The CWA Debut Dagger

Alan Bradley

Photo © Shirley Bradley

The winner

5 July 2007: The winner of the 2007 Debut Dagger competition is Alan Bradley (right), from British Columbia in Canada. He was presented with his Dagger, and the prize of £500, this evening at the 2007 Dagger Awards ceremony, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in London's Park Lane. More valuable than the prize money is the fact that for many of the winners, and a good number of shortlisted authors, this has been the first step to a successful writing career.

The winning entry is The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie: “Flavia is barely eleven, but her passion for poisons would make Lucrezia Borgia cringe”. Read the first chapter here.

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto, but grew up in Cobourg, Ontario. After a career in private radio and television broadcast engineering, and later with the University of Saskatchewan, he began writing full time. His publications include The Shoebox Bible and Ms. Holmes of Baker Street (with William A.S. Sarjeant). He now lives in Gozo.

His website is

2009 update

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Orion published The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie in the UK in January 2009, the first in a three-book deal. Doubleday are publishing it in his native Canada (February) and Bantam in the US (May). Translations are also now in the offing and Flavia will soon have an international fan base.

Alan submitted the 3,000 words he had completed about Flavia to the Daggers after his wife came across a previous Debut Dagger runner-up (Louise Penny) on the radio. She told listeners who wanted to know more about the British crime awards to check out her website. “And that is how I came to win. It’s all a bit of a blur since, I can’t remember exactly how many countries have bought the book based on that first chapter, but it is a lot,” Alan says.

Highly Commended

David Jackson

David Jackson (right), from the Wirral on Merseyside was Highly Commended with Pariah: “Where do you turn when your very presence is the kiss of death to those around you? Detective Cal Doyle is about to discover just how low he is prepared to sink.”

David Jackson gained his PhD from the University of Liverpool, and stayed on to become a lecturer there. Although he is trained as a scientist, his artistic demons constantly demand an outlet. Heavily influenced by crime novelists from the U.S., he tends to set his fiction on that side of the pond. A previous (unpublished) thriller won second prize in a novel-writing competition sponsored by Piatkus books. He is now actively seeking agent representation.

2011 update


David secured a contract with Pan Macmillan, and Pariah was published as a trade paperback in March 2011, with the mass-market paperback following through in February 2012. A second novel, The Helper, is due out in March 2012.

David Jackson’s website is

The 2007 Debut Dagger Competition ran from 8th January till 14th April. Entrants sent us the opening chapter(s) – up to 3000 words – and a short synopsis of their proposed crime novel. The quality of submissions was very strong, and narrowing it down to twelve from the longlist was the most arduous task of a demanding job: arduous because there were simply so many good entries.

The other shortlisted authors and their entries (in alphabetical order) are:

Martin Brackstone (UK): Maletski’s Motive
Nesta Brzozowski (UK): With a View to Death
Fay Cunningham (UK): Cry Baby
Gordon W. Dale (USA): Rome Was Never Like This
C. J. Harper (USA): The Shadow of the Dead
D.J. McIntosh (Canada): The Witch of Babylon
Gerard O’Donovan (UK): White Lion
James Oswald (UK): Natural Causes
Peter James Peacock (UK): Towers of London
Martie de Villiers (UK): Solitaire

See the shortlists page for more information about the runners-up and their entries.

The Debut Dagger Judges

Philip Gooden (Chair), author of historical mysteries and reference books on the English language, and Chair of the CWA

Emma Hargrave, Managing Editor, Tindal Street Press

Bill Massey, Editorial Director, Orion

Sara Menguc, Literary Agent

Keshini Naidoo, Assistant Editor, HarperCollins (Avon)

Sarah Turner, Senior Commissioning Editor, Transworld Publishers