Another vintage controversy when James Kelman’s win with his profanity-laden How Late It Was, How Late loosed a few profanities itself among tender-souled readers and reviewers.

Kelman was Scotland’s first Booker Prize winner – having been shortlisted in 1989 for A Disaffection – although one of the judges, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, dissociated herself from the win, pronouncing the book ‘a disgrace’.

Kelman himself thought the negative publicity made publishers wary of his future books but defended the ripe language as being a true reflection of regional argot: ‘Every time they [Glaswegians] opened their mouth out came a stream of gobbledygook. Beautiful!’

James Kelman
Published by
Secker & Warburg
James Kelman’s raw, wry vision of human survival in a bureaucratic world is given voice by Sammy, an ex-convict with a penchant for shoplifting.

The Shortlist

How late it was, how late
Prize winner

The 1994 judges