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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 21:57 GMT
Ex-academic lifts Lit Idol title
Paul Cavanagh was named Lit Idol
Paul Cavanagh was one of five finalists to read his work aloud
A former university professor has been crowned the winner of a Pop Idol-style search for new literary talent.

Paul Cavanagh lifted the inaugural Lit Idol prize after reading aloud an excerpt of his work Northwest Passage to 600 people at the London Book Fair.

A panel of judges picked the 41-year-old from five shortlisted finalists.

Mr Cavanagh, from Ontario in Canada, was one of 1,466 aspiring novelists to enter the contest in the hope of securing a lucrative publishing deal.

People's vote

Each of the entrants had to submit up to 10,000 words from the opening chapters of a novel, together with a two-page synopsis.

A people's vote, counting for 25% of the final decision, was collected after samples of their writing were placed on the internet.

Mr Cavanagh, an unknown in the literary world, will now be represented by the literary and media agency Curtis Brown in negotiations for a publishing contract.

The firm's discoveries have included "chick lit" writer Jenny Colgan, who was on the judging panel.

Other judges included writer Emlyn Rees and Daily Mail fiction editor Hephzibah Anderson.

The competition, organised by the London Book Fair, has been criticised in some quarters for making the five shortlisted authors read out their work.

Mr Cavanagh beat a freelance journalist, a senior strategic planner, a production manager and a PA to the top prize.

Ali Gunn, competition judge
"What we're looking for is the new literary sensation"

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