Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2005.
I was born in the year of the supersonic, the era of the multi-storey multivitamin multitonic, the highrise time of men with the technology and women who could be bionic, when jump jets were Harrier, when QE2 was Cunard,when thirty-eight feet tall the Princess Margaret stood stately in her hoverpad, the annee erotique was only thirty aircushioned minutes away and everything went at twice the speed of sound. I opened my eyes. It was all in colour. It didn’t look like Kansas anymore. The students were on the barricades, the mode was maxi, the Beatles were transcendental. It was Britain. It was great.
From his Icelandic father Lee Cotton gets his marble skin and blue eyes. From his mixed-race mother he gains his black identity. From his Mambo grandmother he inherits forebodings about his future. It’s a combination that sets Lee apart from the other black kids growing up in Eureka, Mississippi. It marks Lee out as slightly odd. And very white.
If childhood was confusing, adolescence proves life changing when Lee falls in love with the sublime Angelina. It’s also life threatening: Angel’s father is a freelance shooter for the Klan, who doesn’t take kindly to his daughter’s boyfriend.
An act of appalling violence leaves Lee far from home with a new identity, a draft card, a memory that operates in flashback and a mental illness that makes him a sort of genius. He also has a reputation, back home, for being dead. Nobody (except possibly his grandmother) could envisage that Lee’s rebirth is a headstart and not a handicap. His role in a quite remarkable journey through life will be to transform others as he has transformed himself…
New Year’s Eve at Toppers’ House, North London’s most popular suicide spot. And four strangers are about to discover that doing away with yourself isn’t quite the private act they’d each expected.
Perma-tanned Martin Sharp’s a disgraced breakfast TV presenter who had it all—the kids, the wife, the pad, the great career—and wasted it away. Killing himself is Martin’s logical and appropriate response to an unliveable life.
Maureen has to do it tonight, because of Matty being in the home. He was never able to do any of the normal things kids do—like walk or talk—and loving-mum Maureen can’t cope any more. Dutiful Catholic that she is, she’s ready to commit the ‘biggest sin of all’.
Half-crazed with heartbreak, loneliness, adolescent angst, seven Bacardi Breezers and two Special Brews, Jess’s ready…[more]
Los Angeles, 1991. Maximilian Ophuls, one of the makers of the modern world, is knifed to death in broad daylight on the doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India, slaughtered by his Kashmiri Muslim driver, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar the clown. The dead man is a World War II Resistance hero, a man of formidable intellectual ability and much erotic appeal, a former United States ambassador to India, and subsequently America’s counter-terrorism chief. The murder looks at first like a political assassination but turns out to be passionately personal.
This is the story of Max, his killer, and his daughter—and of a fourth character, the woman who links them, whose revelation finally explains them all. It is a narrative that moves from California to Kashmir, France, and England, and back to California again. Along the way there are tales of princesses lured from their homes by demons, legends of kings forced to defend their kingdoms against evil. There is kindness and there is magic capable of producing miracles, but there is also war—ugly, unavoidable, and seemingly interminable. And there is always love, gained and lost, uncommonly beautiful and mortally dangerous.