Marlowe aside, writers are probably the last people you'd expect to find in a bar brawl. But next Tuesday, the Old Queen's Head in Islington, north London will be the venue for Europe's first "Literary Death Match". Courtesy of Opium, an American literary magazine, the death match has become a feature of the cultural calendar in cities across the US, featuring such esteemed participants as Tom Perrotta (author of Little Children and Election), Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and Moby (the musician, not the whale).
Now that Opium has a European edition, Todd Zuniga, the magazine's founder and editor, is coming to London to host the first transatlantic death match. The future literary stars competing must come armed with a short piece of creative writing to read aloud before the audience and a panel of judges. The judges - this time including Nick Harkaway (The Gone-Away World) and Joe Dunthorne (Submarine) – score each piece according to a strict(ish) set of criteria, and the winners advance to the final, death-match round. Past death matches have reportedly included obstacle courses, laser tag battles and sack races.
Ben Greenman, an editor at the New Yorker and 12-time death-match judge, has been to his share of Manhattan publishing events. "The Literary Death Match somehow combines the best things about literature (love of language and craft, respect for both tradition and innovation)," he says, "mixed with a rare, anarchic energy. It's a captivating blend of Def Poetry Jam, Double Dare and American Idol. Only way more fun."