Matthew Todd, Bantam author and award-winning editorial director of gay magazine Attitude, is among the six authors shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize, awarded annually to a writer whose first book (whether poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction) explores what it is to be LGBT.
This year’s “eclectic” shortlist, spanning crime fiction, short story and memoir, was revealed on Monday evening (31st July) at the Polari Literary Salon in London’s Southbank Centre. It brings together three male and three female writers, hailing from Kuwait to Cardiff, whose work was said by the judges to offer a range of perspectives on the LGBT experience.
Todd (pictured), currently editorial director of Attitude, is shortlisted for Straight Jacket (Bantam). The book explores why statistics show a disproportionate number of gay people suffer from mental health problems and offers advice how to overcome difficult issues.
Joining him on the shortlist are Chitra Ramaswamy, Saleem Haddad, Jules Grant, Crystal Jeans, and Orlando Ortega-Medina.
Haddad is shortlisted for Guapa (Europa Editions UK), the story of a young gay man set in a post-Arab Spring dictatorship in the Middle East over the course of one day, highlighted as part of W H Smith Travel’s gay literature promotion to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.
Ramaswamy is shortlisted for Expecting (Saraband), a memoir about the author’s experience of pregnancy while in a relationship with another woman.
A treat coming up for crime-thriller bookworms: join the York branch of Waterstones bookstore as they head over to York Explore to welcome number one bestseller, Val McDermid as she returns with her pulse-pounding, suspenseful new novel Insidious Intent, featuring two of the most distinctive and iconic characters in crime fiction, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan.
When charred human remains are discovered in the driver’s seat of a burning car, DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Tony Hill are brought in to investigate. They soon discover that what appeared to be a terrible accident is, in fact, murder. Delving deeper into the case, they begin the dangerous hunt for a most sinister killer with the power to inflict untold fear and pain on their victims…
Part of the BBC’s Gay Britannia season, here was a programme fulfilling what it said on the tin: prominent LGBTQ (when will all these expanding acronyms cease to confuse us all) figures narrating, examining, discussing, analysing, letting it all hang out about LGBTQ folk and the arts during the past half-century.
The usual suspects were interviewed, from Maggi Hambling – her smoking more shocking than anything else on the programme – to Stephen Fry, Sandy Toksvig and David Hockney, although there was no Alan Bennett or Grayson Perry.
In the 1960s before the act that partially decriminalised homosexuality, evidently the only partly safe places were the theatre, the civil service (not examined here at all) and… hairdressing. Lesbianism was never illegal, but most of the running into the open, we were reminded, has been overwhelmingly male. Historically lesbians weren’t closeted but almost totally hidden, meaning no role models were available, but Val McDermid touchingly told us how her pin-up was Dusty Springfield.