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15 Oct 2003 16:50
Now, at least, he can start to pay that money back. The many creditors of the novelist DBC Pierre were given a crumb of comfort on Tuesday when the self-confessed serial “cheating bastard” won literature’s most famous prize—the Man Booker—in an extraordinary final twist to an already bizarre story.
Pierre, the nom de plume of the reformed Mexican-Australian wildman Peter Finlay, is the oddest and most controversial character to have won the award, which made the careers of Salman Rushdie, JM Coetzee and Margaret Atwood.
Last week he confessed to the London-based Guardian newspaper to betraying and fleecing his friends in a decade-long rampage over four continents that culminated in swindling an elderly American artist out of his home.
But three years ago, having fled to Ireland, a repentant Finlay began to swop the life of a fantasist for that of a fiction writer and created a character in Vernon God Little who has been called the Huckleberry Finn of the Eminem generation.
It was this rollicking debut, rather than his Rabelaisian personal life that mesmerised the judges, Professor John Carey, their chairperson, insisted.
Carey called the book “a coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm and fascination with modern America”.
In an intriguing twist to the tale, the odds on Pierre shortened dramatically in the last few days to 2-1 from 5-1.
Martyn Goff, the director of the prize, said only once before in its 35-year history had the judges made such a quick decision.
“It was amazing, it was all over within an hour. Four of the five judges jumped at Pierre and the fifth was not unhappy. I am absolutely shocked myself by the speed of it.”—Â
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