The first novel from the brilliantly unconventional Nicola Barker is a tale of gambling, allergies, music and dogs, set in some of London's less scenic locations.
Chance meetings between its cast of eccentric individuals - Ruby the bookie's cashier, violently disturbed (and disturbing) Vincent, Samantha the would-be cabaret singer, wilfully sickly Sylvia and Little Buttercup the never-quite-made-it greyhound - result in the unlikeliest of couples; and there's always the risk that it could all work out disastrously as characters select each other and try or don't try to make winning combinations. But, as Ruby, the story's soft-centred heroine, observes: `Losing, that's the whole point of the gamble.'
Nicola Barker was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She lives and works in east London. She was the winner of the David Higham Prize for Fiction and joint winner of the Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Love Your Enemies, her first collection of stories (1993). Her first novel Reversed Forecast was published in 1994 and a short novel Small Holdings followed in 1995. A second collection of short stories Heading Inland, for which Nicola received an Arts Council Writers' Award, and received the 1997 John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize. Her story `Symbiosis' was filmed and broadcast on BBC2; another story, `Dual Balls', was commissioned for broadcast on Channel 4 and shortlisted for a BAFTA Award. Her third novel Wide Open was published in 1998, and won the English-speaking world's biggest literary award for a single work, the IMPAC Prize. In 2000 she published another short novel, Five Miles from Outer Hope. Her fifth novel, Behindlings, was published in 2002 and the following novel, Clear, was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2004. Darkmans, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2007, the 2008 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Award and won the Hawthornden Prize for 2008. Most recently, Barker's work THE YIPS has been longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2012. She was named as one of the 20 Best Young British Novelists by Granta in 2005. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages.