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London, Ep. 6

June 3, 2010 — Literary Death Match London's return to where it all started — at Old Queens Head — was a levity-fueled evening that saw Big Green Bookshop's Greg Stekelman (A Year in the Life of TheManWhoFellAsleep) out-boot co-finalist Evie Wyld (Fire a Still Small Voice) in a wild World Cup-themed finale by a final, Literary Death Match championship-winning score, of 3-2. 

But before the first free kick was taken, the night — sponsored by Picador UK — started off with Stekelman going up against Popshot Magazine representative Inua Ellams. Stekelman, going first, hop-skip-jumped through different parts of his debut novel, and had the audience and judges giggling throughout. Then up-stepped Ellams, who bursted out with a pair of language-rich, hyper-engaging poems that staggered the audience with delight. 

The mic was then turned over to the cast of all-star judges that included journalist/soon-to-be-novelist Sam Leith, actress/comedian/split personality genius Karen Hayley (The Armstrong & Miller Show; Bo Selecta) who played the role of "Jackie Knuckles," and stand-up comic Jools Constant. While the judges heartily praised both contenders, they elected Stekelman "by a hair." 

After a booze-fueled intermission, co-hosts Todd Zuniga and Pen Pusher Magazine's Anna Goodall hopped on stage, as London's warm summer sun dipped out of sight. The second round began with John Llewellyn Rhys Prize winner Wyld leading off against To Hell with Publishing reader-rep Grant Gillespie (The Cuckoo Boy). Wyld was stunning, a calm force as she moved through her story, showing off photocopied visuals along the way. The victory seemed sewn-up, but then Gillespie hopped to, and was endlessly charming as he read a fantastic excerpt from his debut novel. 

The judges again were torn, but in the end, Gillespie's free-wheeling and engaging writing fell by a narrow margin to Wyld. 

Then came the harebrained finale, that first had Wyld and Stekelman draft a literary footie-writer to be their keeper (which were photos of authors attached to bendy meter-long rulers). Wyld selected poet Musa Okwonga (author of A Cultured Left Foot and LDM London, Ep. 2 challenger) leaving Stekelman with Fever Pitch author Nick Hornby. In the first round, Stekelman and Wyld both hammered home tiny footballs, making it a 1-1 tie. The second round saw a twist, as instead of footballs, bananas were brought out. While Wyld's kick nearly scored — the entire banana didn't cross the goal line — Stekelman was fierce in his second attempt, finding the upper corner of the net, blowing it past an outstretched Okwonga. Finally, after Wyld had scored her second goal, tying the proceedings at 2-2, the final kick was Stekelman's — he was tasked with kicking a stuffed wombat past Okwonga. He didn't fail, blasting it low, making the final tally 3-2, and literary immortality was his, as he was crowned champion. 



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  • Response
    The week ahead in literary London: the Orange prize, Jackie Kay, Morris Gleitzman, Literary Death Match, Jim Bob, Roger Lloyd Pack reading The Waste Land and more...

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