It was revealed tonight at a champagne reception at Stirling Castle that the winner of The McIlvanney Prize 2017 is Denise Mina for The Long Drop, published by Harvill Secker. It’s the first time a woman has won the prize. The award was announced on screen by judge Susan Calman, unable to attend the ceremony itself as she is currently starring in the new series of Strictly Come Dancing. Chris Brookmyre, winner of the McIlvanney Prize last year, handed over the engraved decanter and a cheque for £1000. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing and includes nationwide promotion in Waterstones. It is presented annually at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling.
Lee Randall, chair of the judges said: ‘The Long Drop by Denise Mina transports us back to dark, grimy Glasgow, telling the social history of a particular strata of society via the grubby, smokey pubs favoured by crooks and chancers. She takes us into the courtroom, as well, where Manuel acted as his own lawyer, and where hoards of women flocked daily, to watch the drama play out. Full of astute psychological observations, this novel’s not only about what happened in the 1950s, but about storytelling itself. It shows how legends grow wings, and how memories shape-shift and mark us. For my money this is one of the books of 2017 — in any genre.’
Following the ceremony the 400 guests formed a torchlight procession (shielded by Bloody Scotland branded umbrellas) through the streets of Stirling led by Val McDermid, Ian Rankin – and Denise Mina, winner of the McIlvanney Prize 2017. Denise Mina will be celebrating her 20th Anniversary as a crime writer next year. Her first novel, Garnethill, won the CWA Dagger for best first crime novel in 1998 and she has subsequently won Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year twice – in 2012 and 2013. The Long Drop is an extraordinarily unsettling literary suspense novel based on the notorious case of Scotland’s first convicted serial killer, Peter Manuel. True crime stories always have two versions: the official verdict and the stories people tell each other. Sometimes the difference is staggering.
Previous winners of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award are Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow 2016, Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012. The 2017 winner was kept under wraps until the ceremony itself.