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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Novelist Coe wins Johnson prize
Jonathan Coe
The Rotters' Club author Coe, 44, lives in London
Novelist Jonathan Coe has won BBC Four's Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction for his biography of author BS Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant.

Coe, best known for the award-winning tale What a Carve Up!, was praised by judges for the "skill" and "freshness" with which he tackled his subject.

The award, now in its seventh year, celebrates originality and diversity in contemporary non-fiction.

Coe, whose book was chosen from a shortlist of six titles, wins 30,000.

BS Johnson was an avant-garde writer who gained notoriety for his forthright views and idiosyncratic practices, such as creating a book with holes in. Plagued by depression, he committed suicide at the age of 40.

Each of the five remaining shortlisted authors receives 1,000.

Like A Fiery Elephant, by Jonathan Coe
BS Johnson was a celebrated novelist of the 1960s

"Choosing a winner was a very difficult task for the judges, because each one of the six shortlisted books is such a terrific read," said Sue MacGregor, chair of the judging panel, which also included broadcaster John Simpson.

"Jonathan Coe - always an engaging writer - has taken on a challenging new task and triumphantly succeeded," she added.

"He has brought marvellously to life not only BS Johnson - a brilliant and difficult man who wrote only seven novels - but the grim side of struggling to succeed in literary London in the Sixties."

Coe's book was based on Johnson's vast collection of papers, discovered after his death and interviews with his closest friends.

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