Helen McNeil, then a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, was one of the judges – with Maggie Gee - who famously blocked Martin Amis’s London Fields from the shortlist.

McNeil and Gee were offended by Amis’s portrayal of Nicola Six, the morally feckless central character of the novel. It was, said the prize’s then administrator Martyn Goff, ‘an incredible row… they should have been outnumbered as the other three were in agreement, but such was the sheer force of their argument and passion that they won’. McNeil is the daughter of the abstract expressionist painter George McNeil and recalls growing up in a ‘supercharged atmosphere of creativity, competitiveness and exaggeratedly heterosexual sex intrigue’.