Ruth Leon, Sheridan Morley’s widow and the chair of the panel of judges said: “Michael Holroyd's book is a brilliant and readable encapsulation of a period peopled by remarkable characters, not only is it a fine piece of theatre history; it invites the reader into a period of our English past, which might otherwise go unnoticed. All four of the books on our shortlist are page-turners, which exemplify what the Sherrys are all about. They open a window into the world of the artist and the time they lived in.”
This year’s judging panel is chaired by critic Leon, a broadcaster and biographer, and includes last year's winner, Shakespeare’s Globe artistic director and Will and Me author Dominic Dromgoole, actress Patricia Hodge and publisher-literary agent Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson.
As the winner, Holroyd receives a cash award of £2000. The other 2009 shortlisted are: Bloomsbury Ballerina by Judith Mackrell; Apprenticeship by Peter Gill; and Arthur Miller by Christopher Bigsby.
The Sheridan Morley Prize was set up last year in honour of the late critic, who passed away two years ago (See News, 16 May 2007). Over a long career, Morley penned more than 30 books, including major biographies of Noel Coward, John Gielgud and his father Robert Morley. The Sheridan Morley Book Prize aims to continue Morley’s legacy and celebrate the art of theatre biography, autobiography, diaries, journals and memoirs.