Radio review: Marlon James on Man Booker win

Nuala McCann

Today Radio 4

It is sobering to learn that even Man Booker winners don't just sit tippy tapping in book lined studies, sipping coffee and waiting for the Muse to nudge them gently on the shoulder.

The latest winner, Jamaican author Marlon James, who won for A Brief History of Seven Killings was philosophical about his struggle.

He told the Today programme that his book was rejected 78 times before he found a publisher.

He had to sit down and count how often they'd said no.

He had actually erased this year's winning novel from his computer and it was only thanks to a copy lying in an outbox on an old Apple Mac that he was able to retrieve it. It was the story of legend.

Elvis Costello is legend too. On the day that the singer songwriter's memoir was released, he spoke to BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz.

There was plenty of wry humour – how he had “a face for radio” – “I can't think of a picture of me where I look remotely like a rock star.”

He was asked to write his autobiography when he was 24. But he had to live a little and so he did... even getting himself arrested in a publicity stunt in America that earned him a £5 fine and a music contract.

Music was in the fabric of his life – his father performed, his mother was very involved and his grandfather travelled the world playing a trumpet.

There was wry wit in his confession that he was “painfully possessive” about music as a teenager: “I didn't want it tainted by anything like making a living from it.”

But he ended up doing just that... one week he was working in an office and two weeks later he was on the front of Melody Maker.

Gompertz asked about his infamous clash with Ray Charles and the use of the “n” word – a story covered in his autobiography.

“It took me a long time to write that short chapter,” he said tentatively.

And there was David Essex and those tours. Costello noted that David Essex plays Grimsby and Inverness – if David does it, why can't he? Costello following in Essex's footsteps?

Equally bizarre was the revelation that he had just turned down panto.

They offered him Captain Hook but it is Christmas... he will be with his children, he said.


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