The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award 2008
Winner: Laura Wilson with Stratton’s War
Sponsors: The Estate of Ellis Peters, Headline Book Publishing Company and Little, Brown Book Group
Laura Wilson has won the 2008 CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award with Stratton’s War, published by Orion. She was presented with the award and a cheque for £3000 at a ceremony held on the evening of October 27th 2008. The location was an elegant Georgian townhouse, the swanky, intimate, and lively headquarters of The Georgian Group at 6 Fitzroy Square, London.
The other books on the shortlist were of such high calibre that I really did not expect to win. In fact, just before the announcement, I'd taken a consoling swig of my drink - I practically choked, and had to be slapped on the back. Very dignified! I'm absolutely delighted, and still slightly stunned.
This award is for the best historical crime novel (set in any period up to 35 years prior to the year in which the award will be made) by an author of any nationality, first published in the UK in English between September 16 2007 and September 15 2008. It commemorates the life and work of Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) (1913-1995), a prolific author perhaps best known as the creator of Brother Cadfael.
Judges’ comments: ‘The early stages of World War II see Stratton, a traditional detective coping in a war situation with everyday crime and the underworld and investigating what he believes is a murder but has been officially judged to be suicide. At the same time Diana Calthrop, a beautiful, bored socialite, is drawn into MI5’s battle with anti-war facism on the home front, a battle in which no holds are barred. Gradually Laura Wilson’s atmospheric book unites the two main strands of her subtle plot. Her characters are complex and totally believable, as is their struggle to cope with wartime London, with its constant bombing, increasing bureaucracy, and the breakdown of family life. The plot builds into a complex picture of a time in which no one is immune from the insidious effects of war.’
Synopsis: London, June 1940. When the body of silent screen star Mabel Morgan is found impaled on railings in Fitzrovia, the coroner rules her death as suicide, but DI Ted Stratton of the CID is not convinced. Despite opposition from his superiors, he starts asking questions, and it becomes clear that Morgan's fatal fall from a high window may have been the work of one of Soho's most notorious gangsters.
MI5 agent Diana Calthrop, working with senior official Sir Neville Apse, is leading a covert operation when she discovers that her boss is involved in espionage. She must tread carefully - Apse is a powerful man, and she can't risk threatening the reputation of the Secret Service.
Only when Stratton's path crosses Diana's do they start to uncover the truth. But as they discover Morgan's connection with Apse and their mutual links to a criminal network and a secretive pro-fascist organisation, they begin to realise that the intrigues of the Secret Service are alarmingly similar to the machinations of war-torn London's underworld.
Laura Wilson was brought up in London and has degrees in English literature from Somerville College, Oxford, and UCL, London. She lives in Islington, London, where she is currently working on her eighth novel. She is the crime fiction reviewer for the Guardian newspaper, and will be chairing the programming committee of the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in 2009.
This year has brought an unprecedented number of excellent historical crime novels. The other five books shortlisted for the prize for the best historical crime novel of 2008 were:
Ariana Franklin, The Death Maze, Bantam Press
Philip Kerr, A Quiet Flame, Quercus
Andrew Martin, Death on a Branch Line, faber and faber
C J Sansom, Revelation, Macmillan
Andrew Taylor, Bleeding Heart Square, Michael Joseph
Follow the link for more details about those shortlisted books, and why the judges chose them:
The CWA Ellis Peters judging panel has also asked for the following books from their long list to be published in recognition of their merit:
Marjorie Eccles, Last Nocturne, Allison & Busby
Ann Granger, A Mortal Curiosity, Headline
H R F Keating, Inspector Ghote’s First Case, Allison & Busby
R N Morris, A Vengeful Longing, faber and faber
Janet Laurence (Chair) – author of the Darina Lisle and Canaletto crime series, former chair of the CWA
Geoffrey Bailey – Bookseller specialising in crime
Sir Bernard Ingham – Press Secretary to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and crime fiction fan
Maureen Lyle – Crime reviewer and enthusiastic reader
Eileen Roberts – Originator and organiser of St Hilda’s annual crime symposium in Oxford, mystery and crime enthusiast