The HWA Crowns Longlist 2018

The HWA Crowns Longlist

Thirty six remarkable books will fight it out in the race for the 2018 HWA Crowns, as the longlists for the HWA Crowns 2018 are announced.

“Historical Writing is an important part of our culture and also a vital way of understanding that culture,” says HWA chair Imogen Robertson. “ It enriches, entertains and illuminates and we should be profoundly grateful to the writers and publishers who continue to produce such outstanding work. This year we have read a remarkable range of excellent books and are proud to present thirty-six of the very best.”

Split over three awards – the HWA Non Fiction Crown, HWA Debut Crown and HWA Sharpe Book’s Gold Crown the longlists are as follows:

HWA Sharpe Books Gold Crown

To Die in Spring Ralf Rothmann, translated by Shaun Whiteside (Picador)

Beautifully written, affecting and intensely readable – a powerful novel that works on many levels. On a separate note, the judges praised the translation as being one of the best they had read.

Sugar Money Jane Harris (Faber)

A novel with fantastic energy and verve – a bold and ambitious book that is both a vivid recreation of a neglected period of history and a gripping adventure story in the tradition of Robert Louis Stevenson. Powerful narration, atmospheric and immersive.

The Last Hour Harry Sidebottom (Bonnier Zaffre)

An energetic and gripping thriller, a great shot of adrenaline, and hugely entertaining. Does something fresh and appealing with the genre.

Vanishing of Audrey Wilde Eve Chase (Michael Joseph)

Strikingly good writing, impeccable scene-setting, accomplished suspense and fantastic imagery.

The Zoo Christopher Wilson (Faber)

Highly original, this fascinating novel swings from satire to horror to tragedy. Bittersweet, vital and commendably different.

Pilgrim’s War Michael Jecks (Simon & Schuster)

With a great cast of characters, this impeccably researched and highly entertaining novel is a terrific start to a new series.

The Western Wind Samantha Harvey (Johnathan Cape)

Original and beautifully written, this is a medieval detective story mixed with philosophy, featuring a fascinating protagonist and an immersive world.

Prussian Blue Philip Kerr (Quercus)

A vivid and gripping crime story that weaves in fascinating insights into its period. The penultimate instalment in a much-loved and admired series.

Blood’s Game Angus Donald (Bonnier Zaffre)

A gripping page-turner, full of Restoration swagger, with an intriguing hero and brilliant action. Compulsively readable.

The Coffin Path Katherine Clements (Headline)

Atmospheric, textured, engrossing and spooky, The Coffin Path is an intense and immersive read and a tremendous evocation of its period, with a hugely appealing protagonist at its heart.

The Tyrant’s Shadow Antonia Senior (Corvus)

A relevant and important period of history brought vividly to life. Dark ironies mix with a moving personal story. A novel of real power, written with great style and empathy.

The Valentine House Emma Henderson (Sceptre)

A subtle, soulful, beautifully written period drama with an irresistible central character. A compelling, humorous, powerful and rewarding read.

Elizabeth Fremantle, Chair of judges said:

“Judging a book prize with such a broad remit is a daunting prospect, as it means comparing novels with strikingly different aims, from the subtle and literary, to pure adventure, and everything in between. But in the end an exceptional novel stands out as such, whatever its aim, and it has been a true pleasure to discover a number of outstanding novels, all brilliantly executed, touching and thought provoking in their own way.”

HWA Non Fiction Crown

Houses of Power: The Places that Shapes the Tudor World Simon Thurley (Bantam Press)
An important book, informed by brilliant original scholarship and research into the construction and function of royal Tudor palaces. It goes far beyond the confines of architectural history, though, to open up a new vista into the formal as well as the intimate world of the Tudor monarchy.

White King: Charles I – Traitor, Martyr, Murderer Leanda de Lisle (Chatto & Windus)
A quietly revolutionary biography of a man obscured by layers of myth, prejudice and misunderstanding. Drawing on new sources, and interrogating familiar material in a new way, de Lisle emphasises Charles’s humanity, his weaknesses and his strengths, while restoring the women in his life to centre stage.

Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister Nicholas Shakespeare (Harvill Secker)
This revisits the disastrous Norway campaign of 1940, our first engagement with Hitler’s war machine, to ask how the architect of the debacle nonetheless emerged as Britain’s wartime Prime Minister. As the action moves back from the frozen north to London political circles, Shakespeare draws on his novelistic background to provide gripping studies of the main protagonists, Halifax, Chamberlain and Churchill.

Napoleon: The Spirit of the Age Michael Broers (Faber & Faber)
The second of three volumes of what promises to be the best life of Napoleon Bonaparte yet written, it covers just five years – 1805 to 1810 – as an extraordinary run of military victories left the Emperor of the French master of the continent but more isolated politically and emotionally than ever before. The end result is a very human portrait of a brilliant but flawed individual, and one that showcases the author’s deep knowledge, elegant prose and compelling argument.

The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us Keith Lowe (Viking)
A brilliant exploration of the impact – geopolitical, social, economic, philosophical and psychological – that World War Two has had on the modern world. Told through a series of personal stories that are emblematical of a broader theme, Lowe’s book is a masterpiece of historical inquiry: painstakingly researched, cleverly constructed and elegantly written.

The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition And Searing Rivalry Clare Mulley (Macmillan)
Fast-paced, beautifully structured dual biography of Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg, two ambitious women from very different backgrounds who defied convention to become pioneering test pilots in Second World War Germany. Reitsch remained a committed Nazi to the end; Stauffenberg supported the failed July Plot against Hitler’s life. Mulley tells the full story of these two distinctive women in gripping detail for the first time.

Lady Fanshawe’s Receipt Book: An Englishwoman’s Life During the Civil War Lucy Moore (Atlantic Books)
Beautifully constructed and engagingly told Lady Fanshawe’s Receipt Book gives us the Civil War from the perspective of the domestic. Using Anne Fanshawe’s memoirs and her receipt book – a remarkable survival in itself– Lucy Moore plunges us into mid-seventeenth century Britain in this fascinating book.

Black Tudors: The Untold Story Hardcover Miranda Kaufmann
(One world Publications)
Kaufmann presents the reader with ten vivid true-life stories of black Britons revealing their lives and experiences while filing in some serious historical blanks in Tudor history.

The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England Graham Robb (Picador)
Part investigation, part travel book and part personal quest this book is a remarkable tale of a piece of land on the border between Scotland and England. Graham Robb’s book is a treat for the general reader and historical scholar alike.

Hearts And Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote Jane Robinson (Doubleday)
Hearts and Minds tells the story of the Great Pilgrimage: a six-week protest march in 1913. Robinson tells the stories of these remarkable women and the sacrifices they made skilfully weaving in the wider issues behind it and the extraordinary change these marchers helped to effect.

A History of Rome in Seven Sackings Matthew Kneale (Atlantic Books)
With a combination of enormous verve and admirable scholarship novelist Matthew Kneale alights on seven crux moments in Rome’s 2500-year history, and through them tells a terrific story of destruction, resilience and transformation, while drawing a series of vivid and seductive portraits—social, political, cultural, architectural, even olefactory— of the city over time. Popular history at its absolute best.

Pie and Mash Down the Roman Road Melanie McGrath (Two Roads)
Dodging all the cliches, McGrath does a remarkable job of excavating the lives of the owners, employees and customers of G. Kelly’s Pie and Mash Shop, to produce a fresh and constantly surprising portrait of working-class life in the East End over a century, from 1917 to 2017. A triumph of acute, empathetic but unsentimental observation, her crisp prose throws light on uncelebrated lives with thrilling forensic detail.

HWA Debut Crown

The Wicked Cometh Laura Carlin (Hodder & Stoughton)

A pitch-perfect Victorian sensation novel, jam packed with dark London streets, missing children, mysterious diaries and ghastly secrets.

Estoril Dejan Tiago-Stankovic (Apollo)

Assured, surprising and complex, this poignant story of divided loyalties among the extraordinary residents of a hotel in neutral Portugal during the Second World War reads like a rediscovered classic.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Stuart Turton (Raven Books)

Beginning with a man waking up confused and frightened in an Agatha-Christie-esque house party where everyone seems to know his name, this feverish whodunnit is a uniquely gripping and mind-bending read.

