Adrian McKinty has won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year prize for The Chain (Orion).
The thriller, which sees parents forced to abduct children to save the lives of their own, scooped the £3,000 prize on 23rd July, in a virtual awards ceremony.
The Belfast-born author's success comes as part of life-changing turnaround after his family was evicted from their home, forcing him to put down his pen and find work as an Uber driver and barman. Persuaded to give his career one last go, he wrote The Chain, which has now sold in more than 20 countries and is to be turned into a film following a seven-figure deal.
McKinty said: “I am gobsmacked and delighted to win this award. Two years ago, I had given up on writing altogether and was working in a bar and driving an Uber, and so to go from that to this is just amazing. People think that you write a book and it will be an immediate bestseller.
“For 12 books, my experience was quite the opposite, but then I started this one. It was deliberately high concept, deliberately different to everything else I had written — and I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere. But now look at this. It has been completely life-changing.”
The book was chosen by a public vote and judges from a shortlist featuring Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer (Atlantic), Mick Herron's Joe Country (John Murray), Abir Mukherjee's Smoke & Ashes (Vintage), Helen Fitzgerald's Worst Case Scenario (Orenda), and The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Little, Brown).
Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “Looking at the titles in contention for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020, it is clear to see why crime fiction remains the UK’s genre of choice. Adrian McKinty is a writer of astonishing talent and tenacity, and we could not be more grateful that he was persuaded to give his literary career one last shot because The Chain is a truly deserving winner. Whilst we might be awarding this year’s trophy in slightly different, digital circumstances, we raise a virtual glass of Theakston Old Peculier to Adrian’s success – with the hope that we can do so in person before too long, and welcome everyone back to Harrogate next year for a crime writing celebration like no other.”
The winner was revealed in a virtual awards ceremony on what would have been the opening night of Harrogate’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. Instead, the announcement marked the launch of the HIF Weekender, Harrogate International Festival’s free virtual event.
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- J K Rowling, McDermid and Cleeves compete on Theakston's longlist
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