Gordon Burn was one of the most innovative and courageous writers of his age, and the Gordon Burn Prize was set up after his death in 2009 in order to celebrate his spirit and style of writing. The prize is awarded to a published title (fiction or non-fiction) which provokes thought and challenges the notion of genre.
This morning the shortlist for the 2015 prize was announced by New Writing North, who run the prize along with the Gordon Burn Trust and Faber & Faber (Gordon’s publisher).
‘It makes me very optimistic about the state of British publishing that such fantastic writing is being published,’ Claire Malcolm, Chief Executive of New Writing North, explains. ‘I hope the prize helps to raise awareness of these titles, as they deserve to be widely read.’
The judges who’ve compiled the shortlist were authors Doug Johnstone and Roddy Doyle, journalist Suzanne Moore, artist Gavin Turk and actress Maxine Peake.
The shortlisted titles are:
In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies
Offering an insight into the life of one of the country’s most high-profile and prolific sex offenders, Dan Davies’ book outlines Savile’s life and career and outlines a culture from the 1950s onwards which he believes was ripe for abusive manipulation. Roddy Doyle explains that the book was shortlisted because it was a ‘shocking book’ and ‘shockingly good’. ‘Cleverly structured, so well researched and so well written, it tells its story quite brilliantly,’ he exclaims.
Midland by Honor Gavin
This novel outlines the lives of three women who live through some of the most pivotal moments of the 20th century, including post-World War II devastation, the rise of industry in the 1960s and decaying tower blocks in the 1980s. ‘To me, reading this book was dream-like as I sequenced between nostalgia and explicitly remembered detail,’ judge Gavin Turk declares. ‘I loved the way that Honor played with language peppering the pages with a wonderful mix of colloquiums and made-up words.’
Noon Tide Toll by Romesh Guneskera
Romesh’s novel is set in the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka and outlines the life of a van driver, Vasantha, who find himself ferrying aid workers, returning exiles and coming to terms with his own experiences of war. It was a natural choice for the judges, who described it as both ‘subtle’ and ‘graceful’. ‘Dealing with big themes of redemption and morality,’ Doug Johnstone explains, ‘It does so with a wonderfully intimate feel and a huge human heart.’
Original Rockers by Richard King
Richard King’s unique book captures the anecdotal histories of an independent record shop. It is packed with rare personalities and some brilliantly debauched stories and promises to be a huge hit with readers. It certainly won over the Gordon Burn judges. ‘I was mesmerised by Richard King's memoir Original Rockers,’ Suzanne Moore gushes. ‘It glistens. Tight, spacey, mood-altering just like much of the music he describes.’
Nothing is True and Everything in Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
This clever novel is set in Russia in the mid-2000s and uses the rise of the television industry to explore the crooks, crannies and secrets of Putin’s post-modern dictatorship. It include a cast of propaganda gurus, Siberian gangsters and super-rich Westerners. ‘Funny, intense and alluring. A real ride of a book,’ Maxine Peake summarises. ‘I was plunged into a world of unknowns, which quickly became frighteningly familiar.’
It is clear that the Gordon Burn Prize 2015 will be a fitting tribute both to the late Newcastle author and the latest and greatest literary talents.
The winner of the Gordon Burn Prize 2015 will be announced at the Durham Book Festival on 9th October. For more information see www.durhambookfestival.com