Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Australian-born writer wins Booker prize

Australian-born author Peter Finlay, aka DBC Pierre, has won the Booker Prize.

Australian first-time novelist and reformed drug addict DBC Pierre has won the Booker Prize, Britain's most famous and coveted literary award, for his debut novel Vernon God Little.

Pierre, 42, who lives in Ireland, headed a shortlist of six writers for the annual contemporary fiction award and a $125,000 prize.

His book is a darkly comic tale of a Texan teenager put on trial for a high school massacre.

Pierre thanked his family for his success as he was presented with the award at a gala dinner at the British Museum in London.

"I have to thank my folks, my mum is here tonight," he said to loud applause.

"She and the rest of my family planted the idea that I could do anything and I just want to apologise for taking it so literally up to now."

He says he will be giving the prizemoney to his debtors.

"It is about a third of what I owe in the world," he said. "I am going to pay some debts."

Chairman of the five-strong judging panel, Professor John Carey, praised Pierre's novel as "a coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm but also our fascination with modern America".

Professor Carey said panelists did not always see eye to eye when picking the shortlist.

"They are all extremely well written this year," he said.

"There has been more attention to plot and excitement than in previous years."

Pierre, whose real name is Peter Finlay, has his own dark past and recently admitted spending nine years in a drug-induced "haze".

His initials DBC stand for Dirty But Clean.

He was born in Australia in 1961 and grew up in Mexico.

Pierre becomes the third Australian to win the prize after Peter Carey and Thomas Keneally.

Bookmakers had tipped Bangladeshi-born Londoner Monica Ali and her first novel Brick Lane for the title.

Entrants must be from Commonwealth countries or Ireland.

By Charles Dickens 15 October 03


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