Sunderland graphic novelists clinch Costa prize

Bryan and Mary Talbot working on illustrations for their joint book from their home in Asbrooke, sunderland
Bryan and Mary Talbot working on illustrations for their joint book from their home in Asbrooke, sunderland
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A GRAPHIC novel penned and inked on Wearside has become the first of its kind to win a prestigious book award.

Sunderland authors Mary and Bryan Talbot have scooped a Costa Award for their collaboration Dotter of her Father’s Eyes – the first graphic work to win the prize.

The Costa Book Awards recognise some of the most outstanding and enjoyable books of the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland, and the Talbots, who live in Ashbrooke, impressed judges to win the Costa Biography Award.

Their book features the interweaving of two father-daughter relationships (that of James Joyce with his daughter Lucia and that of the author with her father, a James Joyce scholar).

The husband and wife team are now one of five authors who will compete for the 2012 Costa Book of the Year which will be announced at a ceremony at the end of the month.

Illustrated by Bryan and written by Mary, the award-winning book contrasts her childhood with that of Irish writer James Joyce’s daughter Lucia – Mary’s father, James S Atherton, was one of the world’s leading Joyceian academics.

Bryan’s use of black-and-white images for the scenes of Lucia in the 1930s, sepia for Mary’s childhood and adolescence and full colour for the modern scenes means the reader never gets lost as the book shifts between story strands and time zones.

As well as writing his own graphic novels, including Alice in Sunderland, Bryan has illustrated scripts by some of the best-known names in comics, but working with Mary was a far closer partnership than any other.

He said: “I think it’s amazing that we won the category, though I don’t think we stand a cat in hell’s chance of winning overall.

“It’s also great for the graphic novel and comics as a whole, for them to be accepted as a legitimate art form.”

Mary said: “I think the fact we wrote it together must be a key factor. We know each other so well as we’ve been together more than 40 years.

“With one of the images, it was something that I had dreamed the night before. I was able to wake up and tell Bryan about that. It’s unusual for a writer and illustrator to work together as closely as that.”

Established in 1971 by Whitbread, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s popular and prestigious book prize in 2006.

The other books in the running for the overall prize are Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, which won the 2012 Man Booker Prize; The Innocents by Francesca Segal; The Overhaul by poet Kathleen Jamie and children’s book Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner.

Christopher Rogers, managing director at Costa, said: “Once again, our judges have selected five terrific books as award winners from the various categories. We’re very proud to be announcing such a diverse and excellent collection of books which we know people will enjoy reading.”

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