The CWA Debut Dagger 2008

The winner: Amer Anwar

Amer Anwar

© 2008 Romi Anwar

10 July 2008: The winner of the 2008 Debut Dagger competition, for unpublished novels by unpublished authors, is Amer Anwar from West London. Jon Wood, editorial Director at the sponsor Orion, announced the winner and presented him with the Dagger, and the prize of £500, at the 2008 Dagger Awards ceremony, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in London's Park Lane this evening. 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 Western Fringes, a novel set in and around West London's Asian community: “When ex-con Zaq Khan is asked to find his employer’s runaway daughter he has no idea what he’s getting into. He soon learns there’s more going on than he’s been told about and then, on top of the lies, things start to get violent.”.

Judges’ comments: ‘Set in London's Asian community, with a story that explores family ties as much as criminal behaviour, Western Fringes shows good narrative control and a talent for creating suspense and a atmosphere of menace. The central character is well-drawn, sympathetic and appealing.’

Read the first chapter here.

Amer Anwar was born, brought up and still lives in West London. He was reading and writing stories from an early age but didn't pursue writing as a career early on. Since leaving college he has worked as a warehouse assistant, a comic book lettering artist, a chalet rep in the French Alps and in the print and design industries. He is currently a freelance graphic designer and working on his first novel.

Highly Commended: Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer (UK) was Highly Commended for Blacklands, which describes the dangerous cat-and-mouse game a twelve-year-old boy plays with a serial killer. The judges said it was a ‘UK-based psychological suspense story of deceptive simplicity, with good dramatic potential. The writing is atmospheric, visual and insightful, and the family dynamics well-drawn.’

After zig-zagging through journalism, dishwashing, gardening and bookmaking, Belinda Bauer has worked for the past ten years as a full-time screenwriter. Finally frustrated by the near-impossibility of getting features made, she decided to write all her script ideas as novels first, so that she would at least have something tangible to show for many months spent hunched over a keyboard. Blacklands is the first of these novels.

There were 10 entries on the shortlist this year. The other eight were:

Russell Colman (Canada) - Desert Storm
Peter Dewar (UK) - The Eclipse of Lilith
Bill Harrison (Canada) - Nite Lite
Alison Marlow (UK) - The Stench of Lilies

James Oswald (UK) - The Book of Souls
Susan Schaab (USA) - Wearing the Spider
Ian Simpson (UK) - Devils and Disciples
PJ Watson (USA) - All the Wrong People

The 2008 Debut Dagger Competition ran from 15th November – 15th February. Hundreds of aspiring crime novelists sent us the opening chapter(s) – up to 3000 words – and a short synopsis of their proposed crime novel, hoping this would be the deciding step in becoming a published crime writer. The winner was chosen by the final judging panel, who were:

Krystyna Green, Constable & Robinson

Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company, Authors’ Agent

Lesley Horton, Chair, CWA

Selina Walker, Transworld

Jane Wood, Quercus

Jon Wood, Orion (sponsor)

Winning the Debut Dagger doesn’t guarantee you’ll get published. But it does mean your work will be seen by leading agents and top editors, who have signed up over a dozen winners as well as shortlisted Debut Dagger competitors.

The Debut Dagger is open to anyone who has not yet had a novel published commercially. First prize is £500 plus two free tickets to the prestigious CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger Awards and night’s stay for two in a top London hotel. All shortlisted entrants will receive a generous selection of crime novels and professional assessments of their entries, and will also be invited to the Dagger Awards Dinner.

Building on success

Inaugural winner Joolz Denby was short-listed in 2005 for the Orange Prize for Fiction, while 2001 winner Ed Wright was awarded the 2005 Shamus award for best P.I. novel by the Private Eye Writers of America. Allan Guthrie won the 2007 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year for Two Way Split, developed from his entry shortlisted in 2001. Barbara Cleverly, shortlisted in 1999, won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award in 2004. Louise Penny, highly commended by the judges of the 2004 Debut Dagger, was awarded the 2006 New Blood Dagger.