[from This is London]
Writer who prefers being a waiter is up for £60,000 prize
Benedict Moore-Bridger and Robert Mendick
A 28-year-old London waiter has been nominated for one of the world’s most lucrative literary prizes for his first novel.
Ross Raisin’s debut God’s Own Country is a contender for the £60,000 Dylan Thomas Prize for authors under the age of 30.
Despite his literary success, Raisin is unlikely to give up the day – or rather evening – job, which he admits to enjoying far more than writing.
He has continued to serve at Smiths of Smithfield restaurant, run by television chef John Torode, even after securing a two-book publishing deal rumoured to be worth £200,000.
He has, however, cut back his hours to allow more time for writing. “I only work as a waiter two days a week now but I can’t see me leaving,” he said in a recent interview to publicise the novel.
“It’s much more fun working there than sitting on your own writing. I enjoy it and why would I want to stop doing something I enjoy?”
He has campaigned for fairer wages for waiters, pointing out the iniquity of a tipping system in which, he says, many restaurants keep most of the money he believes should go to the waiter.
Raisin, who grew up in Yorkshire, first came to London as an undergraduate, studying English at King’s College where he graduated with a first class degree in 2002. He co-managed a wine bar in the City for ” redcheeked lawyers” before completing a master’s degree in creative writing at Goldsmiths College in south London in 2004. He wrote God’s Own Country while waiting on tables in Bristol and in London but now lives permanently in Finsbury Park. He has been tipped as one of literature’s “bright young things” and the Dylan Thomas nomination confirms his status.
The book tells the story of farmer’s son Sam Marsdyke, a loner excluded from school, who spends his days roaming the Yorkshire Moors with only his dog for company. He falls in love but as his obsession grows, the story turns increasingly bleak. His second novel, which he is currently working on, may be grimmer still. It focuses on a Glaswegian ex-shipyard worker whose life unravels after the death of his wife.
Raisin is one of 16 writers – three based in London – longlisted for the biennial prize for works of fiction and poetry set up to honour the memory of Dylan Thomas. It is open to writers under the age of 30 whose works are published in the English language.
Susan Barker, 25, who grew up in east London, has been shortlisted for her second novel The Orientalist And The Ghost which follows three generations of one family from the Fifties Communist insurrection in Malaysia, through to an Eighties London council estate.
Priya Basil, also from London, is nominated for Ishq And Mushq, which tells the story of a Sikh mother whose secret past corrodes her life with tragic consequences for all. The longlist has a distinctly international flavour with writers from South Africa, America, and Iran. Actor Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair in the film The Queen, announced the longlist. He said it was a privilege to be “part of an award that honours a truly great writer, a fellow Welshman, who has inspired so many young people, like myself, to follow what’s in their heart”. Prize founder Peter Stead, who is also on the judging panel, said: “I believe that this year’s longlist is one of the strongest ever seen among any international literary prize.”