Last month sometime (I forget when, exactly, because I have the memory of a goldfish) I made the fourteen-hour return trip to London to take part in the award ceremony for the Kindle Storyteller Prize 2021.

My… what? Eleventh DCI Logan novel? Something like that. An Isolated Incident had beaten thousands (probably) of entries to make the final shortlist of five authors, and we all rocked up for the event at a top secret location in the UK capital, where we were met by lots of people from Amazon, plus Clare Balding off the telly.

The other authors were Daisy James, Mary Kingswood, Rachel McLean, and Tao Wong, and a thoroughly excellent bunch they were, too. If you’re a fan of reading (and it’d be weird for you to be reading this if you weren’t) then you should check out their books. There’s a link at the bottom of this blog post where you can find them all.

The journey down from the Highlands was a bit of an epic one. So epic, in fact, that it took Tao less time to get to London, despite the fact that he was coming from Canada!

Because it was such a trek, the family came along, too, and we made a wee holiday of it. This largely involved eating food, being overwhelmed by the volume of traffic, and going to see Wicked.

I also scoped out some locations for the second Bob Hoon book, Southpaw, which comes out next year. If you haven’t read the first one yet, you might want to get onto that now.

One of the food places we went to was a place that I’m reliably informed is the world’s only restaurant themed on the hit 1980’s vampire movie, The Lost Boys, starring Kiefer Sutherland.

Lost Boys Pizza in Camden

I’ll be honest, reviews were mixed. My wife wasn’t a big fan. My daughter liked the atmosphere, but barely touched the food. My son and I, however, thought it was the bee’s knees, and wolfed down not only our own food, but my wife and daughter’s too.

I suppose, ultimately, whether you like it or not will depend on how you’d answer the question, “Do you want to go to a pizza restaurant inspired by the movie The Lost Boys starring Kiefer Sutherland?”

If the answer is, “Yes,” then you should go, because you won’t be disappointed. If you prefer your pizza restaurants to be a touch less on the vampiric side, then you might be better off trying elsewhere.

We also had a look around Camden Market while we were in the area. It’s the first time I’ve ever been, but I absolutely loved it, and could’ve spent hours just wandering around pointing at stuff and going, “Ooh!”

There was a little gift and bookshop nearby, and I spotted this book in the window. I was almost tempted to buy it, but then decided that I probably already had a handle on most of the techniques the author was hoping to teach.

I’m sort of wishing I’d picked it up now, though. Perhaps there is some new upper echelon of bad language that I’ve yet to be able to achieve, and now I’ll never know.

Speaking of swearing, by the way, have you tried the Hoon Insult Generator? Coded by my fair hand (mostly), it will allow you to generate a Hoon style insult with a single click, so you can find out what Bob really thinks of you.

And, of course, it’ll give you access to a whole range of colourful insults for you to hurl at a friend, enemy, or loved one. Everyone’s a winner! I feel I should probably warn you, though, it’s not for the easily offended…

Which brings me to the main event of the trip down south – the award ceremony. I met my fellow finalists at the hotel where we were all staying, and we were bundled into a van (a posh van, mind, but a van all the same), blindfolded*, and then taken to the studio where the ceremony was to be broadcast live to all seven billion people on the planet.

Or as many as you can fit on a Zoom call, anyway, whichever of those two numbers is smaller.

Because COVID is still running rampant, there was no audience for the event (however, that’s still a step up from last year’s event which was completely online) but there were plenty of Amazon people, tech bods, and Clare Baldings off the telly to make up for it.

OK, technically, there was just one Clare Balding off the telly. And just as well. Two would have been confusing. And, if I’m honest, a bit alarming, as it would open up all sorts of questions about the nature of reality and our sense of self.

I had chosen to go full Scottish, and was wearing the kilt. I was also sitting slap bang in front of the main camera, and at least half a dozen people came up to quietly whisper in my ear and remind me to keep my legs closed at all times.

I’m not going to lie, I was sorely tempted to go full Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct during the event, and I would absolutely have done so, were it not for the fear of prosecution.

Finalists at the Kindle Storyeller Award, 2021. And Clare Balding off the telly.

Anyway, long story (slightly) short(er), I didn’t win the prize. Rachel McLean did. And, while I had vowed that, should I lose, I would give an absolute kicking to the winner, she was just too lovely for me to do so. And, to be fair, she was also a well-deserved victor.

Besides, we were all winners that day.

Just, you know, not literally.

I was both the tallest and most Scottish by quite some margin, though, which came as some consolation.

So, that was my trip to London. It was a fun few days, and due to a quirk of the rail booking system, we ended up with first class tickets for the trip home, which meant a lot of free biscuits all round. And that, I think, was the real prize.

Again, not literally. Rachel won twenty grand and a Golden Kindle, for Christ’s sake. How can some biscuits compete with that, free or otherwise?!

Find out more about the Kindle Storyteller Prize 2021, and discover the shortlisted authors here.

*this is a lie.