Free from the backbiting of the Booker, this award is one that makes a real difference to writers beginning their careers.
The John Llewellyn Rhys prize is one of the most romantic and distinguished of prizes and its disappearance would be a great loss to hopeful authors and the literary world. Booktrust, which sponsors and administers the prize, and which has suffered severe funding cuts, says it must go. This would be very sad.
The prize is awarded to young writers under the age of 35, at the outset of their careers, when a sign of approval means much more than it does in their cynical, competitive, commercial later years. I’ve often argued that the Booker, although originally well-intentioned, now distorts the market and creates immense spite and ill will, egged on by a malicious press, and enraging novelists and publishers who should be old and wise enough to know better. The John Llewellyn Rhys has no such bad side effects. It comes from the clear blue sky, often completely unexpected, and it brings hope, encouragement, and a little much needed money.