| Peter Finlay with his novel Vernon God Little at the British Museum in London. (Reuters)
London, Oct. 15 (Reuters): Controversial author DBC Pierre, better known for his murky past than his writing prowess, yesterday won the Booker prize, one of the world’s top literary awards for fiction, for his debut novel Vernon God Little.
He promptly pledged to give his £50,000 ($82,930) prize to his creditors after one of the most startling prize-givings in the 35-year history of the famed prize. “It ain’t coming to me,” said Pierre, pseudonym for the British writer Peter Finlay. “It is about a third of what I owe in the world,” he said. “I am going to pay some debts.”
Finlay has admitted being a reformed drug addict and gambler, confessing that he sold his best friends’ home and pocketed the proceeds. He also said he had worked up massive debts in a scheme to make a film in Mexico. “I am bringing my past into the future and will be happily having another crack at it. I intend paying all the money back and have already started doing so,” he said before landing the prize and facing the full glare of media publicity.
“Regrets — I am full of them,” said the 42-year-old writer who was born in Australia, brought up in Mexico and said yesterday he was British. He now lives in Ireland.
His tale, hailed by critics as a tour de force for a debut novelist, was picked from a shortlist that included hot favourite Monica Ali and Canadian Margaret Atwood.
It is a darkly comic novel set in Texas about a boy who finds himself in deep trouble after becoming embroiled in the aftermath of a high school massacre.
His pseudonym DBC Pierre stands for “Dirty But Clean” Pierre which Finlay has said is his symbolic way of saying that he wanted to make a clean start after years of being in what he has called “a pit of deceit and failure”. Prof. John Carey, chairman of the Booker judges, said they had chosen the winner in less than an hour. He said: “It was a coruscating black comedy, reflecting not only our alarm but also our fascination with modern America.”
The Booker, won over the years by such famous authors as Salman Rushdie and Nobel literature prize winner J.M. Coetzee, is certain to land its author in bestseller lists around the globe. Last year’s winner, Canadian Yann Martel, sold one million copies of his quirky fable Life of Pi. Inevitably, Finlay’s shady past was the focus of all the media attention and Martyn Goff, administrator of the prize, was asked if his win debased the Booker.
“The Booker prize is awarded for the book and not for the man’s career,” Goff said. The judges did not refer to his background until it was all decided.
At the news conference staged afterwards in the Reading Room of the British Museum, he was bombarded with questions about his past and newspaper headlines were dominated not by what he had written but how he had lived.