Six of the Best

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The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award shortlist readings

These days I seem to be shuttling between book events at Daunt’s in London’s Marylebone Road and Waterstones’ flagship store in the old Simpson’s Art Deco palace on Piccadilly. I was at the latter just over a week ago for the launch of Meike Ziervogel’s excellent new novel The Photographer, and back last Thursday to hear the six writers shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award read from their work.

The award is presented annually for the most promising debut published in Britain during the previous year. From its inception in 1954, it has consistently picked out novelists who have gone on to have long and distinguished careers. Early winners included Brian Moore for Judith Hearne and Alan Sillitoe for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and the prize was subsequently awarded to Paul Bailey, Gilbert Adair, Jackie Kay and Diran Adebayo.

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Just the Facts? Some thoughts on writing non-fiction

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Talk given at the Authors’ Club in London, 26th April 2017

Ryszard Kapuściński: Some of it was true

The term ‘non-fiction’ is freighted with implications and expectations. The chief of them is an implicit contract with the reader that what is to be found between the covers will be truth rather than fictive invention. ‘But what is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.’ Of course the author of a work of non-fiction has a responsibility to the facts, but the relationship is never a straightforward one, because even supposed facts are open to interpretation.

Genre is significant here too: the different categories of non-fiction – history, biography, travelogue, nature writing, memoir and the wider genre now known as ‘life writing’ – lay claim to differing balances between objectivity and subjectivity.

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