Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2013 shortlist unveiled

The shortlist for this year’s Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award has been announced, revealing a final selection of six stories which are as wide-ranging and eclectic as the authors themselves.

Heading the shortlist this year is Dominican-American Junot Díaz with his sexually charged story Miss Lora, which is taken from his highly acclaimed collection, This is How You Lose Her. Mr. Díaz is joined on the shortlist by English novelist and short story writer, Sarah Hall, whose story Evie is as equally as explicit, in exploring the weird sexual awakening of a previously chaste wife.

The gritty world of badging hunting is represented by Welsh writer Cynan Jones and his story The Dig, while former Whitbread Book of the Year Award winner Mark Haddon covers a vaguely similar theme in a completely different way, with his story, The Gun. One of last year’s longlisted authors, Toby Litt, brings a flavour of scifi to the shortlist in 2013 with his story, Call it “The Bug” Because I Have No Time to Think of a Better Title, and completing the lineup is acclaimed Scottish author Ali Smith with her mythical tale, The Beholder.

The shortlist in full, as selected by the judging panel consisting of novelists Andrew O’Hagan, Sarah Waters, Joanna Trollope and Lionel Shriver, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times, Andrew Holgate, is as follows:

  • Miss Lora by Junot Díaz
  • The Gun by Mark Haddon
  • Evie by Sarah Hall
  • The Dig by Cynan Jones
  • Call it “The Bug” Because I Have No Time to Think of a Better Title by Toby Litt
  • The Beholder by Ali Smith

Speaking of this year’s shortlist, judge Mr. Holgate had the following to say:

This is such an exciting shortlist, with some really gritty and varied subjects tackled with great skill by some world-renowned authors. The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award has come a long way in four short years, and the quality of the shortlist is a tribute to how seriously the prize is taken, and how quickly it has established itself in the literary calendar.

The overall award winner and recipent of the £30,000 winner’s cheque will be announced at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, on Friday 22nd March, with the five runners-up each receiving a cheque for £1,000.

Special readings of all six shortlisted are also staged to take place in conjunction with WordTheater, at two special events at Foyles in Charing Cross, London, on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st March.

An ebook of all six stories has also been made available for download. Times+ subscribers will be able to download the ebook for free, but for everyone else a small charge of £1.95 has been set. The ebook for non-subscribers is available to purchase directly from Amazon.

To compliment the ebook, and to make the award all the more interactive, readers this year will also be encouraged to vote for their favourite shortlisted story on the Sunday Times website. It should be noted however, that these votes will not count towards the selection of the overall winner.

Full details, including profiles of all longlisted authors and details of the judges, can be found on the Booktrust’s Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award webpage.. The Award also has a Facebook page and can also be found on Twitter, where discussions can be followed using the #STEFG13 hashtag.


Rob’s Reaction: There we have it, the six stories forming the shortlist for this year’s Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. Am I impressed? Well, given the longlist that the final six were selected from, I guess I am. Thinking of the theme of the stories in the shortlist it’s certainly a ‘no holds barred’ selection if nothing else, what with explicit sex featuring strongly in two of the stories, the gore and gristle of hunting flavouring another two, and the last pair giving a nod to the underrepresented genres of sci-fi and myth.

A little bit of something for everyone some might say, which is all neat and tidy and very diplomatic for all concerned. Personally I’d have liked to have seen Claire Vaye Watkins’ Rondine al Nido make the shortlist over quite a few of the other stories, but I’m sadly not a judge so I can only watch mournfully from the sidelines as one of my favourite stories fades into the darkness. I’m not too disappointed though because having read all six stories on the shortlist I can certainly vouch for the deservedness of most of them, and on the quality and inventiveness of each story’s plot and construction.

Individually, everything in this shortlist stands as examples of well written short fiction, but collectively they stand as a showcase as to what it is possible to achieve in the confines of the short story. I think it’s a big ask putting the weight of what is effectively an important promotional tool on a handful of shoulders, yet the judges have risen to the task and created another worthy weapon which can be pointed in the direction of the naysayers who denounce the short form.

That said, I do have a parting comment which is meant as nothing more than constructive criticism from a nobody. While I applaud the efforts of all of the judges involved in this year’s Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award and compliment them on their fine selection of stories, I would still in 2014 like to see more of a presence of short story specialists in the judging process. For me The Sunday Times Short Story Award always looks like it’s a short story prize being judged by novelists, and while I have no doubt that those appointed have the capabilities and experience to stand as judges (with many having much first-hand short story experience themselves), they are not what could be seen as ambassadors of the short form i.e. individuals who are primarily focussed on the promotion of short fiction. Better the ship is steered by those who eat, sleep and drink the short story, because in my opinion this is what this award needs. This is, as I’ve said before, one of the world’s richest literary prizes for short fiction, and it needs to be reflected at all levels.

So who do I think is going to win this year’s Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award overall? Well, I’ve read all of the stories as I’ve said, and there are two which are absolute stand out for me. I’ll let you know what those stories are and even venture to choose which one of the two I think will win, in a separate post.

So readers, over to you. What do you think of this year’s shortlist? Good? Bad? Edgy? Safe? Surprising? Predictable? Let me know your thoughts by dropping a comment below.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. LizzySiddal says:

    The judges have tried really hard to come up with a completely unappealing shortlist and they have succeeded.

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      I can see why you think this Lizzy, although thankfully there are some redeeming stories among this lot.

  2. I’m not really a lover of short stories so going to put my money on Cynan Jones based on his other work!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Good choice Mary, it’s a great story. Now, this little comment about not like short stories…….:)

  3. Hi Rob, I’m going to reserve my prediction until I’ve read all the stories. Thanks for posting a link to the Amazon page. That makes it easy!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Absolutely my pleasure, Michela. Be sure and come back to let me know what you think once you’ve had a chance to read all of the stories.

      • Having read all the stories, I have a clear favourite: The Gun, by Mark Haddon. I loved it. It transported me to the narrator’s childhood experience, and had me completely in its grip throughout. I felt Daniel’s fear, horror, his inability to move away from what was happening, and his desire to be a part of it, danger, blood and all. I loved the instances of humour and adventure, the calm, honest truths of childhood that emerged, and the glorious writing that at times left me, quite seriously, awestruck. “That cathedral of silence before the first shot. Slabs of dusty sunlight.”

        The Dig, by Cynan Jones, was my second favourite. Incredible, evocative, amazing for its compact vocabulary and intensity. The kind of story you think must be autobiographical because it is so vivid and true.

        • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

          Hi Michela,
          Many thanks for taking the time to pop back and let me know your thoughts on the shortlist.

          I’ve got to say I’m astounded that you’ve gone for the same first and second that I have. Thinking about it though, perhaps I’m not because as far as I see it there is nothing else on the shortlist that touches these two stories. You have exquisite taste, Michela 🙂

          Thankfully, not long to go until we find out who has won. Exciting times.
          Warmest regards

          • Hi Rob,

            Clearly great minds think alike! 🙂 Yes, I think these two stories were far and away above the others. Eagerly awaiting March 22 to find out who won!


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