Craven wins CWA Gold Dagger; No Exit takes inaugural publisher's award

Craven wins CWA Gold Dagger; No Exit takes inaugural publisher's award

Novelist M W Craven has won the prestigious Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year for The Puppet Show (Constable/Little, Brown).

The novel, which introduces Detective Washington Poe and tells of a serial killer at work in the Lake District, drew acclaim from crime authors Martina Cole, Peter James and Mick Herron, who described it as a “thrilling curtain raiser” for the rest of the Washington Poe series.

The Carlisle-based writer served in the armed forces and became a probation officer before crediting the CWA Debut Dagger competition (for unpublished work) in 2013 for opening the door for a career as an author. He wrote two books as Mike Craven before launching the new series.

Craven beat fellow shortlistees Claire Askew (All the Hidden Truths, Hodder & Stoughton), Christobel Kent (What We Did, Sphere), Donna Leon (Unto Us a Son is Given, William Heinemann), Derek B Miller (American by Day, Doubleday) and Benjamin Wood (A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better, Scribner) to the award.

Craven pronounced himself "absolutely shocked" by the win, but Constable publishing director Krystyna Green told The Bookseller: "I knew from the moment I read The Puppet Show that we had something special, and that's been borne out by the reception we've had from readers, booksellers, people in Cumbria, everyone." Craven's agent David Headley called him a "phenomenal" writer, with the second in the Washington Poe series, The Black Summer, "even better" than the first.

The 2019 Crime Writers Association (CWA) Dagger awards were given on Thursday evening (24th October) at a ceremony in London. Also awarded on the night was the inaugural Dagger for Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year, celebrating excellence and diversity in crime writing, which went to 30-year-old indie No Exit Press after what Maxim Jakowboski, presenting the prize, called a "very tight decision" decided by a single vote. M.d. Ion Mills, accepting the award, thanked his authors, booksellers, colleague Claire Watts, and Turnaround, which has been No Exit's distributor since 1986.

Meanwhile Chris Hammer’s "powerful" Australia-set debut Scrublands (Wildfire) claimed the CWA John Creasey New Blood award, for a first-time crime writer. The author, who had travelled from Australia for the evening, thanked the British crime writing community "for welcoming international crime writers like myself instead of being a small, enclosed, parochial shop".

Ben Macintyre’s bestselling Cold War account The Spy and the Traitor (Viking) was awarded the CWA ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction. Bloomsbury crime imprint Raven Books scored a hit with To The Lions by Holly Watt, which was awarded the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, for thrillers. The novel is about a female journalist who stumbles upon a conspiracy; the author is herself an investigative journalist.

Israeli author Dov Alfon - a former intelligence officer in the Israel Defence Forces - received the CWA International Dagger for A Long Night in Paris, his first work of fiction, translated by Daniella Zamir (MacLehose Press). The CWA Sapere Books Historical Dagger went to S G MacLean for Destroying Angel (Quercus), the third in her Seeker series and set in 17th century Yorkshire.

Danuta Kot, writing as Danuta Reah, received her second CWA Short Story Dagger for "The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing", in The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing and other Fantastic Female Fables (Fantastic Books Publishing). The award was collected on her behalf by a delighted Dan Grubb, c.e.o. of the Yorkshire-based publisher. Highly commended in the category was Teresa Solana's  "I Detest Mozart" in her collection The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories (Bitter Lemon Press).

The CWA Dagger in The Library - voted on exclusively by librarians and chosen for the author's body of work and support of libraries - went to Kate Ellis, author of the Wesley Peterson and DI Joe Plantagenet series. Ellis, previously shortlisted for the award in 2017, beat stalwarts M C Beaton, Mark Billingham, John Connolly, C J Sansom and Cath Staincliffe for the Dagger.

The Debut Dagger for unknown and uncontracted writers was won by Australian author Shelley Burr for her novel Wake, the story of a twin sister's disappearance. Highly commended was Catherine Hendricks for modern police procedural Hardways.

A Red Herring award, which recognises contributions of special merit to the CWA's activities, was given to author, editor and CWA honorary vice chair Maxim Jakubowski.  

On the night, Robert Goddard was also presented with the 2019 Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, the highest honour in British crime writing, which he was awarded earlier this year. Goddard thanked his long-term publisher Transworld, including m.d. Larry Finlay, "imperturbable" publicist Patsy Irwin, and publisher Bill Scott-Kerr, of whom he noted: "Every time I produce a novel, he produces a novella of editor's notes, full of unexpected twists and turns."

Linda Stratmann, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, said: “2019’s winners show the incredible range and quality of authors at work in the crime writing genre today. The Daggers recognise both established and emerging names, and we are incredibly proud of the reputation and longevity the Daggers have, nationally and internationally.”

Writer Barry Forshaw, MC for the Dagger Awards evening, added: “The Daggers are the ultimate celebration of the fact that crime fiction remains an evergreen area of modern publishing, with fresh trends continually appearing, and traditional forms undergoing constant reinvigoration.”

The CWA awards have been running since 1955.