Barbara Cleverly

The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 2004

Barbara Cleverly wins with The Damascened Blade

Marion Donaldson of Headline presented Barbara Cleverly with her Dagger and a cheque for £3000 at the CWA awards lunch. The Damascened Blade, published by Constable & Robinson, had already been announced as the winner of the Crime Writers' Association Ellis Peters Historical Dagger for 2004 at a candlelit champagne reception at The House of St Barnabas-in-Soho, Greek Street, London W1, on Tuesday, October 19th. This award is sponsored by the Estate of Ellis Peters and her publishers, Headline, and the Time Warner Book Group UK.

In announcing Ms Cleverly's success in October, Lucy Ramsey of Headline Publishing gave special mention to another short listed entry - Tom Franklin's Hell at the Breech, published by Flamingo - and praised the exceptional high standard of this year's entry. Hence the fact that the 2004 short list comprised seven titles rather than the usual six.

Ms Cleverly also received a Braille copy of her book from Pat Beech, Director of Library and Information Services for the National Library for the Blind (NLB). This initiative between the CWA, the Foyle Foundation and the NLB is a new development for this year to help make the Dagger-winning entries more accessible to blind and partially sighted people.


'The northwest frontier, 1910. The screams of a wounded British officer abandoned at the bottom of a dark ravine are heard by a young Scottish subaltern. Ignoring the command to retreat to base the Highlander sets out alone, with dagger in hand, to rescue his fellow officer from the Pathan tribesmen who are slowly torturing him to death. But the bloody outcome of this rescue attempt is not what anybody could have predicted...

'Over a dozen years later the backwash of this tragedy threatens to engulf Joe Sandilands. On a welcome break from his policing duties, Joe is spending a fortnight with his old army friend, James Lindsay, commander of the British army's front line fort at Gor Khatri on the Afghan border. However, the fragile peace is soon broken resulting in the death of a Pathan prince and the taking of hostages and Joe and his companion are given seven days in which to identify, arrest and execute the killer before the frontier erupts into war.'

Barbara Cleverly was born in the north of England and was a graduate of Durham University. She has spent her working life in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, where she now lives. She has one son and five stepchildren. THE DAMASCENED BLADE is her third novel featuring Joe Sandilands, who is based on a relation of Ms Cleverly's - Brigadier Harold Richard Sandilands (1876-1961) - a daring soldier rather than a policeman, but who served in India at different periods throughout his career.

The New York Times named THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE, Ms Cleverly's first Joe Sandilands novel, as one of the best mystery books of 2002. She was inspired to write it by being short listed for the CWA Debut Dagger (for unpublished authors of fiction) in 2000. Ms Cleverly followed up her initial success with RAGTIME IN SIMLA. Constable & Robinson published the fourth title in the series, THE PALACE TIGER, earlier in 2004.


The other books on the short list, in alphabetical order by author were as follows:

Majorie Eccles - THE SHAPE OF SAND - Allison & Busby Ltd

'A haunting tale depicting an Edwardian scandal and the discovery of a mummified body after the second world war, both eras finely realised, with the mystery finally solved through an atmospheric diary of a turn-of-the century voyage to Egypt.'

Tom Franklin - HELL AT THE BREECH - Flamingo

'A powerful and atmospheric book that recreates the investigation of a murder in a remote area of Alabama towards the end of the nineteenth century. A murder that sparked off gang warfare.'

Janet Gleeson - THE THIEF-TAKER - Double/Transworld

'Bourgeois mores and the sinister underbelly of mid-eighteenth century London are imaginatively deployed in this compelling tale of a silversmith's cook who is drawn into the investigation of both the theft of a valuable piece of silver and the death of an errant maidservant.'

Matthew Pearl - THE DANTE CLUB - Vintage

'An erudite and compelling novel that pits Boston's elite scholars against a ruthless and imaginative killer who finds inspiration for his murders in Dante's vision of hell.'

Steven Saylor - THE JUDGEMENT OF CAESAR - Constable & Robinson

'A skilful interweaving of a number of different mysteries with international, political and personal questions set against a background of intrigue at the time of Caesar's involvement with Egypt and Cleopatra.'

Laura Wilson - THE LOVER - Orion

'A psychologically compelling tale of a bomb-torn London in the autumn of 1940 stalked by a ruthless killer of defenceless females. Each of the very different main protagonists narrates in turn, the tension rising as air-raids and murder build to a frightening climax.'

The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger judging panel consisted of:
Janet Laurence (Chair): Author of two crime series, one set in the eighteenth century featuring the Italian painter, Canaletto; honours degree in history.
Maureen Lyle: Journalist and regular reviewer of crime fiction, also playwright on literary, historical and musical subjects.
Jessica Mann: Author of twenty crime novels, journalist and reviewer. Next book (March 2005) a non-fiction account of the overseas evacuation of children during the Second World War.
Colin Murray: Long career in publishing, now works as a freelance editor, specialising in crime, science fiction and fantasy.