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And the winner is...

21 June 11 words: James Walker
Mark Goodwin wins the East Midlands Book Award. Long live poetry!
PC Shod: Mark Goodwin. A strange, hairy, complex, kind poet who lives in a tree.

On Monday night in the beautiful surroundings of St. Mary’s Church, Lowdham, Mark Goodwin was announced the winner of the first ever East Midlands Book Award for his poetry collection Shod. This was a triumph for poetry, with the ‘Shoe Messiah’ aptly leaving a notable footprint on the literary map. Our congratulations go out to the many worthy nominees – who, it should be pointed out, beat off Jon McGregor and Graham Joyce to make it on the shortlist. That, in itself, is something to be incredibly proud of.

As with the NEAT festival, LeftLion has covered every book with author interviews and supported this project. It is a pity that other local media should choose to miss out on such a wonderful cause for celebration. But we’ve always loved a knees-up at the Lion, especially when Ian McMillan is the host. Within minutes he had everyone in stitches. He emphasised the diversity of the selection and how the power of the sentence is one way in which they were able to find common ground.

After the event we spoke to Mark Goodwin and reminded him that he’d agreed to give his partner £900 of the £1,000 prize money. We explained that perhaps maths wasn’t a poet’s strongpoint, something later proved when he said that the other £100 would be spent on poetry books from his publisher Nine Arches Press (that’s right, the ones we host Shindig! with at the Jam Cafe). He’s either really bad with money or one of those really nice people that you hear about but rarely meet. We don’t want our readers to blow £100 on books in these difficult times. We want them to spend £10 instead. Check out the eight shortlisted books below and then get down to a bookshop and buy one before it becomes a Tesco express. 

 Interview with Mark Goodwin

Shod
Mark Goodwin
£9, Nine Arches

I'd really like to see a poetry collection bag the East Midlands Book Award, and Shod, a long narrative poem by Leicestershire-based landscape poet Mark Goodwin, would be a deserving winner. Goodwin has described his third full-length collection, published by Nine Arches Press, as his 'odd and naughty book', and so it is, for this is the tale of Sidney Realer the Shoe Messiah. With one foot planted in biblical, folk and myth-making traditions, and the other in the contemporary world, this modern day parable challenges consumer culture and corruption. Surreal, darkly humorous, imaginative and rather strange, this is a book with sole. Aly Stoneman

 

 Interview with Maria Allen

Before the Earthquake
Maria Allen
£7.99, Tindal Street Press

Written and published in the urban Midlands, its soul in Italy; Before the Earthquake is fantastically atmospheric and the Salierno sisters are immaculately drawn characters. I think the triumphs of this book are the slow revelation of the truth about Concetta – this is done unusually carefully and skilfully – and the meticulous evocation of place. The Italian landscape of the early twentieth century seems familiar ground in some ways but, just as the village women “slept with their eyes open, like the cows in the field”, Maria Allen’s careful observation makes you look at the world through new eyes. Anthony Cartwright

 

 Interview with Adrian Magson

Death on the Marais
Adrian Magson
£7.99, Allison & Busby

France, 1963, and Detective Lucas Rocco isn’t best pleased at being transferred from his Paris beat to the seemingly sleepy village of Poissons-Les-Marais.  Never fear: the life of a fictional detective is rarely boring for long.  Soon a young woman in a Gestapo uniform is found dead in the local cemetery, and Rocco gets a juicy case to sink his teeth into. While Rocco isn’t as immediately arresting a character as, say, Aurelio Zen, Magson keeps things moving at a fair clip in this traditional detective story, and the unusual setting keeps things fresh. Robin Lewis

 

 Interview with Rosie Garner

The Rain Diaries
Rose Garner
£8.99, Salt

I challenge you to read this powerful collection without nodding in agreement or wincing in sympathy at least once each poem. Nottingham residents all know ‘the high tides on Clumber Street’. The ‘Prison Diary’ poems befriend uncomfortable characters without excuses or sentimentality. If you’ve been through family breakup you’ll flinch at ‘Cleave’ and ‘Wrong Word’.  Lose yourself in the final section – ‘The Maze’ – and see through eleven new pairs of eyes as you are drawn inexorably deeper. Every single poem demands compassion, and Garner’s vivid and uncompromising language won’t let you go until you find it. This is stunning poetry. Pippa Hennessy

 

 Interview with Anne Zouroudi

The Lady of Sorrows
Anne Zouroudi
£8.99, Bloomsbury

The fourth ‘Mystery of the Greek Detective’ begins with Hermes Diaktoros questioning the authenticity of a holy painting and, as with a loose thread pulled, subsequently stumbles upon all manner of deception, murder and hidden secrets. If that sounds a little too Dan Brown for you, don’t be put off because The Lady of Sorrows keeps its feet firmly within reality and its leading detective, the overweight but sharp Hermes, is extremely likeable. Set on the tiny Greek island of Kalkos, Zouroudi’s mystery unwinds at a leisurely but compelling pace, making it a perfect choice for the coming summer months. Pete Lamb

 

 Interview with Ann Featherstone

The Newgate Jig
Ann Featherstone
£7.99, John Murray

The dance of the title was slang for the convulsive movements of the condemned on the scaffold and it is with a chilling description of a public hanging in the London of the 1800s that Ann Featherstone begins her second novel.  As with her stunning debut, Walking In Pimlico, this is also set in the world of low-life entertainment, a milieu she knows so well as an expert on Victorian popular theatre.  But there is nothing academic about this nineteenth-century noir in which the amiable Bob Chapman, performer of a celebrated dog act with his Sagacious Canines, becomes sucked into a terrible mystery.  Totally authentic and thoroughly gripping. Michael Eaton

 

 Interview with Judith Allnatt

The Poet’s Wife
Judith Allnatt
£7.99, Black Swan

This beautiful novel was born out of an arts project researching local literary figures from Northamptonshire, whereby Allnatt discovered the letters of John Clare - poet, philosopher and madman. John Clare was previously the subject of Adam Foulds’ The Quickening Maze (2009), but while that centred more on life within the asylum, this takes a completely different angle, examining the effects of his deteriorating mental condition on his wife Patty. No knowledge of the poet is required to appreciate this book as it deals with topical themes; social inequality and poverty, the destruction of the natural world, and the various compromises required to sustain love. James Walker

 Interview with Stephen Baker

Hemispheres
Stephen Baker
£12.99, Atlantic Books

Yan is a collector of misfits, whether staff for his pub or on duty for his country. He’ll look out for his own and woe betide anyone who crosses him. But an incident in the Falklands leaves him mentally scarred, delaying his return. Fate eventually forces Yan back home, where he has some difficult truths for his son Danny. He communicates these via their shared love of birds, relating his own story in terms of migration. In places this is reminiscent to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, due to the haunting descriptions of the cold black estuary landscape of the North East. The father/son relationship is equally bleak, though admirable in its brutal honesty. Tristram 'Lager' Shandy
 
 

For more information on the East Midlands Book Award
 James Walker's website

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