01 Sep 08
First Prize Koestler/Hamish Hamilton Award
Last Thursday, I received a call from London that made my day. The caller said I’d won the first prize in the annual Koestler Awards short story fiction category for my entry “Amazing Grace.” It’s a Hamish Hamilton Award and the judges were staff from the publishing company Random House.
Erwin James, a lifer who became an author and journalist, won first prize in the annual Koestler Awards for prose in 1995. While in prison, I enjoyed his book A Life Inside.
“Amazing Grace” is a story I wrote while at Tucson prison about the conflict between a youngster and a “shit slinger.” It’s set in the Violence Control Unit, which houses the most dangerous prisoners and is far worse than the hole
A lady at The Koestler Trust said I now qualify for a program financed by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation whereby a professional author can mentor me. She also invited me to be guest at this year's Koestler Exhibition at the Southbank Centre on the ground floor of the Royal Festival Hall in London. Admission is free, and the festival runs from 27 September to 8 November. I expect to be there in October. I’ll post the dates when I know exactly. Perhaps I’ll get to do my first reading there.
I also received tragic news from London last week. My literary agent died of ovarian cancer. She was only in her early forties. It’s hard to believe I was drinking wine with her last Christmas, toasting our future success together, and now she’s gone. She helped mature my prose, and while I was in prison, her and my sister, Karen, worked hard on a book based on Jon's Jail Journal for almost three years. She had intended to introduce that book to publishers at the London Book Fair last April, but she became ill just before it.
Meanwhile, I continue to work feverishly on my autobiography. Chapter 1 starts with the authorities smashing my door down. I’ve divided the story into two threads. The odd chapters are about my arrest and journey through Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail system prior to the blog, the dangers and characters I met along the way, and how incarceration led to introspection and personal development. The even chapters cover how I went from a penniless illegal alien to award-winning stockbroker to running a rave empire that went up against the Ecstasy ring run by the Mafia underboss, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, whose gang tried to kidnap me.
I’ve had no professional help with the autobiography. I've recently polished some chapters up to send to publishers and literary agents in America, perhaps the best home for my story.
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2008 Shaun P. Attwood