Benjamin Johncock’s compelling debut THE LAST PILOT has won The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award. The prize is for the debut novel of a British, Irish or UK-based author, first published in the UK. This is the 62nd year of the prize, and past winners include Jack Wolf, Ros Barber and Carys Bray.
Anthony Quinn, head judge and a former winner of the prize for The Rescue Man (Vintage) in 2009, said: “The Last Pilot is a memorable achievement, and a hugely deserving winner of this prize.” He further commended the novel for “its disciplined craftsmanship, its immersion in an historical era, and its profound engagement with human loss”.
THE LAST PILOT was published in July 2015 both in the UK (Myriad Books) and in the US (Picador), assembling an enthusiastic following with a rave review in The Washington Post, who say ‘the effect is supercharged Hemingway at 70,000 feet’; People magazine call it ‘ingeniously plotted, deftly written and engrossing,’ and Jane Ciabattari from BBC Culture says ‘Johncock is superb at crafting suspenseful scenes’. Mail on Sunday also praised THE LAST PILOT, ‘a remarkably accomplished debut'. It has been selected as Amazon’s Best Book of July 2015, shortlisted for the East Anglian Book Awards 2015, chosen as a Barnes & Noble’s 2015 Discover Great New Writers Pick and one of SJ Watson’s Best Summer Reads for The Independent. There's a full list of his many and incredible reviews on Ben's blog. The paperback was published in the US on 3rd May 2016.
Early October, 1947, Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the United States Air Force, flying flimsy aircraft high above the Mojave desert. When a terrible tragedy befalls his young family, Harrison's life grinds to a halt - so when he's offered a ticket to the moon, he takes it, and joins NASA's new training programme. Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally-charged periods in modern history, THE LAST PILOT is a mesmerising story of loss and finding courage in the face of it.
Benjamin Johncock was born in England in 1978. His short stories have been published by The Fiction Desk and The Junket. He is the recipient of an Arts Council England grant and the American Literary Merit Award, and is a winner of Comma Press's National Short Story Day competition. He also writes for the Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife, his daughter, and his son.
Praise for THE LAST PILOT
‘The dense layering of real events, seriously technical language and sustained US vernacular makes for a big, muscular novel, but this is tenderly undercut by the quite different theme of a marriage and a family under unbearable stress... A cowboy in a silver suit he may be, but Jim Harrison’s descent into hell is convincing and moving.’ – Jane Housham, Guardian
‘Jim’s story is fascinating, and the author writes with a strong ear for dialogue, which rattles the pages with intensity. A marvellous, emotionally powerful novel.’ – Publishers Weekly
‘Benjamin Johncock has written one of the most American novels of the year … With remarkable accuracy, capturing the emotional weight of a time in history … The story is well paced and chock full of an array of inspirational characters … exuberant life beaming from the gorgeous prose. Johncock follows in the footsteps of the impressive list of writers that have been capable of creating lifelike dialogue by eliminating quotation marks and a large amount of tags in what is often pages of back forth between its characters. … reminiscent of the great Cormac McCarthy … The exposition is packed with detail, word choices and sentence structures that add up to equal a distinct and unique new voice in fiction … shows the careful and precise guidance of the authorial voice that can be trusted fully and wholeheartedly. Johncock writes paragraphs that are often only seen by master craftsman with many books already to their name … This debut novel is undoubtedly one of the most authentic pieces of fiction set in America in years.’ – Steven Petite, The Huffington Post