Female writers have dominated the shortlists for this year's Costa Book Awards, formerly known as the Whitbread Prize, ahead of the award announcements on January 3rd.

All four nominees in the first novel category are women, and the best novel shortlist pits Rose Tremain and AL Kennedy against two male authors.

Tahmima Anam's debut A Golden Age is up against Roma Tearne's Mosquito, What Was Lost by former postwoman Catherine O'Flynn and Gifted by Indian-born Nikita Lalwani.

Tremain, a winner of the Whitbread novel category in 1999, has been shortlisted in the best novel category for The Road Home, while Day by AL Kennedy presents the other female challenge to Rupert Thomson's Death of a Murderer and Skin Lane from writer and theatre director Neil Bartlett.

Three more women writers are up for the children's book prize at this year's ceremony, with Ann Kelley's The Bower Bird, Crusade by Elizabeth Laird and What I Was from Meg Rosoff alongside Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red Snow White.

Studies of Josef Stalin and Rudolf Nureyev face stiff competition from Agent Zigzag, the story of second world war double agent Eddie Chapman, and Fatty Batter - actor Michael Simkins' childhood memoir.

The poetry prize will be contested between Ian Duhig, Daljit Nagra, Jean Sprackland and John Fuller.

Authors must have been resident in the UK for at least six months in each of the last three years, while books must have been first published in the UK and Ireland between November 1st 2006 and October 31st 2007.

21/11/2007 11:51:17