Everybody has a pet writer or two. One of mine is William Boyd. I like to pretend I discovered him because I read one of his books without anyone having recommended him. Better still, I like to pretend I am him. Or at least that I could write like him, a little, if I really, really, really tried.
That's why I'm so pissed that he hasn't won the Booker.
OK, I know this is art, not athletics, and I shouldn't worry so much about prizes. But STILL... Is Boyd a stealth wanker, who's pissed off too many influential people to win? No, couldn't be. I mean, Salman Rushdie has pissed people off--and not just Muslim clerics, book people--and he won the Booker of Bookers for Allah's sake. Maybe he's really bad at meeting entry deadlines? He told people that he'd turn it down if they offered it? There's some form he doesn't know needs to be filled out? There's simply no other explanation. Here's proof.
2006 - clear from the first three chapters that Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss isn't a patch on Boyd's Restless (among many other books)
2002 - Boyd's Any Human Heart v. Life of Pi. Life of Pi! Life of Pi! Maybe if fellow shortlister Dirt Music had won it. But! Life! Of! Pie!
1991 - Boyd's Brazzaville Beach v. Ben Okri's The Famished Road. Haven't read Famished. Strong doubts, though. Amazon says its about a "spirit child" and that "at the heart of this hypnotic novel are the mysteries of love and human survival." Generally difficult to sound that bad and be good at the same time.
1988 - Boyd's The New Confessions v. Peter Carey's Oscar & Lucinda. Hmmmm.
1982 - Boyd's An Ice-cream War (at least it was nominated) v. Schindler's List. No comment.
Not convinced? What if I told you none of those books, apart from An Ice-Cream War, made the short list. Maybe a few were on the long list, I don't know. If they weren't, somebody needs to start kicking some Commonwealth ass. Or just give the guy the name National Book Award, the Pulitzer. Something.