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Toby Harnden wins Orwell Book Prize

24th May 2012

Toby Harnden was among the big winners at the Orwell Prize ceremony last night, taking home the book award for Dead Men Risen, his acclaimed account of a Welsh Guards tour of Afghanistan.

The book, which criticises the government for failing to equip the soldiers properly and military high command for making unrealistic promises to politicians, was originally pulped by the MOD, before finally being published with several passages redacted.

The judging panel praised Harnden for taking the reader 'into the hearts and minds' of the Welsh Guards in a way that is both 'compelling and visceral'.

'It challenges every citizen of this country to examine exactly what we're asking soldiers to do in Afghanistan. And rather than offering easy answers it lets the soldiers speak for themselves,' the panel added.

Other winners on the night included Amelia Gentleman, who was awarded the journalism prize for articles published in the Guardian focusing on benefit fraudsters, healthcare for the elderly and institutions for young criminals.

The blog prize was won by Rangers Tax-Case, a site that is aiming to expose the truth behind Rangers FC's quest for glory, its resulting tax problems and the consequential blurring of sporting, legal and ethical boundaries.

A special prize was also presented to the widow of the late Christopher Hitchens, Carol Blue, in recognition of his contribution to political writing.

Described as the heir to Orwell by many observers, Hitchens never won the Orwell Book prize, though his memoir Hitch-22 was shortlisted for last year's award and his final work Arguably was longlisted for the 2012 prize.

Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Prize, praised Hitchens' 'unworldly fluency', 'passionate commitment' and refusal to desert his trade, describing him as 'the consummate writer'.

'Hitchens carried Orwell's ambition "to make political writing into an art" forward and made it his own: he crafted a literate politics that helped form a world view,' she added.

The recipients of the book, blog and journalism prizes each received GBP 3,000, as well as a handmade wooden trophy, which was also presented to the family of Christopher Hitchens.

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