Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

I know I’m only there for publicity but please can I win the Bad Sex award?

Posted on 19 November 2010 | 8:11am

When I was first shortlisted for the Bad Sex in Literature Award, I decided I was happy to be nominated (first novel, all publicity good publicity, and I knew I was only there as a way of the Award organisers getting themselves a bit of cheap publicity – spin, yuk, eh? -) but I really really didn’t want to win it, so thank God I didn’t, Rachel Johnson did. Phew, what a long sentence. Pause for breath, new paragraph.

But this time I really really want to win. (Cue alarm among judges – ‘is this double bluff? Is he trying to get inside our heads … he knows the press will love if it he wins, because they always say it’s the award no writer wants but now he’s said he WANTS it, how can we possibly reward him? …. They’ll say we fell victim to his evil spin … what to do? … let’s give it to Jonathan Franzen.’

No, no, no double bluff, oh great and good of the judging panel. I want to win it. I want more people to read my sex scene, I am proud of it, happy with it, and I am ready for any mockery that comes with the gong. Oh, and the publisher says to make sure I mention the paperback is out soon.

As some of my twitter followers pointed out, amid a twitter mini avalanche about my nomination, yet again I am probably mainly there for the publicity value to the organisers. It’s a bit like that made-up survey Travelodge do about books most commonly left in hotel rooms and it’s usually me, Piers Morgan or Jordan (all modern icons of the media age, you see, a burden but we have to bear it with grace, in our very different ways).

With All In The Mind, I would actually have been quite hurt if the sex scenes had won. You see, they were deliberately bad sex scenes, in other words scenes where the sex was meant to be bad. The bad sex was important to the narrative, in that the main character, a psychiatrist, had grown tired of sex with his wife, and became drawn to bad sex with prostitutes, after which he felt terribly bad. There is also a horrible though quite funny sex scene where a politician is set up by a tabloid to have sex with a woman who is not his wife, and that goes bad, bad, bad. He even rolled off the bed at one point, totally pissed. You can’t possibly have a deliberately bad sex scene win the bad sex award. It would miss the point. So well done Rachel, I’m glad I didn’t win.

But the offending sex scene in Maya, my second novel and the one now up for the award, is totally different. You may have to wait till page 382 to get it but it is a scene of really good sex, and therefore far more suitable for a bad sex award as envisaged by Auberon Waugh, who founded them.

In a blatant attempt to sway the judges my way, I will admit that I could have communicated in a sentence or two that the man and woman in question (I won’t say who they are in case the current publicity including this blog leads more people to buy it — hurry along now, there’s a bookshop page on the site, and it can put you straight through to Amazon) had finally ‘done it’. But it was such an important happening in the narrator’s life (ok, I’ll let you know who the man is) that I wanted the sense of just how important it was to be reflected in the space  I gave to it. And as for its capacity for arousal, I won’t name the prominent public figure (no, not Tony) who confessed to feeling what he called ‘upward thrust’ but I hope he is not alone, and that plenty of  women felt whatever the  female equivalent of upward thrust may be. It was still important to the plot, and the pace of the novel (you see you need to read the whole thing to get it) whether people feel upward thrust or not.

Truth be told, in the original draft there was even more of it, but eventually I decided two pages from first touch to the moment when ‘I thought the walls were going to fall down as we stroked and screamed our way through hours of pleasure to the union for which my whole life had been a preparation’ (ah, beautiful) was enough.

But along the way we have plenty of caressing, kissing, belt-grabbing, breast-cupping, dress-ripping, nipple-kissing, tongue-sucking, hair-grabbing, thigh-touching, calf-locking and all the rest.

So come on judges, I may only be there so you get a bit of attention. But I think this time I deserve it.

And how else am I going to get on a list of authors (past winners) which includes Norman Mailer, Melvyn Bragg, Sebastian Faulks, Giles Coren and Tom Wolfe? I’ll feel like a proper novelist, not just a political diarist who strongly recommends Prelude to Power if you’re struggling to think what to get your friends for Christmas, and Power and the People, out on January 20, as your first birthday present of the New Year.

Now off to do some bodice-ripping …

  • Carl Mason

    I managed to get here because I have you on my list of favourites, but you may want to correct the link on twitter — you missed out a letter of your name! Love the blog, and like it, as today, when you every now and then steer off politics …

  • Hilary Freeman

    I read both your novels and I did not find the sex scenes irrelevant at all … there is something too prudish about the thinking about these awards … I fear you have done for your chances though … I think the judges probably will have the imaginary thought process you have set out … btw I have all your books and one day would love to get them signed

  • Charlie McLennon

    All well and good but given your well known dislike of Eton, any chance of a blog asking why Dave’s old school gets forty grand of our money to liaise with state schools?

  • Robert Jackson

    …and the book spine has been specially strengthened at page 382 to avoid all risk of embarrassing the judges when they keep checking out how awful it really is….

  • Olli Issakainen

    Maya is a very good book and deserves a wide readership. As a critic of the modern day celebrity culture AC is in the same league as Ben Elton.
    I have closely followed the career of AC ever since I learned of him from a Burnley FC fanzine while he worked for the Mirror. He was described as Alastair Campbell – that great man of people – so I became interested, and the rest is history.
    For a person like me who is also a Burnley FC fan Maya is especially pleasing because of many personal touches including the names of Burnley FC players.
    The best novel I have read in recent years is AN Wilson´s Winnie and Wolf. Currently I am reading Jonathan Powell´s The New Machiavelli.

    Ps. Ben Elton suggests that everyone should be made famous by law!

  • Sarah Dodds

    Typical bloke…brags about how long he can make it last regardless of how long it stays interesting ;o)

  • Gilliebc

    Goodness me Mr. Campbell, you are certainly in a ligh-hearted and chipper
    mood today! I think I shall have to ask my husband to buy me a copy of Maya, page 382 you say? Are you siging copies of aforementioned book, I wonder. I bought a signed copy of The Blair Years, which I like to dip into now and again.
    Moderator/s Alert! (you may not like this next bit)
    Mr. Campbell, I would describe the female equivialent of male upward thrust could be described as er, moist and very accommodating. Or, to use the colloquial, simply gagging for it.
    I am talking from long ago memory here, and no I’m not that old. But have been married (happily) for a very long time. My old school friends all say much the same as me regarding that particular subject!
    Maybe, AC this will give you a few ideas for another novel.
    Hope you win the award if that’s what you really want. As you rightly say all publicity is good publicity.

  • Teresa

    I hope I find it in my stocking Christmas morning 🙂