Gordon Burn

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Gordon Burn (16 January 1948 – 17 July 2009)[1] was an English writer born in Newcastle upon Tyne and the author of four novels and several works of non-fiction.


Burn's novels deal with issues of modern fame and faded celebrity as lived through the media spotlight.[2] 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 two of Britain's most notorious serial killers.[3]

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.[4] 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.

Sex & Violence, Death & Silence[edit]

Sex & Violence, Death & Silence is a 2009 book written by Gordon Burn and published by Faber and Faber.[5] It contains selections of writing by Burn about art and artists (as well as art dealers and collectors) spanning almost thirty-five years, including interviews and reviews as well as extracts from his novel Alma Cogan. It opens with a foreword by Damien Hirst with David Peace.

Gordon Burn died in the summer of 2009, whilst the book was being prepared for publication.

The list of artists discussed in the book is as follows:

Art dealer Nigel Greenwood is also discussed.

Critical reception[edit]

Nicholas Lezard described the work as being "knowledgeable, thorough and readable".[6]



  • 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)

Gordon Burn Prize[edit]

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." [7]

The prize is a jointly organised by the Gordon Burn Trust, New Writing North and Faber & Faber. The winner receives £5,000 and is offered the use of Burn's cottage in Berwickshire as a writers' retreat.[7] The prize ceremony is generally the first event of the Durham Book Festival.

The inaugural winner was the novel Pig Iron by Ben Myers.[8] The shortlist for the 2014 prize was announced in August, and the winner was announced on 10 October.[9] The 2014 winner was Paul Kingsnorth for The Wake.[10] The 2015 winner was journalist Dan Davies for In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile.[11] The 2016 winner was David Szalay for All That Man Is.[12] The 2017 winner was Denise Mina for The Long Drop.[13] The 2018 winner was Jesse Ball for Census.[14] The 2019 winner was David Keenan for For the Good Times.[15]


  1. ^ Lea, Richard (20 July 2009). "Groundbreaking author Gordon Burn dies aged 61". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  2. ^ Garfield, Simon (1 October 2006). "Observer review: Best and Edwards: Football, Fame and Oblivion". The Observer. London. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  3. ^ "Bibliography". Gordon Burn Trust. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  4. ^ Donaldson, Brian (1 August 2008). "Gordon Burn: Rewriting the Past". The Herald. Retrieved 17 July 2009.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Sex & Violence, Death & silence". Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  6. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (28 November 2009). "Sex & Violence, Death & Silence by Gordon Burn | Book review". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  7. ^ a b "The Prize". Gordon Burn Trust. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  8. ^ Bury, Liz (21 October 2013). "Benjamin Myers claims inaugural Gordon Burn prize". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  9. ^ Taylor, Chris (12 August 2014). "Gordon Burn Prize 2014: Super Furry Animals frontman nominated". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Mark Rylance-backed novel wins £5,000 literary prize". BBC News. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Journalist wins award for Jimmy Savile book". BBC News. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  12. ^ Flood, Alison (7 October 2016). "David Szalay's 'unsparing' All That Man Is wins Gordon Burn prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  13. ^ "The Gordon Burn Prize". New Writing North. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  14. ^ Flood, Alison (11 October 2018). "Jesse Ball's 'strange and beautiful' Census wins Gordon Burn prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  15. ^ Flood, Alison (11 October 2019). "David Keenan's Troubles novel For the Good Times wins Gordon Burn prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2019.