Ever read William Boyd’s Any Human Heart? I become increasingly convinced that his narrator, Logan, was onto something when he wrote that ‘all your life amounts to in the end [is] the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience’.
Well, I had a bit of good luck. I got shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel.
I’ve been scrawling away at a dark and jaunty Edwardian crime novel called The Tin Face Parade for years. It’s not exactly what you’d call literary fiction – a tinsmith gets one of his tools hammered through his head on the first page – but it’s the sort of thing I like to read, and if you’re going to invest several years in something that might never see the light of day then you might as well enjoy it.
Occasionally I’ve sent it off to agents and have clocked up the usual ledger of silence and rejection, but perhaps this was actually good luck in disguise, because I later sent it off to a competition for an unpublished novel, and got down to the last five out of nearly 1,200 entries.
I didn’t win the Bridport (though I did get to hear and read snippets of the winner and runner-up’s novels, and I genuinely can’t wait to read the full works), but it was rather wonderful getting shortlisted. Sort of thing that makes you puff your chest out a bit. I sat at the prizegiving lunch at the Bridport Arts Centre surrounded by talented, likeable people, and mixed in with the taste of toothpaste and prosecco was the most delicious savour of impostor syndrome. Later I went up and got a cheque off Kamila Shamsie and my brother shed a sneaky tear of pride.
I’ve still no idea if the inept investigators of The Tin Face Parade will have that extra bit of luck that gets them onto a printed page, but it feels just a smidge closer. Even if they remain forever smoking their cigars in the obscurity of some seedy pub in 1907, they’ve given me a fine experience to treasure – which is especially noble given the terrible things I’ve done to them.