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Richard and Judy ‘Search for a bestseller’ winner revealed

Claire Gradidge has won the Richard and Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition for her World War Two crime novel The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox.

The competition for first-time unpublished writers was launched in April 2018 by television stars Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan in association with WH Smith and Bonnier Zaffre.

The book came top of a shortlist of five announced in July, leaving time for the shortlisted authors to finish their books after entries were initially judged on the basis of 10,000 words. Gradidge, who has a PHD in creative writing from the University of Winchester, will now receive a publishing contract for world rights with Bonnier Zaffre, worth £30,000, representation from agency YM&U (formerly Furniss Lawton) and assurance her book will be stocked in WH Smith stores across the country.

Madeley and Finnigan hailed Gradidge as a ‘compelling new voice’ and felt that in Josy Fox we have ‘a feisty, modern character who eschews the traditional mores of the period in this brilliantly researched tale of war time Britain’.

In The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox, Josephine returns to her home town of Romsey after a long absence on a quest to solve the mystery of who her father was. She arrives in the town just after an air raid has destroyed a local pub. Seven known bodies are retrieved from the ruins, but an eighth body – that of an unknown girl – is also recovered. As Josephine works alongside the coroner to establish the identity of the girl and discover who the murderer is, she also uncovers her own personal mystery.

Gradidge said: ‘I am absolutely delighted – and very excited – to have won the Richard and Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition. It’s such a wonderful opportunity for me . . . I can’t quite believe it!  I’m looking forward to working with the team at Bonnier Zaffre and YM&U, and, of course, to seeing my novel in print later this year.’

The competition’s last winner, Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear, has sold 230,000 copies across all editions in the UK and has been sold into ten territories, including the US, where it’s been shortlisted for a Barry Award for Best First Novel. Carnival Films, producers of Downtown AbbeyLast Kingdom and Whitechapel, have optioned the TV rights.

We can’t wait for readers to share our excitement for this book.

Richard and Judy

Katherine Armstrong, Editorial Director for crime fiction at Bonnier Zaffre said: ‘I read The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox in one sitting and what kept me turning the pages was Claire’s brilliant characterisation of Josy Fox – she’s sparky and determined and I know that readers will enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.’

Madeley and Finnigan said: ‘The shortlist was outstanding, but Claire Gradridge’s writing really stood out. She brilliantly captures small town life and shows how, even when everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, tragic secrets can still be hidden. We can’t wait for readers to share our excitement for this book.’

The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox will be published by Bonnier Zaffre in July 2019.