Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr wins the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award 2009

Prize: £3,000

Sponsors: The Estate of Ellis Peters, Headline Book Publishing Company and Little, Brown Book Group

Thursday October 29th: Philip Kerr has won the Crime Writers’ Association’s prestigious Ellis Peters Historical Award with his wartime novel If The Dead Rise Not. Philip’s success was announced at a presentation ceremony held at Six Fitzroy Square, London.

Established 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, the award commemorates the life and work of Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) (1913-1995), a prolific author perhaps best known as the creator of Brother Cadfael.

CWA chair Margaret Murphy said: “The judging panel was mightily impressed by the exceptional quality of novels entered into the award – even commending two authors on the longlist. Philip Kerr is a truly worthy recipient of the prize.”

The judging panel said of his book, which is published by Quercus:: ‘Bernard Gunther, ex-Berlin cop, now house detective in the first-class Hotel Adlon as Nazi power becomes unstoppable, grapples with murder, corruption and the politics involved with Berlin’s 1936 hosting of the Olympic Games. Nearly twenty years later Bernie faces echoes of that time in pre-Castro Cuba, where he once more becomes involved with murder, corruption and politics. A tightly controlled plot twists and turns in a wryly witty narrative and the historical settings breathe reality.’

If the Dead Rise Not

SYNOPSIS: Berlin 1934. The Nazis have been in power for just eighteen months but already Germany has seen some unpleasant changes. As the city prepares to host the 1936 Olympics, Jews are being expelled from all German sporting organisations – a blatant example of discrimination.

Forced to resign as a homicide detective with Berlin’s Criminal Police, Bernie is now house detective at the famous Adlon Hotel. The discovery of two bodies – one a businessman and the other a Jewish boxer – involves Bernie in the lives of two hotel guests. One is a beautiful left-wing journalist intent on persuading America to boycott the Berlin Olympiad; the other is a German-Jewish gangster who plans to use the Olympics to enrich himself and the Chicago mob. As events unfold, Bernie uncovers a vast labour and construction racket designed to take advantage of the huge sums the Nazis are prepared to spend to showcase the new Germany to the world. It is a plot that finds its conclusion twenty years later in pre-revolution Cuba, the country to which Bernie flees from Argentina at the end of A Quiet Flame.

Philip Kerr was born in Edinburgh but now lives in London and in Cornwall. He is the author of five other acclaimed Bernie Gunther novels and is acknowledged as one of today’s finest thriller writers. If the Dead Rise Not recently won the €125,000 RBA international prize for crime writing.

Also shortlised were:

Rennie Airth: The Dead of Winter (Macmillan)
Shona MacLean: The Redemption of Alexander Seaton (Quercus)
Mark Mills: The Intelligence Officer (HarperCollins)
Andrew Williams: The Interrogator (John Murray)
Laura Wilson: An Empty Death (Orion Publishing Group)

See below for more details about these books.

The Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter

Rennie Airth


Judges’ comments: ‘Patient detection unravels the seemingly motiveless murder of a Polish girl in1944 London, a crime that reaches back to Paris on the brink of invasion and forwards to a stunning conclusion. A beautifully paced and carefully-drawn evocation of a war-weary society, and a police force dependent on over-retirement age detectives pitched against a pitiless criminal.’

The Redemption of Alexander Seaton

The Redemption of Alexander Seaton

Shona MacLean


Judges’ comments: ‘Early seventeenth-century Scotland: murder and religious prejudice, witch hunts, disgrace, loyalties, betrayal, love and redemption all combine in a beautifully told story that brings to life the struggles of a complex young man as he strives to expose the murder of a friend he failed. The writing is fresh, interesting issues are raised and the book builds a subtle picture of the times and the people.’

The Information Officer

The Information Officer

Mark Mills


Judges’ comments: ‘In the summer of 1942 Malta is on the brink of invasion. Mark Mills combines the stresses of this perilous situation on Maltese society with a murder investigation that exposes treachery and betrayal. The volatile atmosphere of the constantly-bombed tiny island, the complex relationships that exist between the Maltese and the Allied servicemen who attempt to make merry knowing life could be brutally short, build into an engrossing mystery.’

The Interrogator

Andrew Williams

John Murray

Judges’ comments: ‘An unusual crime novel that centres on an investigation during the Second World War into whether Allied codes have been broken. The investigation is carried out – against orders – by an interrogator of German naval prisoners of war. A highly suspicious death occurs amongst the prisoners. The gradual growth of a relationship between the interrogator and a female signals officer working in the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre parallels those which develop between interrogator and interrogated, and between the prisoners themselves. Betrayal results on all sides. This complex and well-written book offers a fascinating insight into a little-explored area of the conduct of war.’

An Empty Death

An Empty Death

Laura Wilson

Orion Publishing Group

Judges’ comments: ‘Another compelling look at wartime London exploring the stresses and strains of four years living under bombing, rationing, and the threat of invasion. An intricate plot switches between a murder investigation by Inspector Stratton, a campaign by a sinister figure without medical qualifications to turn himself into a doctor, and the struggles of Stratton’s wife and her sister to cope with a psychotic survivor of bombing as well as wartime deprivations. The nature of trust is explored. Small details of civil and police life after four years of war build up to a shattering climax.’


Janet Laurence (Chair) - author of the Darina Lisle and Canaletto crime series, and Writing Crime Fiction, 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