Late DJ's book up for top award

THE autobiography of the late DJ John Peel - completed after his death by his widow - is in the running for a major literary prize.Margrave of the Marshes, which charts Peel's life from his school days to his long broadcasting career, has been nominated for the WHSmith Book of the Year.

THE autobiography of the late DJ John Peel - completed after his death by his widow - is in the running for a major literary prize.

Margrave of the Marshes, which charts Peel's life from his school days to his long broadcasting career, has been nominated for the WHSmith Book of the Year.

Peel's account had not even reached the point at which he joined Radio 1 when he died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 65 while on holiday in Peru.

His widow Sheila Ravenscroft, along with their grown-up children William, Alexandra, Thomas and Florence, then took the difficult decision to finish the book.

It was an enormous task, which saw them dealing with his huge influence on the musical tastes of generations and his domestic life at Peel Acres near Stowmarket, the family home familiar to thousands from his Home Truths programme on Radio 4.

Sheila told the EADT yesterday that it was wonderful to see Margrave of the Marshes - named after an old German aristocratic title Peel was attracted to - nominated for the prestigious prize.

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“I am pleased for John more than for us though. I know it's a silly thing to say as he's not here,” she said.

“I would be very disappointed if something all about him wasn't a success. He so wanted it to be so and it is rather nice that it is. I am knocked out. It's strange and sad and many things and, of course, that speaks for itself.”

Margrave of the Marshes is up against another East Anglian celebrity's work, Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italy, for the tile as well as JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan's The Insider, Sharon Osbourne's autobiography Extreme and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson's The World According to Clarkson.

Peel and Osbourne are also contenders in the Biography of the Year category, alongside Next To You, Gloria Hunniford's account of the death of her daughter Caron Keating, and Stuart: A Life Backwards, the biography of a homeless heroin addict befriended by writer Alexander Masters.

Sheila added: “Obviously I am really flattered and surprised because it's rather a compliment and I can see the competition is good. I am not expecting great things but it is wonderful.

“It has done incredibly well and the publishers are rather thrilled as well, as it exceeded their greatest hopes.”

The literary prizes, which are the only book awards in which the public can cast their vote, will be presented at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on March 29.

Nominations were announced yesterday by TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, who have a book club on their Channel 4 show.

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