Robert Maxwell biography wins major award weeks after Ghislaine’s guilty verdict

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  • Robert Maxwell
    Czechoslovak-born British media proprietor and Member of Parliament (1923-1991)
  • Jeffrey Epstein
    American financier
John Preston and his award winning biography of Robert Maxwell  (PA)
John Preston and his award winning biography of Robert Maxwell (PA)

A biography of disgraced media mogul Robert Maxwell has won a major literary prize just weeks after his daughter was convicted for her role in supplying sexual abuser Jeffrey Epstein with his young victims.

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by former Evening Standard Arts Editor John Preston triumphed in the biography category at the Costa Book Awards and is now eligible for the final prize - book of the year.

It follows Maxwell from his roots in war-torn Czechoslovakia to serving in the British Army during World War II when many of his family died in the holocaust and his time as a Labour MP and successful businessman whose empire fell apart on his death revealing huge debts.

Maxwell’s youngest daughter, British socialite Ghislaine, faces spending the rest of her life in jail for helping to entice vulnerable teenagers to Epstein’s various properties for him to sexually abuse between 1994 and 2004.

Preston’s book, which is being adapted for television, faces competition for the main prize from four other writers including photographer and Londoner Caleb Azumah Nelson who won the first novel award for Open Water.

Author Claire Fuller took home the novel award for her fourth book, Unsettled Ground, about middle-aged twins Jeanie and Julius who live with their mother in rural isolation and poverty.

Poet and university lecturer Hannah Lowe claims the poetry prize for her third collection, The Kids, a book of sonnets drawing on her decade teaching at an inner-city London sixth form and the children’s book award went to actor, writer and director Manjeet Mann for The Crossing.

Jill McDonald, chief executive of Costa Coffee, said: "We’re celebrating a milestone 50th anniversary year for the Costa Book Awards, and the range and breadth of this year’s category winners illustrates the awards’ longstanding appeal, as the home of enjoyable reads to suit all tastes.

"Congratulations to all this year’s category award-winning authors."

The authors, each of whom will receive £5,000, were selected from 934 entries.

The overall winner of the 2021 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and will be announced at a ceremony on February 1 2021.

The Mermaid Of Black Conch by Trinidadian-born British writer Monique Roffey was named Book of the Year in 2020.

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