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Poldark and a Man Booker heartthrob

Poldark and a Man Booker heartthrob

As Poldark comes towards the end of its first run on television there is good news to lift Aidan Turner’s legion of fans from their collective gloom. Turner, who plays the eponymous Cornish bit-of-alright, will be appearing in the adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s Man Booker 2008 nominated The Secret Scripture. The book, about a woman’s 50-year stay in a mental hospital, stars Rooney Mara and Vanessa Redgrave as the young and old Roseanne McNulty, while Turner plays her brother-in-law Jack McNulty (who reappears as the central character in a later Barry novel, The Temporary Gentleman). The film is due for release later this year and to still all those beating hearts even further, a second series of Poldark has already been commissioned. What is not yet clear, however, is whether in The Secret Scripture Turner will be seen working up a sweat while scything a meadow without his shirt on.

Sticking with the Irish theme, the Hay Festival Kells, from 25th to 28th June, will feature a good roster of Man Booker alumni. Three former winners, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright and Ben Okri, will be appearing at the County Meath incarnation of the Hay Festival. Doyle’s thriller Dead Man Talking was part of the National Literacy Trust’s “Books Unlocked” scheme, funded by the Booker Prize Foundation and was launched in February at HM Prison Brixton. If he can win over old (and young) lags he can do the same with a festival crowd. There is also a slew of novels by Irish Man Bookerites about to hit the shelves: The Death of All Things Seen by Michael Collins (shortlisted 2000), The Blue Guitar by John Banville (winner 2005) and The Little Red Chairs, the first novel in 10 years from the 1973 judge Edna O’Brien.

'The Flanagan effect' is the term now being given to the revivifying properties of the current Man Booker laureate, Richard Flanagan. His example is being held up as a paragon for other Tasmanian writers to follow and has helped to prompt a revamp of the state’s Premier’s Literary Prizes, now an uMan Bookerrella group of four awards for new and established authors (announced later in the year). Tasmania has, in fact, a long and noble literary tradition within Australian letters: among its firsts, Tasmania gave birth the first Australian novel, Henry Savery’s Quintus Serviton (1831); the first Australian novel by a woman, Mary Grimstone’s Woman’s Love (1832); and the first novel to explore the migrant experience, Charles Rowcroft’s Tales of the Colonies (1843). Flanagan himself, of course, is the first Tasmanian to win the Man Booker Prize. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, coincidentally, has just been voted nuMan Bookerer 32 on the Australian book retailer Dymocks' annual list of the best 101 books, voted for by 15,000 readers. Flanagan is one of only 17 Aussie novelists to make the list, which is headed by Markus Zusack’s The Book Thief.

Salutary news for writers has emerged from a study organised by Queen Mary College, University of London. It surveyed 2,500 professional writers and found that adult fiction writers made a mean net income of £28,809 in 2013, children’s fiction £25,614, non-fiction writers £14,135, travel writers £8,539 and academic authors £3,826. To put things into perspective: the bottom 50% of authors earned less than £10,500 in 2013, and accounted for just 7% of the amount earned by all writers put together. And, chillingly, 17% of all writers did not earn anything at all during 2013. So when an author wins a prize like the Man Booker (worth £50,000 to the winner and £2,500 to each of the shortlistees) they deserve every single penny.

The Morgan Library and Museum in New York holds a collection of more than 4,000 pieces of Man Booker memorabilia, from manuscripts and letters to artwork and proof copies. It's latest exhibition, In the Margins, runs from the 5th to the 17th May, and features special copies of various Man Booker books. Among them are Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam - both Man Booker winning titles - and Julian Barnes’s Metroland (Barnes went on to win the prize in 2011). Each volume has been titivated by its author with annotations, personal letters, and suchlike (the copy of Wolf Hall, of which the dramatised version is currently playing on Broadway, is also accompanied by a 16th-century letter and Book of Hours relating to Thomas Cromwell). Usually writing in a book's margins is seen as vandalism, here it makes for museum-quality artefacts.