You are here

Shuggie rules

Shuggie rules

Of course the Booker Prize can’t take all of the credit but is happy none the less to bask in some reflected glory. . . Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain has just been named Book of the Year in the British Book Awards. The BBAs are an apples vs oranges set of prizes, with the winners of the crime fiction, lifestyle, audiobook, children’s book sections (and more) all in competition with one another. Stuart triumphed first in the Debut Fiction category before going on to scoop the overall gong. Along the way he saw off a formidable array of popular authors, including Captain Tom Moore, Charlie Mackesy, Richard Osman and JK Rowling (as Robert Galbraith). Not bad for a “wee sad Scottish book” (Stuart’s words).

A twist on the literary detective story. The Scottish writer George Mackay Brown was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994 for Beside the Ocean of Time. Exactly 40 years earlier he had published a book of poems at his own expense entitled The Storm and Other Poems. It had a print run of just 300 copies and sold out in two weeks. As his reputation grew so did the rarity value of the collection. Brown was a proud Orcadian, living almost his entire life in Stromness on Orkney and the poems in the collection reflected his rootedness. Now the George Mackay Brown Fellowship has teamed up with BBC Radio Orkney to find out how many copies have survived. Like any good sleuth, initial investigations will begin close to home since the majority of the 300 books were probably bought by locals. Radio Orkney intends to air a programme about the poet and the poem hunt in the Autumn. Each copy is now worth upwards of £400, so check your shelves.

Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light may not have made it past the longlist stage of last year’s Booker Prize but the two-time winner has not let any disappointment she felt stymie her. She has been head down turning the last part of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy into a stage play. For the hugely successful Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies she worked with the playwright Mike Poulton, this time, however, she has been collaborating with Ben Miles, the actor who played Cromwell on stage and narrated the audiobooks. The pair have been working over email and only met recently so, says Mantel, “It’s been a labour-intensive process, but we have a result. We have a play. We can’t wait to get into rehearsal and start bringing it to life.” She hopes that the new work will be put before live audiences later this year. What’s more, there is a television adaptation in the offing too. “It’s why I don’t miss Thomas Cromwell,” says Mantel. “Because he’s never gone away.”

Boris Johnson’s decision to cut 50 per cent of funding – from £36m to £19m – to specific arts subjects as part of the “build back better” plan has not been well received. The government says that subjects such as music, dance, drama and performing arts, art and design, and archaeology are “not among its strategic priorities”. Johnson, the author of a novel called Seventy Two Virgins should by rights know something of the value of the arts, not all of which can be calculated in financial terms. If he has forgotten, the joint Booker prize winner Bernardine Evaristo has just reminded him: “An absurd £37bn on the failed Test & Trace, unlawfully awarded, now this awful assault on the arts in universities”, she tweeted pithily of the news. The PM has apparently told friends of his struggles to get by on his handsome prime ministerial salary so he should know how arts organisations feel.

Tan Twan Eng, Booker Prize nominated for both of his novels, The Gift of Rain (2007) and The Garden of Evening Mists (2012) was asked recently about his rules for writing. He demurred before coming up with a pretty tidy mantra for would-be novelists. First, “Somerset Maugham said he had only one rule in his writing: ‘Clarity, clarity, clarity.’ I try to adhere closely to that, to make my writing as lucid as possible.” Second, he revealed he did indeed have some personal dos and don’ts: “A handful of my own rules include don’t resort to clichéd writing, ever; don’t be pretentious in your writing style; don’t adopt all the latest textual trends and gimmicks; and the most essential rule of all, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.” There, follow his advice and you won’t go too far wrong.