Sandstone Press

Ajay Close longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize

We're very pleased to announce that A Petrol Scented Spring has been longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.


The longlist announcement coincides with the appointment of two new judges, Jackie Kay and James Naughtie. A shortlist for the 2016 prize will be announced in March, and the winner is announced at the Borders Book Festival on 18th June.

The Chair of Judges, Alistair Moffat, commented on behalf of the panel:

“2015 saw both a flowering and broadening of the historical fiction genre that is the backbone of the Walter Scott Prize. The thirteen books that make up our long list are the most illuminating, entertaining, and sweeping of those submissions that fitted our rules on timespan. The judges and readers who collate the long list had to make difficult decisions, and also had to ask pertinent questions about the nature of fiction that flows between the past and the present. What is the relationship between contemporary recollection and the reliability of memory? Where does history cease and myth begin?

Walter Scott was the first in a long line of authors who have transformed history into stories that transport the reader straight into the epicentre of another time and place, where characters live and feel, and are pounded by forces beyond themselves. We believe that this is the central strength of the books that make up our 2016 longlist, and we salute the authors that make this great literary genre thrive and move forward.”


About the book

The day after her wedding, Donella Ferguson Watson wakes up shackled to a man haunted by the past. The lonely days become weeks, months. Her husband Hugh, a prison doctor, will offer no explanation for their sexless marriage. She comes to suspect the answer lies with a hunger-striking suffragette who was force fed and held in solitary confinement. But what really happened between Hugh and his prisoner patient? A Petrol Scented Spring is a riveting novel of repression, jealousy and love, and the struggle for women’s emancipation.


About the author

Born in Sheffield, Ajay Close took an English degree at Cambridge. She worked as a newspaper journalist, winning several awards, before becoming a full time author and playwright. Her first play, The Keekin Gless, was staged at Perth Theatre in July 2009. Her second, The Sma Room Séance, was performed at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe. She is the author of Official and Doubtful (Secker & Warburg 1996), which was long-listed for the Orange Prize, Forspoken (Secker & Warburg, 1998) and Trust(Blackfriars), which was published in February 2014. All three books collected rave reviews. Ajay Close lives in Perthshire and is, always, working on a new novel.