Ann Cleeves wins the Duncan Lawrie Dagger
Ann Cleeves has won the inaugural Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the biggest crime writing prize in the world, for her book Raven Black, published by Macmillan. Peter Ostacchini, Deputy Managing Director, Duncan Lawrie Bank, presented her with the dagger and her £20,000 prize at the 2006 Dagger Awards ceremony, which took place at the Waldorf Hilton in London's Aldwych on Thursday 29 June.
Ann, who claims never to have won anything before in her life, subsequently wrote about the day in her online diary:
On Thursday morning I woke up not being able to speak. Really. Nothing. A strange series of squeaks and croaks whenever I opened my mouth. The result of a heavy cold and a day hectoring the library staff of Wokingham.
But I went. Checked into the lovely hotel Pan Macmillan had booked for me, lay in the deepest bath in the world and was ready for a party. I still couldn't speak, which saved me the trouble of making polite conversation and the bother of dreaming about an acceptance speech. The Waldorf was gorgeous and full of old friends and I smiled and whispered and drank champagne.
Then I won. A heart-stopping moment. Sarah, my editor, accepted the award for me and we drank more champagne. If I had been speaking I would have said something like this –
I probably wouldn't even still be published today if it hadn't been for 3 things –
The support and friendship of the other Murder Squad members.
Sara Menguc and Sarah Turner, the best agent and editor in the business
The fantastic public library service which buys books which are unfashionable, different and interesting and allows publishers to take risks.
And a huge thank you to Duncan Lawrie. This prize will make a difference. It'll save me from being so frantically busy that writing is done on slow Virgin trains and crammed into weekends.
The award is sponsored by the Duncan Lawrie Private Bank. In searching for a new sponsor for its premier award, the CWA was looking for one that understood how it worked and that would respect the legacy built up by the CWA. “With Duncan Lawrie we feel we have found the right sponsor, one that has integrity and an already-established standing in the literary world.” commented last year's CWA Chair, Carla Banks.
It is a cold January morning, and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter's eye is drawn to a splash of colour on the frozen ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour, Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance.
The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man - loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when detective Jimmy Perez and his colleagues from the mainland insist on opening out the investigation, a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community.
For the first time in years, Catherine's neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst.
Superb sense of place. A depiction of an enclosed community with modern and entrenched values constantly competing. A thrilling read.
Ann Cleeves grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs - child care officer, women's refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard - before going back to college and training to be a probation officer. She is currently Reader Development Officer for Kirklees Libraries, associate trainer for Opening the Book and reader in residence for the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.
While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person's not heavily into birds - and Ann isn't - there's not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her books are often set in isolated places.
Raven Black is the eighteenth of Ann's full-length novels and is the first of her Shetland Quartet. As well as a number of one-offs and short series, she has written two substantial series: the earlier George and Molly books feature an elderly ornithologist couple and the later Inspector Ramsay books with the eponymous Northumberland detective.
Ann has twice previously been short listed for a CWA Dagger Award - in 2002 for her short story The Plater, and the following year for the Dagger in the Library award. Her short film for Border TV, Catching Birds, won a Royal Television Society Award.
Ann Cleeves's website is www.anncleeves.com
This year's Duncan Lawrie Dagger judges
Geoff Bradley (non-voting Chair)
Lyn Brown MP – committee member on the London Libraries service
Frances Gray – academic who writes about and teaches courses on modern crime fiction
Heather O'Donoghue – academic, linguist, crime fiction reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement, and keen reader of all crime fiction
Barry Forshaw - reviewer and editor of Crime Time magazine.
The Duncan Lawrie Dagger is the world's premier award for new crime fiction. Last year there were over two hundred entries for its predecessor, the Gold Dagger. Retiring CWA Chair Carla Banks said “Because the prize is now substantial and rivals the non-genre prizes for general fiction, the temperature is certainly higher this year.”
The other books on the shortlist, in author-name alphabetical order, were as follows:
Simon Beckett: The Chemistry of Death (Bantam)
Thomas H. Cook: Red Leaves (Quercus)
Frances Fyfield: Safer Than Houses (Little, Brown)
Bill James: Wolves of Memory (Constable)
Laura Wilson: A Thousand Lies (Orion)