Forget the Man Booker and the Costa, for readers of crime – now officially the UK’s most popular genre of fiction – the CWA Daggers (hosted by Barry Forshaw) are the book awards to really sharpen your appetite. Every autumn, 10 awards are given away at a glittering black-tie dinner at a smart hotel and authors, publishers, agents and, yes, readers gather to see who gets the accolades. This year the event will take place at the Grange City Hotel in Cooper’s Row, London on Thursday 25 October.
One of the most exciting CWA Daggers is the Ian Fleming Steel – loosely, for thrillers, in honour of the James Bond creator. Last year Mick Herron won for Spook Street and this year he’s on the shortlist again with London Rules, the latest instalment in his adventures of a set of also-ran spies. Mick was a sub-editor on a legal journal for far too many years, grinding out the days in a succession of increasingly unpleasant office environments while the novels he spent his evenings writing failed to garner much in the way of attention or success. His fortunes changed with the multi-award-winning Jackson Lamb series, about a bunch of underachieving spies who slog away at dreary office-bound tasks while dreaming of glory. He’s still not sure where he got the idea from.
‘It’s a thrill and a privilege to be on a Dagger shortlist. The company is always amazing,’ Mick says.
Joining him on the shortlist is Colette McBeth with An Act of Silence, her third thriller after Precious Thing and The Life I Left Behind, and a harrowing and convincing Westminster political thriller. Colette began her career on The Journal in Newcastle before becoming Deputy News Editor at Sky News. She spent ten years as a BBC television news and political correspondent, interviewing politicians, reporting on serial killers, terrorists and spending hours inside The Old Bailey. But the story everyone remembers her for is the invasion of killer crabs in Norfolk. Colette is Scottish and grew up in Whitley Bay. She now lives on the south coast with her husband and three children. She says: ‘When I found out I was shortlisted I was beyond chuffed and very, very surprised.’
C J Tudor is a new name in crime and has taken the publishing world by storm with her shortlisted debut novel, The Chalk Man: a chilly and disturbing exploration of childhood secrets overshadowing adulthood. C J was born in Salisbury and lives in Sussex with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert. Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author. The Chalk Man was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories. C J says: ‘I’m thrilled, honoured and gobsmacked to be shortlisted! I mean, LOOK at the other authors on the list! Not too shabby for an ex-dog walker from Nottingham.’
A shortlister who won this very Dagger in 2016 with The Cartel is American author Don Winslow. Don is author of nineteen acclaimed, award-winning, international bestsellers – including The Cartel, The Power of the Dog, The Force, Savages, and The Winter of Frankie Machine. Savages was made into a critically acclaimed film by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone. The Cartel is scheduled to begin production in 2019 and shortlist contender The Force – about Denny Malone, a NYC policeman who is both good cop and bad cop in one man – has been adapted by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet and Oscar nominee Scott Frank for director James Mangold and 20th Century Fox. A former investigator, anti-terrorist trainer, and trial consultant, Don Winslow lives in California. He says: ‘I am deeply honoured to see The Force shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger and to be included in such a great company of writers.’
Fellow shortlisted author Attica Locke also has a pedigree on the silver screen, as a Los Angeles-based screenwriter who has written for Paramount, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks. Most recently, she was a writer and producer on Empire. Turning to novels, Attica is the author of Pleasantville, which won the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction; Black Water Rising, which was nominated for an Edgar Award; and The Cutting Season, a national bestseller and winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Attica is shortlisted for Bluebird, Bluebird , dealing with racial tensions in the American South. She says: ‘I am over the moon to be shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and I feel deeply honoured to be part of this crime fiction community. I never ceased to be amazed at crime fiction’s ability to reveal who we really are when faced with unimaginable personal, social and moral violence.’
Last but not least on the shortlist is Emily Koch, with her debut novel If I Die Before I Wake with its intriguing strapline: how do you solve your own murder? Emily is an award-winning journalist and writer living in Bristol with her husband and daughter. ‘It is a massive honour to be shortlisted, and I still can’t quite believe it. I’m waiting for the call telling me it is all a wind-up.’ It isn’t, we promise, Emily!
That’s the complete line-up of shortlisted authors for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2018, sponsored by Ian Fleming Publications. If you can’t be at the dinner – and at the time of writing there are still a few places left; email firstname.lastname@example.org for a ticket – then visit the CWA website after the event for the winners of all the Daggers: https://thecwa.co.uk/the-daggers/.