The inaugural "Hatchet Job of the Year Award" was won by Adam Mars-Jones last Tuesday evening at a packed ceremony at the Coach & Horses in Greek Street, Soho, famous as the former home of Norman Balon, "the rudest landlord in London".
The prize has been set up by the literary magazine The Omnivore, "not to punish bad writing, but to reward good writing" and celebrate literary criticism that is brave enough to cut through the hype and tell it like it is.
So it was a happy coincidence that the venue was full of people who were doing, or had done, exactly that. So oversubscribed was the party (there's nothing literary journalists like better than talking about themselves over a free glass of fizz and some shrimpy canapés, kindly provided by The Fish Society) that at the height of the celebrations the highly-lauded "door bitches" had to operate a one-in-one-out policy, and nobody was allowed in at all until the dot of 7pm. One of the hacks to arrive early actually used the words "Do you know who I am?", but when staff replied "No, who are you?" he refused to give his name.
Between the Covers spent most of the evening trying not to catch the eye of Rachel Johnson, one of the Award's judges, having written a hatchet job about her well within a writer's memory. So we hid behind the battered prawns and another well-known critic, who said: "Oh, that's nothing." Some years ago, this reviewer, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote a scathing review of the autobiography of the cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, which he assures us was pompous, facile and badly-written. He later learned that his review had been passed around hilariously by the Test Match Special team during a cricket tour, until Blofeld himself caught sight of it. "The next day," the reviewer confessed, "he had a heart attack. I still feel awful."
Of course, Blofeld recovered to write another day, as will the victims of all the hatchet jobs considered for the prize. Most shortlisted reviewers turned up for the party, incidentally. None of the shortlisted reviewees did, but maybe next year, after they get to hear about the crab in filo pastry, they'll be braver.
Hello, thanks and POW! to the London Super Comic Convention, where last week's Independent on Sunday interviewee, the genius comics creator Stan Lee (inset above), will be the guest of honour. LSCC has given The IoS 10 pairs of weekend tickets to give away to our readers. Just go to independent.co.uk/comicconvention by Wednesday 22nd February and tell us which of the following villains was not created by Stan Lee: Magneto, Dr Doom, Venom or Kingpin. The first 10 correct entries to be pulled out of the hat will each win a pair of weekend passes to the convention at London's Excel Centre on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 February.
The organisers tell us: "When we set our sights on Stan to attend, we knew we had an uphill struggle, as Stan hasn't appeared at a UK convention officially for nearly 40 years."
Now, the closest equivalent to God among comics fans (we know, we've watched The Big Bang Theory) will be not only appearing but also offering informal chats to small groups of fans who buy a VIP package in advance of the convention.
"Having Stan attend is like a dream come true for any reader of comics, past or present," the organisers tells us, "and this may very well be the last time he attends a UK convention, so it was almost our duty to make this a reality." Tickets and information are available at londonsupercomic convention.com.