The Literary Review's annual award was presented to Johnson for her novel Shire Hell at a ceremony at London's In and Out club.
Johnson was singled out for her novel's slew of animal metaphors, including comparing her male protagonist's "light fingers" to "a moth caught inside a lampshade", and his tongue to "a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop". Literary Review deputy editor Tom Fleming was also disturbed by the heroine's "grab, to put him, now angrily slapping against both our bellies, inside".
"You sort of think it might be a typo, but she is actually referring to his penis as him. It's a mixture of cliché and euphemism, but it's also very spirited – A plus for effort," he said. "All the entries were equally awful this year, but Rachel Johnson had the worst metaphors, and the worst animal metaphors." Link
John Updike won an unprecedented lifetime achievement award for The Widows of Eastwick.
"She had gagged, and moved him outside her lips, rubbing his spurting glans across her cheeks and chin," he writes. "God, she was antique, but here they were. Her face gleamed with his jism in the spotty light of the motel room, there on the far end of East Beach, within sound of the sea."