The From Judg­ing Room

SFX - - The Clarke Award -

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.

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