In 1985, Joanna Lumley was best known for playing the all-action Purdey in The New Avengers, nevertheless she found nothing absolutely fabulous about Keri Hulme’s The Bone People.
Lumley was unable to attend the final judging meeting so sent her thoughts in writing to the prize administrator Martyn Goff. Hulme’s book, she said, was ‘over-my-dead-body stuff’ and ‘its subject matter [child abuse] finally indefensible’. After her pleas had been ignored and Hulme awarded the prize, Goff said he ‘felt like donning riot gear’ when he wrote to thank her for her efforts.
Lumley rose above the disappointment and went on to greater fame as an actress and television presenter, becoming a vocal supporter of the Gurkhas and bagging a damehood.