This year I’ve given up trying to shoehorn my selections into a set number, be it 10, 12 or a baker’s dozen. My list has as many categories as I felt I needed – which ended up as 18 this year. Without further ado, here they are:
Best fictional biography: Murmur by Will Eaves – this novel based on the life of Alan Turing got my vote for the Wellcome Book Prize.
Best NF about music: Train in the Night by Nick Coleman – Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize in 2012, musical journalist Coleman tells of suffering from hearing loss and extreme tinnitus – making his passion – music hard to bear.
Best Mockumentary: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins – how I loved this fictional band profile. So 1970s, so LA, so F.Mac and the Eagles. Superb
Best Tortured Artist: Slow Motion Ghosts by Jeff Noon – a first crime novel by the cult Manchester author with rock’n’roll at its heart. Fab-u-lous!
Frothiest Book: MI5 & Me by Charlotte Bingham – Hilarious memoir of a posh girl being a secretary in the secret service in the late 1950s
Most Hollywood: No Minor Chords by Andre Previn – He’s much missed and his memoir of his early years composing in Hollywood is a hoot.
Most Educational: Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me by Kate Clanchy – Inspirational.
Best Novella: West by Carys Davies – Pioneer fiction doesn’t come any better than this perfect story.
Best Action Heroine: Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell – She’s simply the original and best – move over Villanelle!
Best Northern Grit: The Bothy by Trevor Mark Thomas – Crooks in winter on the Yorkshire borders – great, but violent, fun.
Best Dog: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez – I simply adored this book, which speaks on so many levels about friendship and bereavement, as experienced by humans and animals.
Best Science Book: Hacking Darwin by Jamie Metzl – Genetic Engineering – now and the future. Scary, but there’s optimism too.
Twistiest Thriller: The Girl Before by J P Delaney – such a good psychological thriller.
Best Moral Dilemmas: A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli – A soldier’s choice in WWII, but after eating…
Best Political Satire: The Death of an Owl by Paul Torday (with Piers Torday) – almost as good as real life politics!
Best Sense of Place: Gloucester Crescent by William Miller, son of the recently deceased Jonathan, who looms large in this memoir.
Best other NF: William Blake Now by John Higgs – Superb essay about the artist and philosopher who still fascinates us all today.
Book Group’s Favourite: A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale.
But which of these was my BOOK OF THE YEAR?
Daisy Jones and West came close, but there was one book I really, really loved, that’s not had the exposure of either of those two books. It’s a crime novel, but rather different, and it is full of the rock’n’roll I adore…
I’m delighted to say that Slow Motion Ghosts met all my expectations. While all the standard elements are present with their feet firmly rooted in good old-fashioned detective work, the central detective is a different kind of maverick than usual and the crimes he investigates are steeped in music and a kind of alternative mythology. It’s set in 1981, and there are hints of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and strong echoes of James O’Barr’s wonderful graphic novel The Crow, but presiding over it all are the ghosts of Ziggy Stardust, The Joker – Heath Ledger’s version perhaps – and all those dead rock stars, Jimi, Janis, Jim.