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Costa category awards 2015: tiny presses square up to big hitters

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The shortlists for the five prizes include award-winners Anne Enright and Kate Atkinson – and a gothic thriller set in Morecambe Bay, with an original print run of 300

An unsettling debut novel set on the Lancashire coast whose first print run stretched to just 300 copies has made the shortlist for the Costa first novel award, having been praised by judges as “unforgettable” and “a truly suspenseful page-turner with immense depth”.

Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney, in which a teenager and his disabled brother take part in a Catholic pilgrimage to “that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune [where] the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents”, was first published by small independent Yorkshire press Tartarus last October. One of the 300 copies ended up in the hands of Mark Richards, editorial director at major publisher John Murray, who went on to acquire the rights. Today, John Murray, which is part of Hachette, calls the novel “the modern classic that we all missed”, and The Loney has picked up praise from names including Stephen King – “It’s not just good, it’s great. It’s an amazing piece of fiction,” said the horror master – as well as a film deal and a host of sales to foreign publishers.

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