Bob Mortimer up for a literary award

Plus Fergus Craig, Sophie McCartney, India Knight, James Hannaham and Aravind Jayan

Comedians Bob Mortimer, Fergus Craig and Sophie McCartney are among those shortlisted for this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction

The award is the UK’s longest running prize for the genre and previous winners have included bestselling novelists Christopher Brookmyre, Nina Stibbe, Paul Torday and Helen Fielding.

The judges for this year’s prize were:, comedians Pippa Evans and  Sindhu Vee, broadcaster  James Naughtie,  Peter Florence,  a festival producer, David Campbell, publisher at  Everyman’s Library,  and Justin Albert, vice president of Hay Festival and director of National Trust Wales.

Here are the six books chosen, along with their official description and a judge’s  citation.

Darling by India Knight
Published by Fig Tree (Penguin Random House)

A razor-sharp, gloriously funny retelling of Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. Marooned in a sprawling farmhouse in Norfolk, teenage Linda Radlett feels herself destined for greater things. She longs for love, but how will she ever find It? She can't even get a signal on her mobile phone. Linda's strict, former rockstar father terrifies any potential suitors away, while her bohemian mother, wafting around in silver jewellery, answers Linda's urgent questions about love with upsettingly vivid allusions to animal husbandry.

David Campbell says: "India Knight’s Darling is a delicious update of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, with Uncle Matthew a curmudgeonly difficult ageing 60’s rockstar living hilariously with his family in deepest Norfolk."

Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta by James Hannaham
Published by Europa Editions

The raucous, irreverent, and heart wrenching story of a transgender woman’s re-entry into life on the outside after over twenty years in incarceration told over one whirlwind Fourth of July weekend. Following her involvement in a liquor store robbery during her youth, Carlotta Mercedes has been in a men’s prison for twenty-three years. Now she has finally been released and is heading home to the newly gentrified Brooklyn, re-entering the orbit of her ambivalent son and adjusting to life as a quasi-free woman, restricted by parole rulings and the hostility of contemporary New York. 

Peter Florence says: "Hannaham creates a mesmerising voice and character when, after 20 years in a men’s prison, his protagonist, Carlotta, a trans woman negotiates re-entry into a much-changed Brooklyn. This is savage, shocking humour that plays with tone and texture and tale to make the reader give more of a shit than we’d ever imagined."

Mother Hens by Sophie McCartney
Published by HarperNorth (HarperCollins)

Cara Carmichael’s bestie is finally getting hitched, and she’s over the moon because it means one thing. They’re going to Ibiza! For Cara, it’s a chance to forget about her messy divorce and explosive feud with a stardom-seeking sister and Pina-Colada pickled mother. Four friends, three nights, two murders. One heck of an adventure. A rollocking rollercoaster ride from Ibiza to Vegas, via Cheshire, Mother Hens makes you laugh, wince, and wonder what any of us are really capable of when push comes to shove.

Pippa Evans says: "Mother Hens tells the tale of Cara Carmichael, as she navigates her messy divorce at the hen do of all hen dos. Hold on to your pelvic floor as Sophie McCartney paints a vivid picture of motherhood, friendship and revenge, served up in a margarita glass. What happens in Ibiza…"

Murder at Crime Manor by Fergus Craig
Published by Sphere (Little, Brown)

Detective Roger LeCarre. Scourge of crime. Guardian of Exeter. Amateur squash player. And now, party guest at Powderham, the manor house owned by mysterious billionaire tech genius Eli Quartz. It is a small and unconventional gathering: the Bishop, a fading radio star, a desperate aristocrat, the aging butler and his absurdly beautiful daughter - and Detective Roger LeCarre. Then a snowstorm blows in and the group realise they are trapped. And when, completely against expectations for this kind of situation, someone winds up dead, it's obvious who must solve the crime. Obvious, but for the fact the murder weapon was in Detective Roger LeCarre's hand, and the body was at his feet...

James Naughtie says: "Fergus Craig's detective Roger LeCarre is loveable, funny and absurd. His adventures are self-obsessed but also ridiculously show-offy. This book is Wodehousian in spirit and style. You laugh out loud, and you wonder how it is that in a staged country-house setting, where murder is done, you can still care. And then you realise that you've enjoyed it. A fictional romp to savour."

Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors by Aravind Jayan
Published by Serpent’s Tail (Profile Books)

It is a day of triumph for Appa and Amma, who have driven home a shiny new Honda Civic to show off to their neighbours in Blue Hills housing colony. But their eldest son Sreenath is behaving strangely, and his younger brother soon finds out why: a clip of Sreenath and his girlfriend Anita has been posted to a porn site, and is gaining traction. When the news breaks, their parents' anxiously acquired status is shattered, and the war between them becomes a viral story, emblematic of a wider generational fight. Full of bittersweet comedy, and insight into contemporary Indian society and an online generation, this is a story about now with the feel of an instant classic. 

Sindhu Vee says: "Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors is a sharply observed story of family, love in all its myriad forms, rebellion, coming to terms with one's self and the extraordinary power the internet wields over all this, set in a refreshingly specific modern Indian context and relayed in a startlingly simple, pithy and hilarious voice."

The Satsuma Complex by Bob Mortimer
Published by Gallery (Simon & Schuster)

Gary Thorn goes for a pint with a work acquaintance called Brendan. When Brendan leaves early, Gary meets a girl in the pub. He doesn’t catch her name, but falls for her anyway. When she suddenly disappears without saying goodbye, all Gary has to remember her by is the book she was reading: The Satsuma Complex. But when Brendan goes missing, Gary needs to track down the girl he now calls Satsuma to get some answers.

Justin Albert says: ‘Bob Mortimer’s debut novel is one of the funniest and most entertaining books of the last ten years.  That rarest of rare creations; a superbly comic book that also tells a blisteringly good page-turning story.’

The winner will be announced at a reception in November in London. They receive a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année, the complete set of the Everyman’s Library P.G. Wodehouse collection - plus a pig named after their winning book.

Chair of the judges, Peter Florence said: ‘Reading this shortlist is a joy. The bubbling up of laughter, the delight at the grace of good writing, and the sheer pleasure of responding to the world with humour has never seemed so vital.

‘There’s a whole spectrum here of farce, satire, parody, and a gentler, witty geniality that the jury commend to you, warmly and with confidence. Right, we’re off to find a Gloucester Old Spot and a Jeroboam. Happy reading!;

Victoria Carfantan of Bollinger added: ‘From the submissions that have been received, 2023 has clearly been a stellar year for comic fiction.’

The shortlist was chosen from 73 submissions, published between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023.

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Published: 4 Oct 2023


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