Sable Shadow and The Presence just received its sixth literary award: Reader’s Choice Awards 2014: Honourable Mention, Memoir/ Autobiography/Biography. I am grateful for the recognition, but I’m not sure Sable Shadow and The Presence fits into the Memoir/Autobiography/Biography category. As fiction, it isn’t an autobiography, and while my dictionary doesn’t say so, I think that, in common usage, the subject of a memoir or biography is a real person, living or dead. Any way, thank you, Reader’s Choice.
Four of the awards were presented in Hollywood on the 22nd of March. If Hollywood were a bit less than a 10 hour flight away, I might have gone to receive the awards. I tried to call on family members in the vicinity of Hollywood to attend on my behalf, without success. If someone had been able to attend for me, and if they wanted to know what to say in the way of an acceptance speech, I would have given them the gist of my acceptance at the London Book Festival (fifth award – runner-up – general fiction), which was:
When I started to write Sable Shadow and The Presence, I had in mind writing it in the first person (as a fictional autobiography) – something I had never done before. I also wanted the story to be about a person, who, as a child, hears voices that he eventually attributes to representatives of God and the devil. I wrote about four chapters and sent them to a friend of mine who is very well educated, a reader of quality literature and quite direct in his views on matters of interest. He sent me an email a couple of weeks later in which he said: “Boring!”
I had to admit that I saw his point, and I, too, was struggling with the book. I put it aside, and I wrote The Iranian Scorpion. But, I still felt that, hidden in the basic idea, was a good book. By the time The Iranian Scorpion was finished, I had some new ideas to add to the abandoned manuscript. I wanted to say some things about existentialism, human identity, tragedy, religion and relationships. So, I developed a new outline, re-wrote the first four chapters and finished the novel. It was edited and published. I decided to give the printer’s proof copy to my friend Peter, who had thought that my aborted attempt was ‘Boring!”‘. About three days later, I got an email from him in which he said: “Congratulations Bill! An outstanding achievement! I couldn’t put it down, meals no meals, I swallowed the book in two days. Your prose has become self assured. you dominate it, rather than being dominated by it. The research, as ever is superb, and also completely open to being understood by the layman. . . . You have certainly managed to recreate life as it is lived – even to the pertinent introduction of the meta-physical element – though a bit wobbly in spots, it stands solid, protected by Sartre. . . . I like it and feel close to it – I guess that’s one of the reasons why I think it such a remarkable creation. Your progressive development of style, skills and plot makes my mouth water for the goodies to come.Thank you from me, but really from all your readers.”
In London, I said I wanted to thank Peter for his two critiques, but, in particular, for the first critique. And I thanked the London Book Festival for their selection.