I’ll Be The Judge Of That
Once upon a time, judges looked like this.
Now they look like this.
I suppose the main difference is the amount of moisterizer they use – well, that and the education, judicial acumen, knowledge of law etc. But clearly, I seem to be hitting the age where people stupidly think I’m experienced enough to judge things. I’ve been on jury panels for many types of film awards for many years now, but my duties are extending into literature.
This year I’m one of the judges for the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award for Best Novel. It involves reading an astounding number of books submitted by publishers. And here’s the funny thing; I get sent a lot of books to review for the national press, and there are often better novels here than the ones being submitted for the award.
This means something is awry. I’ll read a wonderful novel for review that hasn’t been submitted for an award, I’ll get in touch with the PR person and tell them they should submit it – and still nothing happens. The submission must be driven by the publisher, and yet the publishers will support the next dreadful novel in the ‘XYZ’ prestigious-but-talentless author’s series rather than get behind the true gem in their midst.
Clearly, a blockage occurs between the author and the judge, and it’s called the publisher’s PR. I’m blessed with a terrific PR person who knows exactly what she’s doing, but not all are as efficient as mine.
Example: I live three doors down from Pan Macmillan. They POST their books to me. Sometimes I’m out, and end up having to collect them from the depot miles away. Sometimes they simply go missing. I’ve told them repeatedly that I’ll happily come by and pick them up but no, into the post they go. It makes me worry about Pan Macmillan’s efficiency in other areas.
This summer, on June 14th, I’ll be at the South Bank doing a panel on judging – it’ll be interesting to hear other judges’ criteria for choosing.
The main thing I look for is originality of thought, of language, of ideas, and a sign that the writer has made first-hand observations and connections. Too many books feel as if they’ve been filtered through old TV shows.
And here’s a tip – if your novel starts with the discovery of a dead teenaged girl or a description of the weather, you’re going to have to work VERY hard to win back my interest!