No Prize Surprise

A saccharine edge and mock-profundity are the shared traits of the books short-listed for the 2021 Booker Prize for literature. I have to admit, I like novels with a hard edge and either no profundity or having it buried deep down inside at its heart, accessible only to the reader who can bring it up to the surface using their own insight and intuition, not have it floating on the froth of foam-flecked sentences. Ever since Kelman upset the judges with HOW LATE IT WAS, HOW LATE, the listed books seem to have become soppier and soppier. Back then, of course, publishing houses would take on an author whose work they personally thought deserved to be made available to a wide-reading public. Over the years, a few large publishers have incorporated them into gigantic structures which rely on agents to vet the work before it even lands on the publisher’s desk. Hence the near uniformity of tenor and tone in the works of literature on display in the chain bookstores, which have also gobbled up the independents. Variety and originality have all but disappeared, with the choices only apparent and not real – a veritable literary Overton window, in fact. The publishing conglomerates have a money-making formula and stick to it. When I started out there seemed every chance that my work would be taken up and successfully published; with each setback that scenario became increasingly unlikely, so that today the possibility of this ever happening has reached nearly zero. That said, I started out with the intention of publishing ten novels – interrelated along the lines of Balzac’s ‘Human Comedy’ – and that intention has become a reality. A few years ago, buoyed by earlier success with a novel supported by the editorial team at The Big Issue South-West/Cymru, I collected together my extant manuscripts, packaged them, and published them under my own Valley Independent Publishing moniker (Glyn means ‘valley’ in Welsh, in case you didn’t know). That meant my eight novels of the time were available around the world. That figure has now reached the promised ten. Sales are negligible up till now but at least the work is out there. Right at this moment, the eleventh is with an agent, and – eternally optimistic – you never know what might happen. Could be the Booker Prize will be presented with a hard-edged uplift, an opportunity for the judges to be indulged in a genuine literary squabble.

All my books are available from bookstores and Amazon, use the Look Inside feature to get an idea of their contents, and if you should be tempted to give one a try, a review would be much appreciated – it could even kick-start my career. Many thanks. Please share this post if you think you know someone who might be interested.

Glyn Ridgley

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