The writer who brought lesbian fiction to greater prominence with her novel Tipping The Velvet, is on the short list for this year’s James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Sarah Waters, 40, has been nominated for her most recent work, The Night Watch, which explores the lives of several lesbian, gay and straight characters in 1940’s London.

It has been widely praised for its intertwining story lines, and its stunning recreation of the Blitz and life in the capital during the immediate post-war period.

The Welsh-born novelist is a former winner of the Stonewall Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award, and her 2002 novel Fingersmith was short listed for the Booker.

Last year she was again nominated for the Booker for The Night Watch, and she was named Writer of the Year at the first Stonewall Awards.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are among the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English, first awarded in 1919.

There is a £20,000 prize for fiction and another for biography.

Previous winners include gay and lesbian writers Alan Hollinghurst, EM Forster, Radclyffe Hall, Siegfried Sassoon and Peter Ackroyd.

Waters studied for a PhD on lesbian and gay fiction at the University of London, research that inspired her to write Tipping The Velvet, published in 1998.

It was later adapted for BBC2 to universal critical acclaim, with even the tabloids taken with its frank portrayal of the lesbian underworld of Victorian Britain.

Fingersmith, published in 2002, centres on a family of thieves who ‘adopt’ a young heiress and attempt to defraud her of her fortune.

It was also adapted, this time for BBC1, and starred Imelda Staunton.

The two winners of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize will be announced as part of the Edinburgh book festival on 25th August.