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Burn's novels deal with issues of modern fame and faded celebrity as lived through the media spotlight. His novel Alma Cogan (1991), which imagined the future life of the British singer Alma Cogan had she not died in 1966, won the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel. His other novels Fullalove and The North of England Home Service appeared in 1995 and 2003 respectively. His non-fiction deals primarily with sport and true crime. His first book Somebody's Husband, Somebody's Son was a study of Peter Sutcliffe, 'the Yorkshire Ripper' and his 1998 book Happy Like Murderers: The Story of Fred and Rosemary West, dealt in similar detail with one of Britain's most notorious serial killers.
Burn's interest in such infamous villains extended to his fiction, with Myra Hindley, one of the 'Moors murderers', featuring prominently in the novel Alma Cogan. His sport-based books are Pocket Money: Inside the World of Snooker (1986) and Best and Edwards: Football, Fame and Oblivion (2006), which deals with the twin stories of Manchester United footballers Duncan Edwards and George Best and the "trajectory of two careers unmoored in wildly different ways."
He also wrote a book with British artist Damien Hirst, On the Way to Work, a collection of interviews from various dates between 1992-2001. He contributed to The Guardian regularly, usually writing about contemporary art.
Gordon Burn died of bowel cancer in 2009, aged 61.
In 2013 the Gordon Burn Prize was launched "to reward fiction or non-fiction written in the English language, which in the opinion of the judges most successfully represents the spirit and sensibility of Gordon's literary methods: novels which dare to enter history and interrogate the past...literature which challenges perceived notions of genre and makes us think again about just what it is that we are reading." The inaugural winner was the novel Pig Iron by Ben Myers.
- Alma Cogan (1991)
- Fullalove (1995)
- The North Of England Home Service (2003)
- Born Yesterday: The News As A Novel (2008)
- Somebody's Husband, Somebody's Son: The Story Of Peter Sutcliffe (1984)
- Pocket Money: Inside The World Of Snooker (1986)
- Happy Like Murderers: The Story Of Fred And Rosemary West (1998)
- On The Way To Work (with Damien Hirst) (2001)
- Best And Edwards: Football, Fame And Oblivion (2006)
- Sex & Violence, Death & Silence (2009)
- Lea, Richard (20 July 2009). "Groundbreaking author Gordon Burn dies aged 61". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
- Garfield, Simon (1 October 2006). "Observer review: Best and Edwards: Football, Fame and Oblivion". London: The Observer. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
- Donaldson, Brian (1 August 2008). "Gordon Burn: Rewriting the Past". The Herald. Retrieved 17 July 2009.