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I guess Ted really is from these here parts.

Byline: Nicola Bartlett Reporter

HE was the dangdest penslinger the Wild West had ever seen - despite being a 54-year-old civil servant from suburban Cardiff.

And now Ted Downes has scooped a prize for writing this year's worst opening sentence for an imaginary Western.

But it hasn't stopped Ted feeling pleased with his achievement as it recognises deliberately terrible introductions to novels.

The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest rewards mangled metaphors, purple prose and cliches. It is named after the 19th century novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton whose 1830 work Paul Clifford opens with the often spoofed line: "It was a dark and stormy night" - most memorably aped by Snoopy in the Peanuts comic strip.

Ted's entry, which came top in the Western category, was infused with a wry sense of humour.

He wrote: "'I guess you ain't from around these here parts, Mistuh', drawled Sheriff Cole McCabe, suspiciously eying the mysterious onearmed, scar-faced stranger with no name who had just stepped off the Deadwood stage and was now standing at the bar of the Last Chance saloon dressed only in a tutu, high-heeled shoes, holding a pink parasol and reciting passages from Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past to Mad Dog Kincaid and the Coltrane boys outta the Lazy K Ranch just south o' Tucson."

And it's not the first time the civil servant has tried his hand at bad writing.

He said: "I won the Western category in 2012. I thought that one was better actually - absolutely terrible.

"Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown - they are absolutely awful but they sell billions.

"There's so many people out there making millions by writing crap but if you purposefully write crap it's quite difficult."

Ted, who describes himself as a "frustrated writer", said he lacks the self-control to sit down and write properly.

"There's not enough time what with work - and TV.

"I did write a short story in the style of Jeffrey Archer," he said. "It's absolutely diabolical."

Ted first started entering the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest in 2011.

He said: "I think I read about it three years ago. I just cracked up at its awfulness.

"I've been writing for about 12 years just mucking about.

"I just don't have the discipline.

"I have got a novel in me but it's a rather silly one," he said.

When it comes to writers he admires Ted named late sci-fi author Iain M Banks. He said: "He would be one of my favourites, and Arthur C Clarke - people who really know stuff and can make science really interesting. They can make fantastical situations seem real."

The competition was the brainchild of Professor Scott Rice who was fed up of being asked to judge writing competitions and having to wade through pages of entries which were often examples of bad prose themselves.

He decided to set a deliberately brief entry criteria and asked competitors to make their introductions as terrible as possible.

Entrants contribute offerings in a range of genres including romance, crime, fantasy, historical fiction, children's, purple prose and vile puns. All the entries are so awful that they achieve their own literary brilliance.

The competition has acquired its own notoriety and attracts thousands of entries from all over the world. The tagline for the contest is "Where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome".

Since 1982 more than 100,000 writers have tried to out-do Bulwer-Lytton's opening leading to a series of Penguin books collecting the best - or worst - entries.


Ted Downes who has won the Bulwer Lytton fiction contest for bad openings in the Western catagory | Ted Downes who has won the Bulwer Lytton fiction contest for bad openings in the Western catagory |

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 6, 2014
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