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Edinburgh, Ep. 4

March 27, 2012 — In a ridiculously wonderful show of literary and lit-comedic fantasticism, Literary Death Match's triumphant return to the Voodoo Rooms — presented by Birlinn & Polygon — ended with poet Claire Askew outscoring Michael Pedersen in a Literary Spelling Bee by a closer-than-it-appeared margin of 18-10, winning her the fourth Literary Death Match Edinburgh crown. 

But well before literary names were asked to be correctly spelled, the night began with Pedersen leading off in a genius-filled first-round battle against best-selling author Sara Sheridan (author of The Secret Mandarin and Secret of the Sands). Neu! Reekie! mastermind Pedersen read a pair of poems, one about Portobello High School followed by a poem about his girlfriend snooping his cell phone (aided by a mic malfunction that had him reading mic-less to the adoring, packed crowd). Sheridan followed with a carefully read piece about an ill-fated marriage, complete with her glasses slowly slipping off her head (she cleverly removed them at the perfect moment). 

The mic was then handed to the night's trio of all-star judges: Christopher Brookmyre (author of fourteen novels to date, most recently Where The Bodies Are Buried), critic/brainiac Hannah McGill (former artistic director of the Edinburgh film festival), and novelist/screenwriter Alan Bissett (author of Boyracers and The Incredible Adam Spark). The three praised Pedersen's wardrobe (Bissett fascinated by his flesh-toned socks) and his reading style, and Brookmyre was astounded by Sheridan's "cat-like reflexes" when it came to saving her glasses from crashing to the earth. But after a long and feisty deliberation, it was Bissett who announced Pedersen as the night's first finalist. 

After a booze-and-chat-filled intermission, Round 2 kicked off with writer/performer/MC Gavin Inglis up against Askew. Inglis shined out of the gate, reading a pair of stories: the first about farming internal organs from strangers, the second a hilarious show of two perverted morningside ladies. Askew followed with a stirringly still trio of poems about a.) the ideal reader, b.) her collection of typewriters, and c.) some sage advice on how not to get put into a poem. 

The mic was then handed to the judges a second time, with Bissett lauding the subtle details of Inglis dress and acknowledging Askew's choice to wear nothing on her feet (she was actually in sandals), while McGill generally praised both writers genuinness and Brookmyre admitted his fascination over Inglis' facial hair. Then a second painfully difficult deliberation followed, and after a long chat, it was Askew who was advanced as the night's second finalist. 

Then up stepped LDM creator Todd Zuniga, who invited LDM Edinburgh executive producer Vikki Reilly to the stage to assist in the spelling bee antics. After four rounds, Pedersen was down by a score of 18-7 with the gigantically difficult task of spelling Solzhenitsyn correctly to win it all. But after a few stumbles — "S-A..."? No. "S-O?" Yes — he faltered, and it was Claire Askew who not only won the Literary Death Match Edinburgh, Ep. 4 crown, but literary immortality to go with it! 


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