waidner brought “wit, swagger, playfulness and fury to an unfettered journey through an unjust justice system”.

Fellow judge Kamila Shamsie said: “Isabel Waidner collides the real and the mythic, the beautiful and the grotesque, to mind-bending effect. Time-travel constrained by the limitations of Google Maps and trials out of Hieronymus Bosch never out-dazzle the human heart in this novel of friendship, art, injustice and all that can be imagined and unimagined.

Hachette Books Ireland is to publish next February Any Girl by Mia Döring, a personal account of surviving rape at age 16, then sexual exploitation and the sex trade in Ireland as a young woman.

Publisher Ciara Considine said: “I can honestly say that this book landing on my desk made the single greatest impact of any submission in my almost 30 years of publishing. I began reading it at ten past five in the evening, just after agent Jonathan Williams sent it to me, and finished after midnight having barely looked up from the pages. The effect was visceral – I was both reeling and in awe. Any Girl is a singular, extraordinarily brave work which excavates the nature of trauma, and presents a startling picture of physical, mental and emotional landscapes. Both deeply personal and astutely political, I believe it is an important memoir for our time, and a uniquely female perspective on cultural issues of significance.”

Döring said: “It means so much to me that Hachette are publishing my first book. I’ve struggled for a long time in the writing and re-writing of it, my own development throughout, and coming to terms with what it means to publicise such acutely personal matters. Although it is an act of vulnerability to expose one’s most private and painful experiences in the public domain, I hope it inspires others to bear their own stories with bravery and compassion. It is hard to speak about sexual violence because our society is still not able to respond to it with the empathic courage it deserves. My hope is that by being empathic and courageous within myself, the book does something to aid this process. I’m looking forward to it being read and can’t thank Jonathan Williams and Hachette Books Ireland enough for believing in it and me.”


The Irish Writers Centre and Words of Colour Productions are teaming up to deliver UPLIFT, a new pilot international workshop and mentoring initiative for young people of colour with ambitions of leadership in the literature sector across Ireland and the UK.

The programme seeks to support two arts practitioners of colour based on the island of Ireland aged 18-30 years. The successful candidates will be provided with mentoring and workshops from established industry professionals - award-winning writer and publisher Farhana Shaikh (The Asian Writer, Dahlia Publishing) and award-winning poet and director Nick Makoha (The Obsidian Foundation). Ideal mentorship candidates are people who feel they have the potential to encourage writers and audiences of colour to participate in the Irish Writers Centre and to contribute to the wider Irish literary scene.

The workshops will take place Saturday 5th and Saturday 12th March 2022, with mentoring sessions to be arranged between the mentor and mentee. Those interested in applying can find out more on the Irish Writers Centre's website.


The third annual Comedy Women in Print Prize (CWIP) winners were announced this week at the Groucho Club in London. The CWIP prize for Published Comic Novel was awarded to Jesse Sutanto for her debut adult novel, the madcap murder rom-com, Dial A for Aunties, the story of a matriarchal family of Chinese-Indonesian wedding planners set in California that has already been snapped up by Netflix (HQ). The runner-up was Dolly Alderton for Ghosts .

Joanne Harris, chair of judges, said: “We all agreed that Dial A for Aunties should be the winner: it’s a deliciously frantic comedy caper, filled with absurd situations, hilarious dialogue, wonderful family dynamics and crackling with comic energy. The runner-up, Ghosts, is a marvellously accomplished, tender, witty and human story that should speak to women everywhere.”

The Unpublished Comic Novel prize was won by job centre worker and single mother, Rebecca Rogers. Her original, expectation-subverting, and hilariously funny novel, Purgatory Poisoning seemed to the judges to be inspired by a childhood diet of Blackadder and Monty Python. Rogers won a publishing contract and a £5,000 advance from HarperFiction.

Mary Ann Sieghart, former assistant editor of The Times and author of The Authority Gap, is to chair the judging panel for next year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is joined by Lorraine Candy, award-winning journalist and editor; Dorothy Koomson, global bestselling novelist, journalist and podcaster; Anita Sethi, award-winning author and literary journalist; and Pandora Sykes, journalist, broadcaster and author.

The longlist announcement will be on March 8th, the shortist on April 27th and the winner on June 15th. The 2021 winner was Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi.

Sieghart said it was “a great honour to be chosen to chair the judging for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. There are so many fabulous contemporary female writers who deserve to be better read. I hope that our longlist, shortlist and final winner will inspire new readers, male and female, to sample the extraordinary variety of fiction created by women today.”