THE two halves of a luminary literary couple have been shortlisted   for the $5000 Margaret Scott Prize to be awarded at a $195 a head Long Literary Lunch prepared by chef Chris Jackman, at the Moorilla Estate Winery in Hobart on March 23.

This is a key event in   Tasmania’s biennial Ten Days on the Island cultural festival, which starts on March 23.

Novelist Robert Dessaix is a finalist for Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev while his partner, author Peter Timms, is a finalist with Australia’s Quarter Acre: The Story of the Ordinary Suburban Garden.

But poet Andrew Sant could come between them: Sant is also   shortlisted,  for Tremors: New and Selected Poems.

The inaugural Margaret Scott Prize — named after the late writer and television star — will be awarded to the best book by a Tasmanian writer. Dessaix and Timms moved to Hobart from Melbourne a few years ago, thus making them eligible.

The prize is one of three which replace the biennial $40,000 Tasmanian Pacific Region Fiction Prize initiated by the late Premier Jim Bacon, which was a fizzer despite the loot.

The other two are the $5000 University of Tasmania prize for the best book from a Tasmanian publisher, and the $25,000 Tasmania Prize, open to an author anywhere for the best book with Tsmanian content.

Those shortlisted for the major prize are Nicholas Shakespeare for In Tasmania, Christopher Cowles and David Walker for The Art of Apple Branding: Australian Apple Case Labels and the Industry since 1788, and Arch Flanagan and The Age’s Martin Flanagan’s The Line: a   Man’s Experience; a Son’s Quest to Understand.

Meanwhile their respective son and brother, Richard, is working on the film script for Baz Luhrman’s Australian epic starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

Curiously, when the finalists were announced by Tourism, Arts and Environment Minister Paula Wriedt, the Mercury overlooked the Dessaix-Timms shortlisting, publishing the finalists for the major prize only.

The UTAS shortlist comprises Christopher Cowles and David Walker’s The Art of Apple Branding” (published by Apples from Oz), Michael Roe’s An Imperial Disaster: the Wreck of George the Third, (Blubber Head Press)  and The Companion to Tasmanian History (Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies), edited by Alison Alexander.

The judging panel comprised artist Lindsay Broughton, bookseller Catherine Schulz and ABC Radio broadcaster Tim Cox.

Margaretta Pos

The prize is one of three which replace the biennial $40,000 Tasmanian Pacific Region Fiction Prize initiated by the late Premier Jim Bacon, which was a fizzer despite the loot.