house in Provence. Howard Jacobson (2010) bought his wife a new handbag. Marlon James (2015) went for a suit by Ozwald Boateng. Ian McEwan (1998) promised to spend it on “something perfectly useless rather than fritter it on bus fares and linoleum”. “Over-my-dead-body” moment number two. As written in a letter by Joanna Lumley, a judge in 1985, to the Booker’s administrator. She hated the eventual winner, Keri Hulme’s The Bone People, and was annoyed that her vote wouldn’t count as she PUNCH-UP: Fay Weldon caused fists to fly couldn’t attend the final judging. “I am astonished by the spite, inaccuracy and ill-feeling this wretched prize has attracted,” she wrote.
The same evening, Fay Weldon made a speech attacking publishers’ treatment of authors. “Later a leading publisher walked over to our table and punched my agent,” she says. Weldon was then banned from attending the Booker.
Yann Martell’s Life Of Pi is one of the best-selling novels in the Booker’s history, shifting 13 million copies since winning in 2002.
Martell’s small Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate’s turnover rose by 50 per cent the year after the win, from £2million to £3million. The following year it was £6million.
A week after George Saunders won for Lincoln In The Bardo Daily Express Saturday October 13 2018 in 2017, sales shot up by 1,227 per cent. “Winning has an enormous impact on a writer’s life,” says Booker publicist Dotti Irving. “They become an instant millionaire. They won’t get peace and quiet though.”
Winner Penelope Lively (1987) says: “It gobbles up your time and it takes a couple of years to step back from.” Eleanor Catton (2013) admits: “It took me a long time to start writing again, maybe four years.”
Winning authors are automatically considered for the next five years. A maximum of 13 books are allowed on the longlist, and six on the shortlist. This year’s judges read 150 books each.
Beryl Bainbridge was shortlisted five times without winning. After her death in 2010, Master Georgie, set in the Crimean War, was given a specially created Best of Beryl Booker. Former Booker director Ion Trewin said when she lost out: “She would say, ‘Oh well, have another puff of her cigarette and a drink.’ ”
When Hilary Mantel won in 2009 she “shot to my feet as if fired out of a cannon”. When she repeated the win in 2012 she said: “You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize and then two come along at once.” Literary critic Robert McCrum helped judge the Golden Man Booker this year, with Michael Ondaatje’s work The English Patient named as the best of 50 winners. McCrum says the prize occupies a place in our affections somewhere between the Grand National and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.
Barneys, Books And Bust Ups: 50 Years Of The Booker Prize is on BBC Four at 9pm on Monday. The 2018 Booker Prize ceremony is on Tuesday.
CONTROVERSY: (clockwise from top left) Anthony Burgess insulted William Golding, Malcolm Muggeridge stood down over ‘porn’ and David Storey won on the toss of a coin