On Friday 21 June, the RSL announced the shortlist for the 2024 RSL Christopher Bland Prize for authors aged over 50. The prize, now in its sixth year, is an annual award of £10,000 given to a debut novelist or non-fiction writer first published aged 50 or over.

This year’s judges are Josh Cohen, Niall Griffiths and Shaparak Khorsandi, who identified the retelling stories of forgotten voices as a unifying thread in their shortlist selection. The five books they chose for the shortlist are:

Now I Am Here – Chidi Ebere (Pan Macmillan)

The Silence Project – Carole Hailey (Atlantic Books)

The Box with the Sunflower Clasp – Rachel Meller (Icon Books)

High Caucasus – Tom Parfitt (Headline)

Ashes & Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness – Allyson Shaw (Hodder & Stoughton)

The judges offered the following comments on each book:

Now I Am Here:Paced superbly. Doesn’t use gore, but rather is suggestive. Beautifully controlled, and bold. Ebere is a skilful storyteller’Josh Cohen

The Silence Project: ‘There’s a great deal of compassion contained in this book. Its power lies in that fact that it’s quite circumscribed in its scope. At a literary level that quality is very powerful, and when I find it in a book it often stays with me for a long time’ – Niall Griffiths

The Box with the Sunflower Clasp: ‘A great rendition of an extraordinary story’ – Shaparak Khorsandi

High Caucasus: ‘Dark and funny. It does what you hope a travel book to do: it transports you’ – Niall Griffiths

Ashes & Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness: ‘Fascinating detail here, telling stories I had never before encountered’ – Josh Cohen

The shortlisted writers commented:

Chidi Ebere: ‘Right now, it’s impossible to say what it means to have my novel shortlisted – I’m still digesting the news. But I can tell you it’s a wonderful feeling. An intense glow of quiet satisfaction; very present, very grateful.’

Carole Hailey: ‘I am absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted. The RSL Christopher Bland Prize is very special because all too often people can feel that if they haven’t achieved their ambitions by the age of 50, it’s no longer possible. This Prize proves it’s never too late.’

Rachel Meller: ‘I was thrilled and amazed to hear I’d been shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize. When I began The Box with the Sunflower Clasp at over 60in 2016, I wondered if its story could even work as a book. But my determination to try, along with the encouragement of those around me, kept me going. This incredible honour from the RSL proves that, whatever your age, it’s never too late to pursue a dream you’ve had all your life.’

Tom Parfitt: ‘I’m full of joy and gratitude to be on the shortlist. It took many years of drafts and redrafts before I could find the right way to get High Caucasus down on paper. So this feels like an affirmation of that long-haul, and of finally getting published as I tootled into maturity.’

Allyson Shaw: ‘I’m deeply honoured to be shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize for my debut creative nonfiction book Ashes and Stones. There’s a real sense of validation of the years spent writing and researching, working without a net. Some books can only be written on the other side of 50. It’s satisfying to know that the stories of people I have written about, many of them older women trivialised and erased, are also being heard.’

The winner of the 2024 award will be announced online at 9am on Wednesday 10 July.