Sheffield author in running for top book prize

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A former child chess prodigy who lives in Sheffield is in the running to win a £10,000 literary prize.

Gavin Extence, who played chess competitively from the ages of five to 11, is one of 10 authors listed for the Desmond Elliott prize, which is awarded every year to the best first novel written in English and published in the UK.

Gavin’s novel, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, is the story of an unlikely friendship between a reclusive widower and a science-obsessed teenager.

The 30-year-old is one of just three men on the shortlist, which includes Dublin-born journalist Kevin Maher and Rosie Garland, who sang in band The March Violets.

The judging panel is chaired by Barnsley novelist Joanne Harris, aged 48,

Joanne, who wrote Chocolat which was later made into a hit film starring Johnny Depp, said: “The Desmond Elliott Prize is a landmark moment in an author’s career. It is enormously heartening that as well as it being a wonderful time for debut fiction, it’s also an exciting time for female writers.”

The shortlist will be announced next month with the winner revealed at a London ceremony in June.