The From Judging Room
The Inside Word
There’s sometimes a perception the Clarke judges favour certain kinds of books. This isn’t borne out by the evidence, says director Tom Hunter, who claims that books from across the genre have won down the years. “The judges are not ‘the judges’, they change every year,” he says. “No judging panel is the same.”
So what’s it like to be a judge? First up, says Liz Williams, judge in 2011 and 2013, judges have to confront “the unfamiliar sense of despair that overcomes one when receiving yet another box of books’. This is, she concedes, “one of the first worldiest of first-world problems”. Adds Jon Courtenay Grimwood (2010 and 2011): “All I remember is having to read some of the bloody books three times and resenting reading a handful of them even once.”
Once the judges have whittled down the shortlisted six, the arguments begin. Or don’t. Was there caffeine fuelled wrangling? “Good lord, we didn’t drink coffee,” says Williams. “We met in a pub and had a series of rather nice lunches – for which we individually paid, incidentally, in case the reader thinks we were squandering Clarke Award funds like Tory party grandees. It was very civilised.”
Nevertheless, there have certainly been years when there has been drama. Our best advice for finding out about these years? Ply a friendly judge with booze at your nearest convention.
A bit of light reading? 2013’s submissions pile.