ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL to win the Goldsboro ‘Last Laugh’ Award at the Bristol Crimefest, not least because the shortlist included two of my all-time favourite writers - Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen - along with a slew of very good contemporary authors, among them a previous winner in the shape of the very gracious Len Tyler.
In fact, I’d been in touch recently, by email, with Elmore Leonard’s PR guy and right-hand man, and had told him that if Elmore was to win, I’d be more than happy to pick up the award for him, given that I’m travelling to the States in the near future and would love an excuse to visit Elmore Leonard.
Then David Headley of Goldsboro Books read out the shortlist of nominees, and the winner, and I was halfway to the podium and still in a state of shock when I realised that the only winner’s speech I had prepared was one on behalf of Elmore Leonard. Hence the blithering idiot (the non-Jeffery Deaver guy above, right) who bumbled his lines in front of an audience of wordsmiths, their publishers and agents.
I do remember saying something about how my wife, before I left, told me not to bother coming home unless I won (which sounded vaguely like the Spartan mother’s blessing, ‘Come home behind your shield, or on it.’), so that winning was something of a pity, because I was really starting to warm to Bristol …
I’ll write a longer post during the week about the Crimefest weekend in general, but for now I have to hit and run. Suffice to say that I was very pleased indeed to be sitting beside my good friend Peter Rozovsky when the winner’s name was read out; had he not been there to shake my hand, and confirm that it wasn’t some deranged acid flash-back hallucination, I may well have remained sitting in my seat all night, getting more and more paranoid that everyone was staring at me. And thanks too to Brian McGilloway, who took the photo above, and was kind enough to broadcast it to the world on the night.
I’m still not the best of it, mind. I was very tempted to check out of the hotel early on Sunday morning, in case they’d made a mistake.
Anyway, I’m back home now, and the prize is taking up pride of place on the office windowsill, and I’m slowly starting to descend from the improbable high of it all. It feels good, it really does.
One final word, which occurred to me late on Saturday night, and which might be of use to any writers out there who are finding it difficult to find a publisher: ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL went through fourteen publishers, all of whom said no, before finding its place with Liberties Press. To paraphrase Sammy B: fail, fail again, fail better …
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.