JUST over a year ago he was a working in a fruit and vegetable shop in Glasgow, but today Martin Cathcart Froden is basking in the literary limelight after winning the UK’s richest honour for unpublished writers.
The part-time drummer has also landed a publishing deal after winning the Dundee International Book Prize with a novel he wrote while he was on a creative writing course at Glasgow University.
Froden, 37, has shot to sudden fame as a writer after his underworld thriller - Devil Take The Hindmost - was chosen from almost 500 entries from all over the world for the competition.
He said the win had come as “a surprise and a joy” after struggling to make ends meet while he was studying and bringing up three young children in Glasgow with his wife Lucy.
Originally from Sweden, Froden has travelled extensively to the likes of Canada, Israel and Argentina, and has previously worked as an avocado picker, sound engineer, magazine editor and greengrocer.
Most recently he has been teaching English and creative writing in Scottish prisons.
Devil Take The Hindmost, a gangland tale partly set amid the world of competitive cycle racing in 1920s London, was inspired by his experience of training in the new Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow after joining the university’s bike club.
His win, which includes a £10,000 cash prize and a debut deal with Edinburgh-based Freight Books, was announced to coincide with the launch of the annual Dundee Literary Festival.
Adrian Searle, publisher at Freight, said: “Martin Cathcart Froden has created a unique, compelling noir that combines a literary sensibility with that all-important quality, it’s a real page turner. He brilliantly evokes the seedier side of interwar London.
“We’re delighted that the Dundee International Book Prize continues to uncover writing of this quality.”
Froden, who was working in Roots and Fruits in Glasgow’s West End while he was studying for his masters told The Scotsman: “I really decided to take the creative writing course to learn more.
“I was happy enough with my own writing, but I wanted to know how to teach other people and also become a better writer.
“I’ve been writing in English for maybe five years now, although I was writing in Swedish for maybe 10 years before that.
“I’ve always read a lot and I just wanted to feel what it was like to put words on the page, rather than take words from the page.
“I’m not sure what I was doing when I first started writing, I’ve had so many jobs and haven’t really followed any kind of career path.
“I can remember writing more properly when I was living in London when I was kind of house-sitting. I had a big cold room where once you sat down you didn’t want to move.
“I always keep a notebook in my pocket so whatever I am doing I am able to write at the same time, whether it is working in a fruit and veg shop or studying at home.”
Froden was supposed to submit the first three chapters of his novel - which features an idealistic young Scottish cyclist who falls foul of a crooked moneylender after relocating to London - for his masters course, but ended up writing the whole book, which he decided to enter for the competition.
He added: “When I joined the cycling club at university you got the chance to go on the Chris Hoy Velodrome. That’s where the idea for the book came from.
“I was never very good, but I really enjoyed it and it was really exciting. It was the equivalent of being able to play football at Wembley Stadium.”
The book prize is organised jointly by Dundee University, which runs the year-round Literary Dundee initiative, the city council and Freight Books.
Peggy Hughes, programme director of Dundee Literary Festival, said: “Martin Cathcart Froden is a worthy winner of the prize.
“This has been a stellar year, with tough competition from a very fine shortlist, but Martin’s debut was ahead of the pack.”