Three men are preparing to do battle. Their goal is a prestigious literary prize. And each man will do anything to win it. For the young Beginner, loved by critics more than readers, it means fame. For The Master, old, exhausted, preoccupied with his prostate, it means money. And for The Writer—successful, vain and in his prime—it is a matter of life and death. As the rivals lie, cheat and plot their way to victory, their paths crossing with ex-wives, angry girlfriends, preening publishers and a strange black parrot, the day of the Prize Ceremony takes on a far darker significance than they could have imagined.