American author David Guterson, who wrote the acclaimed Snow Falling on Cedars, has won the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for explicit passages in his latest novel Ed King. ((Ted S. Warren/Associated Press))

American author David Guterson, who earned acclaim for his novel Snow Falling on Cedars, has now added one of the literary world's most dubious honours to his list of accolades: the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Organizers announced Guterson winner for his novel Ed King, a modern reimagining of Sophocles' ancient play Oedipus Rex, at a ceremony in London on Tuesday evening.

Though Guterson could not attend the gala, his publisher accepted on his behalf.

"Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I'm not in the least bit surprised," the writer said in a statement, offered as a tongue-in-cheek response to his victory.

In his Seattle-set Ed King, Guterson tells the story of a boy given up for adoption as he grows up to become a powerful internet billionaire who kills his biological father and beds his mother.

Award organizers specifically singled out one explicit passage, describing it as "the part where a mother has sex with her son."

Guterson had tough competition from other finalists like Haruki Murakami, Lee Childs and Stephen King. But the judges were convinced by a passage that begins: "Ed stood with his hands at the back of his head, like someone just arrested, while she abused him with a bar of soap."

The notorious scene concludes with: "Then they rinsed, dried, dressed, and went to an expensive restaurant for lunch."

Guterson joins such past honourees as Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and John Updike.

Established by the late Literary Review editor Auberon Waugh in 1993 and administered each year by the magazine, the award is designed to "draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."

"Without wanting to sound priggish, this prize has spectacularly backfired," Waugh's son, author Alexander Waugh, told those gathered for the Tuesday ceremony.

The prize could have been won by a "disappointingly large number of books" this year, he quipped.