The Gordon Burn Prize was founded in 2012 by the Gordon Burn Trust, Faber & Faber (Gordon’s publisher), New Writing North and Durham Book Festival, to remember the North East writer Gordon Burn.
Gordon Burn was a writer for whom no subject or character was beyond fictionalising. Peter Sutcliffe, Alma Cogan, Duncan Edwards, George Best and Bobby Charlton, Damien Hirst, Gordon Brown, Margaret Thatcher, and even Gordon Burn himself: Burn loved to take characters already burnished in the celebrity spotlight and explore the darkness beneath. Sometimes he would choose fiction to do this, as in his Whitbread Prize-winning debut, Alma Cogan; other times – and sometimes within the same book – his methods and intentions were more ambiguous. The reader begins to question the very nature of what he is reading. Fiction? Non-fiction? Faction? Or, as celebrated by the likes of Norman Mailer in the late Sixties, the non-fiction novel.
Gordon Burn belonged, and felt himself to belong, to an American tradition born in the High Sixties. A lover of Capote, Mailer and New Journalism, in his career as a writer, Gordon applied the rigour and tenacity of a reporter and journalist to what was often a fictional template. He loved novels like DeLillo’s Libra (a fictional telling of the Lee Harvey Oswald story) and carved out a unique place for himself in contemporary British writing, often responding to real, spectacular, sometimes appalling events.