Duncan won against stiff competition - Brian Sewell may have been regarded as the favourite. Fortunately, the judges yielded to exquisite temptation and let loose the feral spirit that abhors genre, genre and genre. How to Disappear is hard to categorise: memoir of a sort, a travel book to some extent, a tour of forgotten weirdos, among whom Evelyn Waugh's ex-boyfriend (RIP). It is a work of wisdom (ie accumulated tricks) and of restrained debauchery - and of marathon detective work. It features a peculiar paranormal happening - conceivably.
Ditto Press must also be congratulated for producing a book that looks like it wants to be treasured and appreciated as art in its own right.
The PEN/Ackerley is Britain's only literary prize dedicated to memoir and autobiography. A number of reputable publishers rejected the book before new indy house Ditto took it on. Youth may not assure us a virile publishing future unafraid of literature, but it helps. As DF said in his acceptance speech, of a rejecting publisher who wondered when Duncan would write his 'big' book: 'All my books are big. it's the publishers that got small.'