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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
'Dirty but clean' Pierre beats his past
DBC Pierre
DBC Pierre was born Peter Finlay

Booker Prize winning novelist DBC Pierre, a former gambler and drug addict, has a background as colourful as any of his characters.

If DBC Pierre's life story were the stuff of a novel, you just might not believe it.

A reformed drug addict and gambler, he sold the home of his best friend - and pocketed the proceeds.

At the same time he worked up debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a scheme to find Montezuma's gold in Mexico.

In the end I was compelled to write. It was either that or take a length of rope and hang myself in the forest
But he insisted he had not "deliberately ruined other people's lives".

In a page of acknowledgments at the end of the novel, he writes (somewhat enigmatically): "To all those whose shores remain littered with my sins - this could be the handle of a mop."

Pierre - real name Peter Finlay - was born in 1961 in Australia, brought up in Mexico and currently lives in Ireland.

DBC Pierre
If there's a single pressure that's brought me to writing, it's regret
DBC stands for "dirty but clean" and his friends have called him Pierre, after a cartoon character, for years, he said.

The debut novelist's background was a mystery to most until just before his Booker victory, when he revealed in a newspaper interview how he had spent nine years in a drug-induced "haze".

But his beginnings were more fortunate.

He has described a "fairy-tale childhood" living among the privileged minority of wealthy Mexicans - but, aged 16, his father fell ill and he was left in charge of their house, cars and staff.

The family's wealth - and Pierre's own inheritance - vanished when Mexico nationalised its banks.

Pierre has insisted this was the beginning of his problems.

'Rampage of cocaine'

He told the Guardian: "For nine years I was in a drug haze, on a rampage of cocaine, heroin, anything I could get. I am not proud of what I have done and I now want to put it right."

He told the BBC how the state of his life motivated him to write.

"I came to a point where I spent a dozen years festering in my own misspent youth," he told BBC Four.

It's not a Jackie Collins and I never expected it would come this far
Pierre went on to work as a designer and cartoonist, and he got a publishing deal for his debut novel an hour before the first plane flew into the World Trade Center on 11 September, 2001.

"Ever since, I feel like there's some dark destiny swirling around the book," he has said.

The guilt and remorse he had felt had "given the novel some energy".

"I set out completely innocent and without any experience," he said.

"My own story is written into the novel but not in the part of the main character... it's coded in, but I did use the energy very definitely. I've got plenty more of that to come."

He said his 50,000 cheque would go about a third of the way to settling his outstanding debts.

I had to eventually be myself naked and see what I could do and this was it

"A fairly lurid debt has now come to light, but what I have more of is simply good people putting faith in me in the past...

"I didn't write it to get to this point and I didn't ever think it would be published, I didn't have a choice.

"It's not a Jackie Collins and I never expected it would come this far. It was just a moment of confrontation where I had to eventually be myself naked and see what I could do and this was it."

The book, the quirky Vernon God Little, was eventually published this January and has been described as "a showpiece of superb comic writing", with Pierre likened to JD Salinger.

But he told journalists his new-found fame did not mean he had suddenly become part of the establishment.

"My problem is that the establishment keeps changing," he said.




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