Journalist John Preston, who wrote A Very English Scandal which was adapted into the Bafta-winning drama series starring Hugh Grant, has been named on the Costa Book Awards shortlist.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the awards which are the only major prize open solely to authors living in the UK and Ireland and celebrate books in five categories – first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children’s book.

Preston is nominated in the biography category for Fall: The Mystery Of Robert Maxwell, a tale of the rise and scandalous fall of the media mogul turned MP.

The nomination comes at a time when Robert Maxwell’s daughter, British socialite Ghislaine, is standing trial in America charged with helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse girls and women.

Previous work of the former arts editor of the Sunday Telegraph includes A Very English Scandal and The Dig which has been adapted into a film starring Lily James and Carey Mulligan.

Preston is joined by fellow journalists Ed Caesar, for his biography of British mountaineering legend Maurice Wilson who attempted to climb Everest alone, and Arifa Akbar, whose first book was a memoir following the death of his sister from tuberculosis.

Twenty authors have been nominated across the five categories, selected from a record 934 entries by a panel including writer Jessie Burton, filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, poet Rishi Dastidar and podcaster Manveen Rana.

The list features actress Kate Sawyer’s The Standing in the first novel category, the second novel The High House from short story writer Jessie Greengrass, the second collection from Zambian-born British poet Kayo Chingonyi called A Blood Condition, and debut author Helen Rutter with her children’s book The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “We are delighted to celebrate these 20 brilliant books as we mark a milestone 50th anniversary year for both Costa Coffee and the Costa Book Awards.

“My thanks to the judges for putting together such outstanding lists – there’s so much here for readers to explore, enjoy, recommend and share – and my congratulations to all of this year’s shortlisted authors.”

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on January 4 2022.

The overall winner of the 2021 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and will be announced at a ceremony on February 1 2021.

The Mermaid Of Black Conch by Trinidadian-born British writer Monique Roffey was named Book of the Year in 2020.