I’m not sure how to feel about this
Whitbread award winning author Joan Brady has won her long-running battle against a shoe manufacturing company on the grounds that toxic fumes affected her ability to work, and while I think it’s great she won, the subtext, as reported by the Times, makes me a bit put out:
A prize-winning novelist has won a settlement of more than £100,000 after she
claimed to have become so intoxicated by fumes from a nearby shoe factory
that she was reduced to writing thrillers.
Joan Brady, who beat Andrew Motion and Carol Anne Duffy to win the Whitbread
Prize in 1993 with her book The Theory of War, has received £115,000 in an
out-of-court settlement after she suffered numbness in her hands and legs
allegedly caused by solvents used by Conker, a cobbler based next to her
home in Totnes, Devon.
She told The Times that the fumes were so bad that she was unable to
concentrate on writing her highbrow novel, Cool Wind from the Future, and
instead wrote a brutal crime story, Bleedout,
which she found easier. The violent plot of the book also allowed her to
vent her frustrations on the factory and South Hams District Council, which
failed initially to detect the smells. According to Nielsen Book-scan,
Bleedout has sold a respectable 10,000 copies.
I reviewed BLEEDOUT when it came out in the US about three years ago and liked it well enough. But the whiff of snobbery seems all the more unseemly since Brady’s working on a sequel to the book at the moment.
UPDATE: The Guardian’s Mark Lawson tackles this very subject.