Mental health nurse Nathan Filer wins Costa first novel prize with The Shock of the Fall

Mental health nurse Nathan Filer wins Costa first novel prize with The Shock of the Fall

A mental health nurse, who prompted a bidding war for a debut novel which explored one man’s descent into mental illness, has won the Costa Book award for the best first time writer. Nathan Filer took the Costa First Novel Award for The Shock of the Fall, which drew on his own experiences gained from ten years working as a nurse on psychiatric wards in Bristol.

The book, described as “deeply moving…but also funny,” was compared to Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time and sparked an 11-way bidding auction, eventually won by HarperCollins with “a substantial six-figure sum”.
The Shock of the Fall tells the story of 19 year-old Matthew, who relates his account of living with schizophrenia as he confronts his role in the boyhood death of his older brother. A film version has been mooted. The Costa judges said: “It’s hard to believe this is a first novel – it’s so good it will make you feel a better person.”

Filer, 32, is a writer and lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, who also performs stand-up poetry. He continues to work in mental health in Bristol covering shifts, often at the New Horizons mother-and-baby unit on the Southmead Hospital site. The novel took Filer three years to write it and the published version was his fifth draft. “I had a lot of false starts – I ended up throwing almost everything out and focusing on the character,” he admitted.

The book will be published in 12 countries this year, including Israel where Filer was arrested and deported during an attempted visit to the West Bank to perform human rights work in support of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement. Filer’s fee from the Israeli publication will be donated to an organization opposed to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Filer competes with four other category winners for the Costa Book of the Year prize, open only to authors resident in the UK and Ireland, awarded later this month.

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