Vernon God Little
is the debut novel by Australian-born author DBC Pierre, first published in 2003. A darkly comic novel, it focuses on the title teenager, Vernon Little, who lives in a small town in Texas in the aftermath of a horrible school shooting where Vernon’s best friend killed sixteen students followed by himself. Although Vernon was not involved in the shooting and had no knowledge of his friend’s plans, the townspeople are consumed with a desire for answers and vengeance, and their cruel scrutiny soon falls on Vernon as they seek to make him a scapegoat. Exploring themes of popular culture, fame, martyrdom, and the various ways people respond to tragedy, Vernon God Little
was highly acclaimed for its unique take on heavy themes, and won multiple awards. These included the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction, and the First Novel Award in the Whitbread Awards. It has been adapted twice into a stage play, with the second adaptation being nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. It is under development as a feature film by German director Werner Herzog.Vernon God Little
begins as the life of Vernon Little, a teenager who lives in Martirio, Texas, is upended when his best friend Jesus Navarro kills sixteen of their classmates and then kills himself. Vernon is taken in for questioning and tells Deputy Vain Gurie that he was running an errand for teacher Mr. Nuckles. He wasn’t involved, but many people have doubts. This increases when his mother’s best friend Palmyra takes him out of town to the Bar-B-Chew Barn, leading people to think he’s a flight risk. Eulalio “Lally” Ledesma, claiming to be a CNN reporter, befriends Vernon’s mother Doris and promises to help Vernon with his public relations problem. Instead, she betrays Vernon and tells the media he’s dangerous with a sensationalistic report, leading him to be taken to jail for a psychiatric assessment.
The court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Goosens, meets with Vernon, touching him inappropriately during their session. Vernon storms out, despite knowing that this will make it near-impossible for him to be released from jail. However, the conniving Dr. Goosens has another plan, and when Vernon provides a compelling case for his release at the hearing, Dr. Goosens doesn’t contest it - with the stipulation that Vernon be required to attend regular sessions with him. Vernon begins to isolate himself, especially as Lally continues to betray him by convincing Mr. Nuckles to throw Vernon under the bus in an interview. However, Doris continues to let Lally manipulate her way into the family, even inviting her to share her bedroom. Vernon learns that a posse plans to search Keeter’s Field where Vernon stashed his rifle. Vernon races to beat them there. On the way, he meets a stranger who tells him that Lally is a fraud and gives him the number of Lally’s neglected mother. Although Vernon’s temper ruins his attempt to use this evidence, Lally moves out, then moves in with her friend Leona before he gets too close. Vernon tries to find a job, but after his rifle is found and he skips a session with Goosen, he extorts money from a local pervert and flees to San Antonio. He calls his crush Taylor to let her know where he is and meets her in Houston, but Taylor turns out to be Leona’s niece and knows Lally.
Vernon sneaks into Mexico, where a truck driver named Pelayo takes him to the beach resort in Acapulco. He turns sixteen there, but Taylor’s promise of wired money doesn’t come. Instead, she arrives in person and uses her money and wiles to get him to confess to being a murderer out of confusion. Lally has convinced Taylor that a string of murders around Texas are Vernon’s doing, and after Vernon is tricked into confessing, he’s grabbed by Lally’s people and turned over to federal marshalls. After spending the summer in the Harris County lock-up, he’s put on trial in a televised spectacle. Vernon trusts the system to find out the truth, and his lawyer exposes Goosen’s criminal behavior, which discredits his testimony. It’s proved that Taylor and Lally trapped him, but his defense falls apart when Pelayo can’t clear him because Vernon used an alibi in Mexico. Vernon is relying on Nuckles’ testimony to clear him, but Nuckles has been convinced that Vernon was involved. Vernon is found not guilty of the murders, but guilty of being involved in Jesus’ shooting.
He’s sentenced to death row, and his execution will be televised as part of a twisted reality show run by Lally where people vote on which convict they want to see die next. He’s in prison with a former axe murderer-turned-television preacher who helps Vernon and tells him that in a sense, Vernon is God. Vernon survives several votes, but eventually his number comes up. He tries to make the most of his time before his death, and puts together a conspiracy to entrap Lally and expose the scheme that framed him. It works, and also exposes Goosens and Nuckles as pedophiles. Vernon is pardoned seconds before he is executed by lethal injection. As the book ends, Vernon and Ella (one of the only classmates to believe his innocence) go on vacation to Mexico, as Vernon’s life finally goes back to normal.
DBC Pierre, born Peter Finlay, is an Australian-born author currently living in Ireland. A winner of the James Joyce Award from the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin, he is the author of five novels and two short stories, but is still best known for his acclaimed debut novel.