November 3—Literary Death Match London, Ep. 3 at Old Queen's Head was a stylish and whimsical ceremony that illustriously ended when The Idler fictionist Matthew De Abaitua narrowly beat out Penned in the Margins masterful rep Ross Sutherland in a wild Hoopstravaganza. The clash featured both hastily wadding up pages of the Daily Mail and firing them through a Picador-backboarded basketball hoop. With the competition tied at 3 points apiece, De Abaitua swished his money-ball shot to take home the Literary Death Match championship!
But well before any money shots were flung, the night began with a rip-roaring start as John Grindrod (representing Faber) metaphorically duked it out with Sutherland. Grindrod led off with a well-told tale from his book Shouting at the Telly, weaving a narrative around his love for the telly that had the audience quiet with fascination. Not to be outdone, Sutherland stepped up and put on a poetic showcase, reeling off a memorized and smartly-voiced string of narratives around being turned away from trying to buy alcohol for not having his ID (once referencing his beard as proof he was over 18).
Then co-hosts Todd Zuniga and Jean Hannah Edelstein turned the mic over to the all-star trio of judges—the sharp-witted book editor of The Independent, Will Skidelsky, the distractingly stunning Sara J. Stockbridge (actor in Enter the Void and writer of Hammer), and the engaging and smartly-hatted Molly Parkin—were faced with the night's first tough challenge. After a series of fantastic comments and a lengthy huddle, Sutherland was named the night's first finalist.
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After a booze break, the second round resumed with The Idler's Matthew De Abaitua winning the coinflip and electing to go first against Mercy's Nathan Jones. De Abaitua was controlled and startlingly strong, relying on few physical fireworks and sticking with verbal pyrotechnics and flashes. Up next was Jones who started off his session with a series of seemingly warm-ups, saying over and over, in different pitches and keys, "Christopher!" He then went on to read a wonderfully poetic and sweetly creepy piece focused on a man trailing behind a woman during a museum visit.
Again to the judges were faced with a maddening decision, but inthe end, a split vote put De Abaitua into the finals.
Then came the night's epic finale, that had both De Abaitua and Sutherland standing back-to-back while they fired crumpled pieces of the Daily Mail through a makeshift basketball hoop. Each time a shot landed, they were required to run and grab a copy of one of Picador's books—everything from The Road by Cormac McCarthy to The Men Who Stare at Goats to Kate Clenchy's latest. In a race to make three newspaper shots, then bang in a "money ball" (an inflated orange basketball), both De Abaitua and Sutherland were surprising sharpshooters, but two misses by Sutherland gave De Abaitua a narrow opening to sink his money ball first, and make himself a Literary Death Match immortal (and a champion to boot)!