Thursday, 3 September 2015

Literary Death Match

First things first - What, you might ask, is a Literary Death Match?  well, it's a book event created by Adrain Todd Zuniga in which authors are pitted against each other in a sort of speed dating way. Each author reads a five minute snippet from their work, they're marked by content, delivery and 'intangibles' by three celebrity judges, and the winners of the two heats go forward into a vaguely-literary games show knock-out final round.
Now I'd heard of this through Twitter but had written it off as an 'only ever in London' event, so was delighted to see that as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Literary Death Match had moved north, putting on eight shows in eight days, and even more delighted when I won tickets to an event.

For this day the judging panel was made up of Tom Salinsky (author), Declan Michael Baird (actor) and Mark Billingham (crime author, actor, musician, stand up comedian etc etc), and the four authors to be put under the spotlight were Julie Mayhew (a teen/YA author, her latest novel The Big Lie is set in an alternate Nazi-ruled Britain), Alvy Carragher (poet, story-teller, You-Tuber, wannabe novelist), Dan Tyte (former journalist, short story writer, and now with his debut novel Half Plus Seven published) and a double act, Alecos Papadatos and Abraham Kawa (artist/illustrator and writer, respectively, of graphic novel democracy)

First to take the stage were Julie Mayhew and Alvy Carragher; Julie read an excerpt from The Big Lie, and Alvy performed Numb, a poem about consent and 'No', which you can find here. In my opinion, Alvy's was the more powerful, thought-provoking piece of the two, but the judges decided to disallow it on the grounds that the rules stated a piece should be read rather than performed.
On to the men.... while Abraham read from their novel, with different accents and gestures for each character, Alecos drew the scene, then Dan read not from his novel, which he didn't think 5 minutes would do justice to, but a short story about a night-out in Cardiff. This time I agreed with the judges in awarding Dan that round.
The finale!! A literary spelling bee - Julie and Dan tried their best to spell some of the trickier names among the ranks of novelists; Toibin, Solzhenitsyn, Ngosi Adichie - we've all heard of them, but can we spell them? I'm rather glad no one asked me to try! Julie Mayhew proved to be the better of the two and was crowned winner.


If you feel that book events have to be serious, even potentially dull, events with learned types sitting around discussing the finer points of prose style, then you need to think again! Actually I've never been to a book event of any sort that was that dull but Literary Death Match certainly packs more fun and laughs into the presentation than your average book event. It's a great way to get to sample a range of writing - I originally hoped to go to the last LDM in Edinburgh with Chris Brookmyre and Doug Johnstone appearing (two Scottish crime writers whose work I love) but time didn't permit that and so I saw four writers of whom I knew virtually nothing but whose work I'll now be tracking down.

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