Costa Winner Andrew Miller: 'I Owe Early Career To Carol Ann Duffy'

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Andrew Miller won for his novel, Pure
Andrew Miller won for his novel, Pure

Andrew Miller, winner of the 2011 Costa Book of the Year award with his novel Pure, has paid tribute to his rival Carol Ann Duffy.

The Bristol-born author told HuffPost UK Culture that when he was an unknown writer, Duffy took him under her wing and helped him on the path to success.

"I’ve been a fan of Carol Ann Duffy for years," he explained in the aftermath of his victory.

"When I was in my young 20s and she was still making her way as a poet, Carol helped me out and fixed me up with my first agent. She took a lot of trouble over me. I’ve never forgotten that and I never will. It was a very generous thing to do.

"She had a reputation for taking that kind of an interest in new writers, and god knows new writers depend on help like that, on that kind of kindness."

The author and winner of the Best Novel category saw off stiff competition to claim the top prize, beating the much-fancied Matthew Hollis whose biography Now All Roads Lead to France was the bookies' favourite and Duffy, the poet laureate, for her collection The Bees.

Announced at a ceremony in central London, Miller’s victory was for his story set in Paris in the years before the French revolution. Pure tells the story of a young engineer ordered to carry out the grim task of removing the city's oldest cemetery, which has begun to overflow.

Born in Bristol in 1960, Miller has written six novels including his celebrated debut Ingenious Pain which won James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and the Booker and Whitebread-nominated Oxygen. After living in Spain, Japan, and France he now resides in Somerset.

Jonathan Ruppin, Web Editor for Foyles bookshops and a judge for the 2010 Costa Novel Award, told HuffPost UK Culture:

“Like Hilary Mantel, who finally became a major name when she won the Man Booker, Miller should now gain the commercial success his stylish and absorbing novels have long deserved. Pure perfectly captures the mood of a downtrodden and angry nation, on the verge of overthrowing a self-serving and out of touch ruling class - it's very much a book for our time!”

The judges, who included novelist Patrick Gale, Emma Milne-White, owner of The Hungerford Bookshop and Michael Prodger , the critic and former Literary Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, said:

“A structurally and stylistically flawless historical novel, this book is a gripping story, beautifully written and emotionally satisfying. A novel without a weakness from an author who we all feel deserves a wider readership.”

Miller was awarded £30,000 in prize money, while the runners-up all received £5,000.