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Edinburgh, Ep. 2 (Book Festival)

August 22, 2011 — In a literary showcase like few before it, the Literary Death Match talent-fest at Edinburgh Book Festival finished with a Scot-off, as Christopher Brookmyre stole victory at a Books By Numbers finale that saw him overtake co-finalist Billy Letford in the late-seconds, winning the LDM crown by the narrowest three point margin literature has ever seen. 

But before the wild finish, the night kicked off with Delhi-based Man Asian Prize short-listee Manu Joseph leading off by reading the captivating opening pages of his novel, Serious Men. He was followed by a pair of Letford’s vernacular-fueled, crowd-thrilling poems that left the audience split on who the judges would select. 

The mic was then handed over to the trio of all-star judges: TV presenter and author Hardeep Singh Kohli (Indian Takeaway: A Very British Story), Ted Hughes Prize short-listee Martin Figura (LDM London, Ep. 13 champ), and actress/mayhem-maker/LDM Vancouver champ Sara Bynoe (F*ck Off and Die: Tales in Teen Angst Poetry)!  

Figura praised Joseph’s steady brilliance, while Bynoe said his mic tap was offset by the ever-engaged looks the crowd stared on with, while Kohli led off with song, before comparing Joseph’s rhythmic stylings to Miles Davis. About Letford, Kohli professed undying love for his Glaswegian flair, while Bynoe admitted she had a difficult time tearing her eyes away from his bottom. 

After a deliberation, it was Bynoe who announced that Letford would advance as the night’s first finalist. 

After a boozy break, the LDM London co-producer Bruno Vincent introduced the night’s second round readers, with Molly Naylor leading off with a sharply-told tale about creating mixed tapes over the years. Then it was Brookmyre (author of Where the Bodies are Buried) who read last, the audience in the palm of his hand from the intro, finishing with them on the edge of their seats. 

Again it was the judges turn, with Bynoe saying Brookmyre's accent immediately set her off into a world of marriage possibilities, Figura praising Naylor's just-about-everything, and Kohli just plain admonishing Brookymyre as one of the country's finest writers. 

The judges were asked again to make an impossible choice, and it was Kohli who said it Brookmyre would advance as the night’s second finalist. 

Then up stepped LDM creator Todd Zuniga, who introduced the night’s Book By Numbers finale, inviting 15 audience members on stage to assist in the proceedings, handing each a picture of an author who wrote a book with a number in the title. After a hot start by Letford, it was Brookmyre’s counter-punching (a.k.a. counter-author-picking) that kept him in the hunt for LDM immortality, and with only three authors to choose from, and down nine, Brookmyre selected James Thurber, author of The 13 Clocks, giving him a narrow four-point lead. Then it was up to Letford, with the final choice, with the medal on the line. His selection of Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) was not enough, and it was Brookmyre who was crowned the Edinburgh Book Festival’s Literary Death Match victor! 

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