It is not often an author is driven by circumstances to steal another author's pig, but recent scandalous events forced my hand.
Some of you will recall my glee when I was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize a few weeks ago, alongside such old and new stars as Alan Bennett, Will Self, Garrison Keillor and Joe Dunthorne.
A noble prize, previously won by books such as Vernon God Little, and A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, the winner is showered in champagne and given a pig at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales, just over the border from England. (You don't get to keep the pig, but they name it after your book, and take your photo with it, to the great amusement of future generations).
You can imagine then my dismay when I discovered, shortly afterwards, buried in the small print of the Hay-on-Wye festival programme, the odd phrase "Will Self, winner of the 2008 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize." Winner? WINNER?!?!?!
As the festival program had gone to print before the shortlist was announced, this meant that the prize committee had picked the winner before they had announced, or perhaps even picked, the shortlist. It was a stitch-up. But worse, I had been denied my rightful month of anticipation, tingling, hiccups and giddy excitement.
Also I'd put serious money on Alan Bennett to win. His The Uncommon Reader is a little masterpiece. Something had to be done.
I thought long and hard. The prize is named after that comic god, P. G. Wodehouse, inventor of Jeeves and Wooster. What, I thought would Wodehouse have done, faced with such provocation? Sat in his room and written another comic novel, probably. That's how he reacted to everything, including World War 2. As I was already sitting in a room writing a comic novel this wasn't much help. Action was called for, dash it. So I asked myself, what would P. G. Wodehouse's greatest creation Bertie Wooster do, nobly backed by the genius of his manservant Jeeves?
And the answer came to me as in a vision - as though the ghost of Wodehouse himself whispered in my ear - he would steal the pig.
For if there is one constant in the work of P. G. Wodehouse, from Pigs Have Wings to Pig Hooey, it is that God put pigs on this good green earth to be kidnapped. Not a chapter goes by without somebody chloroforming Lord Emsworth's favourite sow, The Empress of Blandings.
And thus I made my way to the Welsh borders and, with the assistant of my trusty gentleman's gentleman, Jeeves (not his real name, but he would like to remain anonymous for some reason), I stole Will Self's pig.
I sent the organisers this, ah, pignapping video, containing my ransom demands. Tense negotiations continued up until the last minute. They, understandably, did not wish to give the prize to the man who had stolen their pig. I offered, as a very reasonable compromise, to deliver the pig to Alan Bennett's door in London if they would re-award the prize to him. They baulked - Will Self was in the program - his angry fans, denied, might rampage, torching tents, incinerating Gore Vidal in his invalid chair... The intervention of a bishop almost led to a compromise candidate (Joe Dunthorne), but we ran out of time.
This, of course, left them one pig short for the prize ceremony. And thus it was that, as you may have read in the Guardian and Bookseller over the weekend, Will Self was not awarded his pig. I was wondering how they would get over this, and so I attended the ceremony in disguise. The organisers, rather anticlimactically, pretended an outbreak of pig disease had kept the pig away, and they showed a video of a pig instead.
And so the situation rests. The pig is in a safe place, and receiving the best of care. For now.
It is to be hoped that the organisers of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize will give in to my very reasonable demands and re-award the Wodehouse Prize to Alan Bennett. Otherwise, I'm afraid they will get their pig back sausage by sausage.
Harsh, I know, but when you mess with the affections of six comic novelists, somebody's going to get hurt.