by Kristian Kerr

Sue Black wins Saltire Book of the Year, Canongate Publisher of the Year

December 1, 2018 | by Kristian Kerr


St Andrew’s Night saw the presentation of the annual Saltire Literary Awards at a ceremony in Edinburgh. This year’s setting under the canopy of Dynamic Earth at Holyrood gave a welcome sparkle to the occasion, with the museum’s revolving globe projecting the illusion of snow falling outside.

Professor Dame Sue Black won the Book of the Year prize for All That Remains: A Life in Death (Transworld), a reflection on her encounters with mortal remains in the course of her career as a forensic anthropologist at burial sites, in war zones, or at the sites of natural disasters. Winning in the crowded Non-Fiction Book of the Year category and then claiming the overall prize, she said that she had written the book for her children and grandchildren to show that “there is nothing to be afraid of in death”.

Professor Dame Sue Black celebrates winning the Saltire Book of the Year Award. Image courtesy the Saltire Society

In the five other award categories announced last night, Aberdeen-based Leila Aboulela won Fiction Book of the Year for short-story collection Elsewhere, Home (Saqi Books), which she said drew on her experiences as an immigrant in the years since she arrived in Scotland in the 1990s.

Chair of the judging panel for History Book of the Year, Professor Christopher Whatley, remarked on the quality and depth of the category this year, after the prize was not awarded in 2017.  He described the winner, Les Wilson’s The Drowned and the Saved: When War Came to the Hebrides (Birlinn), as showing “Scottish history at its best, making a local episode visible in its national and international dimensions”. Wilson’s book is an account of the sinking of US troopships Tuscania and Otranto off the coast of Islay in 1918, and narrates the rescue efforts and aftermath of the tragedy on the island.

Jay Whittaker’s Wristwatch (Cinnamon Press) won in the poetry category and Tom Mole’s What the Victorians Made of Romanticism (Princeton) won Research Book of the Year.

Sal (Canongate), the debut novel by Fife-based writer Mick Kitson won the 2018 Saltire First Book Award, while Louise Welsh was elected the “Most Inspiring Saltire First Book Award Winner” in a special public vote marking the 30th anniversary of the prize. Her debut novel The Cutting Room (also published by Canongate) won in 2002.

Canongate’s strong showing across categories culminated in their winning the Publisher of the Year Award, while Carolina Orloff of Charco Press was named Emerging Publisher of the Year for her achievements in publishing literary works in translation.



Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year Award


  • Leila Aboulela, Elsewhere, Home, (Saqi Books)

Other shortlisted titles

  • Andrew Crumey, The Great Chain of Unbeing (Dedalus Limited)
  • Sally Magnusson, The Sealwoman’s Gift, (Two Roads)
  • Manda Scott, A Treachery of Spies, (Transworld Publishers)
  • Helen Sedgwick , The Growing Season, (Harvill Secker)
  • Irvine Welsh, Dead Men’s Trousers, (Jonathan Cape)


Saltire Society Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award


  • Professor Sue Black, All That Remains: A Life in Death, (Transworld Publishers)

Other shortlisted titles

  • Alan Taylor, Appointment in Arezzo, (Polygon)
  • Angus Roxburgh, Moscow Calling, (Birlinn)
  • Joseph FarrellRobert Louis Stevenson in Samoa, (MacLehose Press)
  • Mark Cousins, The Story of Looking, (Canongate Books)
  • Richard Holloway, Waiting for the Last Bus, (Canongate Books)


Saltire Society Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award


  • Jay Whittaker, Wristwatch, (Cinnamon Press)

 Other shortlisted titles

  • Sophie Collins, Who is Mary Sue?, (Faber and Faber)
  • Jackie Kay, Bantam, (Pan Macmillan – Picador)
  • Roddy Lumsden, So Glad I’m Me, (Bloodaxe Books)
  • Robin Robertson, The Long Take, (Pan Macmillan – Picador)


Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year Award, supported by the National Library of Scotland


  • Tom Mole, What the Victorians Made of Romanticism: Material Artifacts, Cultural Practices, and Reception History, (Princeton University Press)

Other shortlisted titles

  • John Caughie, Trevor Griffiths and María A. Vélez-Serna, Early Cinema in Scotland, (Edinburgh University Press)
  • Angela McCarthy and Sir Tom Devine, Tea and empire: James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon, (Manchester University Press)
  • Gerard Carruthers and Colin Kidd, Literature and Union: Scottish Texts, British Contexts, (Oxford University Press)


Saltire Society Scottish History Book of the year Award, supported by the Scottish Historical Review Trust


  • Les Wilson, The Drowned and the Saved, (Birlinn)

Other shortlisted titles

  • Michael Anderson, Scotland’s Populations from the 1850s to Today, (Oxford University Press)
  • Edward Corp, Sir David Nairne. The Life of a Scottish Jacobite at the Court of the Exiled Stuarts, (Peter Lang Ltd)
  • Cairns Craig, The Wealth of the Nation: Scotland, Culture and Independence, (Edinburgh University Press)
  • JH Elliott, Scots & Catalans, (Yale)
  • Valerie Wallace, Scottish Presbyterianism and Settler Colonial Politics: Empire of Dissent, (Palgrave Macmillan)


Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award


  • Mick Kitson, Sal, (Canongate Books)

 Other shortlisted titles

  • Alex Boyd, St Kilda: The Silent Islands, (Luath Press)
  • Christina Neuwirth, Amphibian, (Speculative Books)
  • Calum L. MacLeòid, A’ Togail an t-Srùbain, (CLÀR)


Most Inspiring Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award Winner


  • Louise Welsh – winner of the First Book Award in 2002 for The Cutting Room

Other shortlisted writers

  • Kate Clanchy – winner of the First Book Award in 1996 for Slattern
  • Michel Faber – winner of the First Book Award in 1999 for Some Rain Must Fall
  • Jackie Kay – winner of the First Book Award in 1992 for The Adoption Papers
  • A. L. Kennedy – winner of the First Book Award in 1991 for Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains
  • Ali Smith – winner of the First Book Award in 1995 for Free Love and Other Stories


Saltire Publisher of the Year Award supported by Publishing Scotland


  • Canongate Books


  • Historic Environment Scotland

 Other shortlisted publishers

  • 404 Ink
  • BHP Comics
  • Birlinn Limited
  • Luath Press 


Saltire Emerging Publisher of the Year Award supported by Publishing Scotland


  • Carolina Orloff (Charco Press) 


  • Alan Windram (Little Door Books)

Other shortlistees

  • Charlotte Brady (Canongate Books)
  • Heather Palmer (BHP Comics)
  • James T. Harding (Stewed Rhubarb Press)
  • Megan Reid (Canongate Books)

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