Clarkson vs Morgan: rivals go head to head for book prize

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The Independent Culture

The last time that the former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan and the motoring correspondent Jeremy Clarkson were at the same ceremony, the delicate subject of the reporting of the latter's personal life provoked a punch-up.

So with the announcement yesterday that they will be rivals for the same prize at this year's British Book Awards, organisers claimed to be planning an enforced exclusion zone between them.

The two are in the running for the book of the year for their respective works The Insider and The World According to Clarkson. But they face stiff competition at next month's ceremony from JK Rowling, Jamie Oliver and Sharon Osbourne, as well as the autobiography of John Peel completed by his wife, Sheila Ravenscroft.

The awards are the publishing industry's recognition of titles across every genre, shortlisted by an academy of publishers and former winners - who include David Beckham for his autobiography, although it is not known whether he has voted.

Members of the public can now join the academy in voting for the final winners to be announced on 29 March and broadcast on Channel 4 two days later.

The television presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, who have their own prize chosen by their book club readers, say last year's ceremony, which they hosted, was watched by 1.2 million people on television, four times more than saw the Booker.

The eclecticism of the competition means that the Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón, whose book The Shadow of the Wind has been a word-of-mouth bestseller, faces rivals such as the Man Booker winner John Banville for author of the year.

Banville, who regards himself as cursed for always having been regarded as "a writer's writer", welcomed the chance of a broader audience. "In the words of Dylan Thomas, 'It's not for the great and the good that I write, it's for the blonde and the blue-eyed'."

Lionel Shriver, who won the Orange Prize for We Need To Talk About Kevin, is in the running for the crime thriller award, against the veteran crime author PD James. "It is a genre I don't really think of myself as writing in," Shriver said. "It's interesting to be put in a different frame of reference."

Laurence Rees, the BBC television documentary maker, admitted he was " almost more pleased with this than anything", after his book on Auschwitz was shortlisted for the history prize against heavyweight rivals such as Orhan Pamuk, Tom Holland, and Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.

Zadie Smith heads the field for the Arts Council-backed decibel writer of the year for African, Caribbean and Asian writers.

Diana Evans, one of her rivals for the prize, said: "I think it helps get ethnic minority writers in the limelight. Eventually in an ideal world you won't have a need."

Having watched the British Book Awards last year, she said: "I couldn't believe how glamorous it was... it takes literature into a different sphere, into a much more commercial sphere."

Marina Lewycka, one of four authors up for newcomer of the year, for her Orange-shortlisted novel A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, said: "I had the idea being a writer was the solitary thing where you write. I had no idea you go to awards and have to wear posh frocks."

The shortlists

BEST BOOK

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J K Rowling; The Insider, Piers Morgan; Jamie's Italy, Jamie Oliver; Margrave of the Marshes, John Peel & Sheila Ravenscroft; Sharon Osbourne Extreme: My Autobiography, Sharon Osbourne; The World According to Clarkson; Jeremy Clarkson

BEST AUTHOR

John Banville; Alan Bennett; Kazuo Ishiguro; Carlos Ruiz Zafon

BEST BIOGRAPHY

Margrave of the Marshes, John Peel & Sheila Ravenscroft; Next to You, Gloria Hunniford; Sharon Osbourne Extreme: My Autobiography, Sharon Osbourne; Stuart: A Life Backwards, Alexander Masters

BEST CHILDREN'S BOOK

And That's When It Fell Off In My Hand, Louise Rennison; Ark Angel, Anthony Horowitz; Eldest, Christopher Paolini; I, Coriander, Sally Gardner; SilverFin, Charlie Higson; Wizardology, Dugald Steer

BEST CRIME THRILLER

Lifeless, Mark Billingham, The Lighthouse, PD James; The Take, Martina Cole; We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

BEST NEWCOMER

Stephen Clarke, A Year in the Merde; Mark Gatiss, The Vesuvius Club; Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian; Marina Lewycka, A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian

BEST POPULAR FICTION

Labyrinth, Kate Mosse; My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult; The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger; The Undomestic Goddess, Sophie Kinsella

BEST SPORTS BOOK

Being Freddie, Andrew Flintoff; My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes, Gary Imlach; Race Against Time, Ellen MacArthur; What If I Had Never Tried It, Valentino Rossi

BEST HISTORY BOOK

Auschwitz, Laurence Rees; Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk; Mao, Jung Chang & Jon Halliday; Persian Fire, Tom Holland

BEST TV & FILM BOOK

Coast, Christopher Somerville; The Constant Gardener, John Le Carre; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis; Rick Stein's French Odyssey, Rick Stein

BEST WRITER

Nadeem Aslam, Maps for Lost Lovers; Diana Evans, 26a; Helen Oyeyemi, The Icarus Girl; Zadie Smith, On Beauty

BEST READ

The History of Love, Nicole Krauss; Labyrinth, Kate Mosse; The Farm, Richard Benson; The Conjuror's Bird, Martin Davies; Arthur & George, Julian Barnes; The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, Eva Rice; Moondust, Andrew Smith; March, Geraldine Brooks; Empress, Orchid Anchee Min; The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly

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