Letter: The secret world of intriguing lips

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The Independent Online
ZOE HELLER ('Behind an iron curtain', Review, 1 August) allegedly reports my contempt for literary prizes. The Crime Writers' Association (Letters, 8 August) point out correctly that I have accepted several of theirs. Where I have been aware in advance that my work might be submitted for a literary prize, I have refused to let it go forward.

Where a prize comes at me as a fait accompli after great stirrings and heavings by the body concerned, I have yet to muster the discourtesy to refuse, provided no financial bonanza is attached. The Crime Writers' Association's prizes came into that category. So, 30 years ago, did the Somerset Maugham Award, except that it carried a prize of pounds 500 and the obligation to write about one's foreign exploits. I never wrote about them, and I didn't need the money. So did the Blistex Beautiful Lips Award for 1983, given to me for possessing the world's most intriguing lips. A more vigilant reporter than Ms Heller might have noticed the certificate hanging in my lavatory. It was the same year, she might have recalled, that Mrs Thatcher was similarly honoured for possessing the world's stiffest upper lip.

John le Carre

London W1