When Me Cheeta was longlisted for the prize, James Lever was assumed in some quarters to be a pseudonym; two of the names most frequently bandied about were Martin Amis and Wilf Self.
With his Hollywood chimp memoir, Lever appeared out of nowhere and, after the longlisting flurry, he returned to it. Me Cheeta is, to date, his only novel. He did, however, spend his 20s writing an 800-page novel called News Sport Weather, a ‘life, art and everything’ novel that, so far remains, unpublished. He has worked as a comedy-writer and performer, reviewer, ghostwriter and editor. Lever says his simian autobiography was partially inspired by a childhood fixation with Rivington Pike, a hill near his native Bolton that a Victorian soap magnate landscaped into an exotic forest and filled with shivering zebras and apes.