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Ex-rough sleeper up for literary prize

March 09 2011
Life can sometimes be a rollercoaster, says author

The writer Tom Gamble has been placed on the shortlist for a major literary prize for a novel which was partly influenced by his experiences sleeping on the streets.

Gamble's novel, Amazir, is one of six books on the shortlist for the Romantic Novelist Association's 2011 Pure Passion Award. He maintains that the novel is about the hope and love which can help carry people through periods of great difficulty.

"When you're down, even lower than you thought you'd sink to, your hope is rewarded in a small ways," Gamble explains. "A pleasant word from a stranger in the street, the sunshine warming you up, the sound of birds in a park where you slept overnight... this spurs you on to rise above your trials and get back on the road to self-confidence."

Gamble has previously spent several short periods sleeping rough: as a teenager unable to fully get over his parents break up, after moving to London, and then again at 38, following his own divorce.

"I wouldn't categorize myself as having been a homeless person," he says. "I just experienced a brief, tough time of being without fixed abode and think I saw and felt how it must be: the hunger, the loneliness, the worry, the pride that often prevents you asking for help, and also the of love for people who do actually look you in the eye. Some of that experience has come out in Amazir."

Gamble is keen for homeless people to read Amazir, as he feels that they would be able to relate personally to the novel's message.

"I think it's a message for them that life can sometimes be a rollercoaster - one moment up and the next freefalling," he said. "But that if you have the determination to rise up above it all, keep faith, keep your belief in luck and have an objective in sight, you can get through the storm."

Update: As we went to press, we found out that Tom was not the winner. Bad luck - next time, we hope!