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Festivals, Ep. 2: Bromley

June 26, 2011 — At a jam-packed and sweltering Bromley Literary Festival extravaganza, it was Helen Smith that out six-gunned Joan Taylor in a wild H.G. Wells shootout that saw Smith take home Bromley's first-ever Literary Death Match crown! 

But well before the first shot was fired, the night kicked off with Smith (author of Alison Wonderland) leading off against co-first-rounder Nat Segnit (author of Pub Walks in Underhill Country and writer/star of Radio 4's Beautiful Dreamers). Smith read shyly and wonderfully from her novel, before turning the mic over to Segnit who was a perfect-pitch performer as he reeled through his own novel excerpt. 

The spotlight then turned to the night's of all-star arbiters, including the first-ever host/judge in LDM history, Bruno Vincent (author of Grisly Tales from Tumblewater), writer/filmmaker/twitterer Heather Taylor (and BBC’s Corporate Community Manager) and LDM creator Todd Zuniga (editor of Opium Magazine)! 

After firing non-sequitur-filled semi-compliments, the trio made the impossible decision of advancing Helen Smith on as the night's first finalist.  

Then came Round 2, which featured writer/historian/poet Joan Taylor against Desmond Elliott Prize long-listee Leo Benedictus (LDM London, Ep. 15's champ). Taylor was stellar up against the pressures of a LDM vet, reading from her novel excellent novel, Conversations with Mr. Prain, before Benedictus convinced an audience member to co-read with him from his novel The Afterparty, asking her to do the parts that featured an American man. 

Again the judges were handed the microphone, and the three reeled off quip after quip, until they had to make yet another difficult decision, and after hours of deliberation decided Taylor would be the night's second finalist. 

Then came a wild finale in which each finalist — Smith v. Taylor — was asked to fire lipstick-tipped Nerf darts at the face of Bromley native H.G. Wells, with the shooter closest to his lips being crowned champion. After all the darts but one were fired, Taylor stepped up with a chance, but with "the human blindfold" derailing her sight, her shot went well wide, and it was Helen Smith who was crowned the Literary Death Match champion, and literary immortality was all hers! 

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    The week ahead in literary London Wednesday: Richard Holmes looks at Mary Shelley and her Creature, at

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