The Dorchester Literary Festival Writing Prize award night was hosted by sponsors Hall & Woodhouse at the Duchess of Cornwall pub in Poundbury.

Paul Atterbury introduced the presentation and told us that this was the second year of the competition. Last year there were 50 entries and this year this increased to 72. Writers must live in the West Country or have West Country connections.

Minette Walters congratulated the shortlisted prizewinners and the writers read excepts from their books, all of which sounded enticing.

Emma Timpany’s novel Travelling in the Dark is set in New Zealand and tells the story of a woman coming to terms with her past. Emma was born in New Zealand, lived there for 22 years and was inspired by its beauty. Love is the enduring theme, both in the main character’s search for her lost love and her powerful bond with her son.

Susmita Bhattacharya’s book Table Manners is a collection of short stories from many parts of the world with a theme of food. Susmita grew up in India and is widely travelled.

Dee La Vardera’s book The Road to Civitella 1944 tells the true story of two British officers who brought a devastated Italian village back to life after a massacre. It describes the good things people do in difficult circumstances.

Maria Donovan’s novel The Chicken Soup Murder is a murder story told through the eyes of a child. It tells of his journey from innocence and looks at grieving from another viewpoint.

After interviewing the finalists, Minette announced that the winner was Emma Timpany’s novel Travelling in the Dark and the runner-up was Maria Donovan’s The Chicken Soup Murder.

Jill Bryant 

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