In the prime of death: The artists who didn't make it to the podium in this life

Bernadine Bishop could be the first writer to win the Costa Book of the Year posthumously

Bernadine Bishop died in July, just months after the publication of her autobiographical novel, Unexpected Lessons in Love. She lived to enjoy ecstatic reviews, but not to see her name on the shortlist for the Costa Book of the Year, announced this week. In January, Bishop may become the first author to win the prize posthumously, an honour that has been bestowed – sometimes after decades – on some of the world's most important cultural figures.

John Kennedy Toole, a young novelist from New Orleans, abandoned a manuscript in his wardrobe after an agonising process of revision and rejection by publishers. Depressed, he killed himself in 1969, aged 31. Toole's mother, Thelma, retrieved the work and spent years battling to convince editors of its merit. "Each time it came back, I died a little," she said.

In 1976, Thelma targeted Walker Percy, an author at a New Orleans university, eventually storming his office and demanding that he read her son's book. He did, "first with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity; surely it was not possible that it was so good."

In 1980, just 2,500 copies of A Confederacy of Dunces were printed, the first of more than a million. A year later, Toole won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

After her brilliantly matter-of-fact receipt of the news that she had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the late Doris "Oh Christ!" Lessing later added that, because it couldn't be awarded posthumously, judges "were probably thinking they'd better give it to me now before I've popped off". She was right: Nobel conditions exclude the dead, but once were relaxed for a Swede called Erik Axel Karlfeldt. The poet was also chair of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, and in 1918 he politely excluded himself from consideration. He was nominated again in 1931 but died before he could withdraw – and then won.

In 1953, Dalton Trumbo watched as another man received his Oscar. He had been one of the "Hollywood Ten" who refused to testify at the US government's notorious anti-communist trials of the 1940s. Blacklisted in Hollywood, he served an 11-month prison sentence in 1950 for contempt. His screenplay won the Academy Award in 1953, but was presented to Ian McLellan Hunter, an English writer who had worked with him on the script. In 1993, 17 years after Trumbo's death, the Academy retrospectively honoured him, but the Writers Guild of America only restored his credit for Roman Holiday in 2011.

Walt Disney is among more than a dozen people to receive posthumous Oscars, but only two actors have won. Peter Finch died after a heart attack in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1977 while promoting Network, in which he plays a newsreader. Two months later, his wife, Eletha Finch, accepted the award. Heath Ledger, also an Australian, won the best supporting actor award in 2009 for his role as Joker in The Dark Knight. He died in 2008.

Alan Turing used cyanide to kill himself in 1954 at the age of 41. Two years earlier, the father of computer science and wartime codebreaker was convicted with another man of "gross indecency" under laws that prohibited homosexuality, and accepted a sentence of "chemical castration" as an alternative to prison. Last month, Attitude magazine awarded him the Icon Award for outstanding achievement. It printed his image on the cover behind the headline: "The gay man who saved the world."

Additional reporting by Rosie Neve

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?