The Sealwoman’s Gift Sally Magnusson (Two Roads)

In this remarkable family saga, Ásta’s journey from Iceland to Algiers and back again turns her — and our — understanding of the seventeenth-century world upside down. It is a tale that is sometimes humorous, often terrifying, but always deeply humane.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters Jean E. Pendziwol (W&N)

A moving inter-generational story of a family living on the Great Lakes. The narrative back-and-forth from the present to the past is beautifully controlled and the revelation of the secrets at the heart of the novel perfectly timed.

The Woolgrower’s Companion Joy Rhoades (Chatto & Windus)

The harsh landscape, racial tension and overt sexism of war-time Australia is wonderfully evoked in this absorbing story of a woman trying to save her sprawling sheep farm in the face of greed, small-town pettiness and family tragedy.

The Parentations Kate Mayfield (Point Blank)

A deliciously uncanny novel that wonderfully evokes eighteenth-century Iceland and Victorian London as it unspools a twisted tale of giants, mysterious earthquakes, centuries’ old sisters and the search for eternal life.

Deposed David Barbaree (Twenty7)

Reading like the Man in the Iron Mask on the Tiber, this historical thriller sets your pulse racing, while brilliantly evoking the violence and intrigue of Ancient Rome.

The Optickal Illusion Rachel Halliburton (Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd)

Populated by a cast of celebrated eighteenth-century painters jockeying for fame and fortune, this delightful tale of high art and low fraud is a celebration of the alchemy of painting and the dangers of unbridled ambition.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)

A rich cast of characters are thrown together by the discovery of what just might be a real mermaid, in this genuinely fresh take on eighteenth-century London, filled with powerful women, hapless businessmen and vivid set pieces.

Bitter Francesca Jakobi (W&N)

A psychologically penetrating portrait of a mother struggling to come to terms with her past, while trying to rebuild a broken relationship with her adult son. Jakobi convincingly reveals the complex ways in which exile and abandonment echo down the decades.

The Magician’s Lie Greer Macallister (Legend Press)

A wonderful cat-and-mouse thriller set in a carnivalesque world of magicians and exotic dancers, in which nothing is quite what it seems. It’s thrilling opening sets the tone for a pacy and suspenseful read.

Ben Fergusson, Chair of judges said: “It was a huge honour to be asked to chair the HWA Debut Crown 2018. Susan Heads, Ayo Onatade and I were astounded by the quality of submissions that we received and enchanted by a list that swept us off to Iceland, Ancient Rome, wartime Portugal, Victorian and Georgian London, Algeria, Australia and beyond. There were many wonderful titles that, heartbreakingly, didn’t make the longlist, meaning that these twelve books genuinely represent an exceptional selection of debut novels that we would heartily recommend to all lovers of historical fiction.”

For further information, please contact Lucy Santos, administrator for the Historical Writers’ Association at or on 07950226999.

Notes for editors:

The HWA Debut Crown has been running since 2012. The HWA Non-Fiction Crown and the HWA Gold Crown were first launched in 2017.

The HWA Sharpe Books Gold Crown Judges are:

Elizabeth Fremantle – Chair

Richard Foreman

Elizabeth Buchan

Tony Riches

Robin Carter

Imogen Robertson

Rukhsana Ahmad

The HWA Non Fiction Crown Judges are:

Miranda Carter

Jason Goodwin

Saul David

Lucy Santos

The HWA Debut Crown Judges are:

Ben Fergusson

Ayo Onatade

Susan Heads

About the HWA:

The Historical Writers’ Association are authors, publishers and agents of historical writing, both fiction and non-fiction. The HWA was created to provide professional and social support to our members, and to created opportunities online and in person for our members to meet with readers, fellow writers and enthusiasts for all things historical. Our chair is the author Imogen Robertson, who took over from founding chair Manda Scott in 2015.

About Sharpe Books

Sharpe Books is a leading independent publisher of historical fiction. Although it mainly publishes established authors – such as Michael Jecks, Peter Tonkin and Sarah Gristwood – Sharpe Books are actively seeking submissions from new authors. Sharpe Books also specialise in publishing backlist titles and literary estates. Please visit their website for further info.