Grimmish Michael Winkler’s self-published Miles Franklin entry
22 June 2022
Grimmish by Michael Winkler — along with the other books on this year’s Miles Franklin longlist — has somewhat found itself in the shadows as a consequence of the plagiarism controversy surrounding John Hughes’ novel The Dogs, which has since been removed from the longlist.
This could have been unfortunate as the 2021 title by the Melbourne based Australian author has an historic claim to fame. Grimmish is the first ever self-published novel to be included on the longlist of the long running Australian literary prize.
Variously described as “exploded nonfiction“, and an “experimental historical novel“, Grimmish recounts the story of Italian American boxer Joe Grim, and his tour of Australia in 1908 and 1909. Grim who fought in over one-hundred-and-fifty bouts, only prevailed on twenty-four occasions. That didn’t prevent him from developing a reputation for his showmanship and extraordinary physical resilience, and earning the moniker of the “the human punching bag” in the process.
But Grim isn’t the only player in this story with tenacity. Like many authors, Winkler struggled to find a publisher interested in looking at his manuscript. But that was only the beginning. He was also subjected to numerous taunts and sneers, being told Grimmish, with its unconventional format, was “wearisome”, and “repellent.” Publishing houses, it seemed, did not want to take a punt on a book they felt certain would not sell.
At that point Winkler decided to self-publish. But self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted. In addition to writing a novel, an author is required to take on all the functions of a publishing house, editing, printing, marketing, and distribution, among them. An abundance of resolve and stamina — matching that, I dare say, of a champion boxer — is required.
The Miles Franklin shortlist will be announced tomorrow, Thursday 23 June 2022, and Grimmish has more than a few fans gunning for its inclusion. Rave reviews aside — the novel has garnered a respectable 4.25 out of five rating on Goodreads, Grimmish is almost deserving of a shortlist place purely on account of Winkler’s drive and determination in getting his book published.