June 2, 2012 – In front of a sold-out room at the 3rd Stoke NewingtonLiterary Festival, Literary Death Match — — sponsored by Picador — brought laughter, sporting heroics, international smuggling and the Pope’s wang to the Library Gallery on Church Street, with Matt Potter scooping the prize in a tense finale.
The first half kicked off with co-host and fashion empress Nicki Le Masurier introducing comedian Andy Zaltzman, who went up against a truth-seeking missile in the human form of Potter. Zaltzman read a historically detailed account of how the frescoes of the Cistine Chapel ceiling came to be painted which reached a moving crescendo with Pope Julius II’s immortal words, “What the FUCK is that? Is that MY PENIS?!”. Matt countered with a dazzlingly swift and persuasive expose of the secret world of post-Soviet arms trading, from his book Outlaws, Inc.
Then it was over to the judges for their feedback. Judging Zaltzman’s literary merit Jean-Hannah Edelstein noted a penis motif (as had Pope Julius), poet Harry Man likened Andy’s performance to the sort of karate chop for which his namesake is famous and on intangibles, Terry Saunders channelled the spirit of Queen Elizabeth II to give her blessing. The huddled, they decided. Potter was through to the finals.
After a wine-guzzling bar break we were back, with host Bruno Vincent pinning the audience to their seats with his notorious, weapons-grade plutonium-strength “can you please leave quietly at the end as this is a residential area” routine. Then it was over to Wayne Thallon who read a breathless, aeroplane-based extract from his new novel and went wildly over time despite the team’s efforts to get him offstage - first by throwing a pink toy that hit him in the nuts, and then setting off a klaxon to make him jump. Up last was Anna Raverat reading a portrait of a sad love affair including a sex scene so humiliating she broke down in laughter, admitting she was recalling the experience which had inspired her fiction.
The judges praised the beauty of Raverat's prose and her unexpected candour, Q.E.II made another visit through the portal of Terry Saunders’s imagination (impressive given how busy she must have been on the Jubilee Weekend), they huddled, and declared Thallon the evening’s second finalist.
Potter and Thallon (with volunteers Emily and Lisa) then took to the stage for some Literary Olympics, in a crazed finale, which was incorrectly described by onlookers as “not hastily improvised”. First teams had to play keepy-uppy with a tennis ball while naming famous writers’ novels. This left the teams still neck-and-neck, so it fell to a final bowling round to decide matters, with Emily scoring a hugely impressive strike with her first bowl and helping Potter to ultimate victory. Will anything ever be the same again? Can Pope Julius II sue? Will you please leave quietly? Hey, it’s a council bylaw - don’t shoot the messenger!