Simon Conway wins the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2010
To have won The Steel Dagger against such stiff competition is both unexpected and deeply satisfying. My book’s reluctant hero Jonah would probably celebrate by getting roaring drunk, beaten up, abducted, thrown out a chopper and inadvertantly saving several thousand lives. I may try some of these at home.
Simon Conway has won the 2010 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for A Loyal Spy, published by Hodder & Stoughton. His prize is £2000 and he also receives a unique ‘steel dagger’, which is handcrafted and inspired by the weapon used by Special Forces during World War II. The judges described his book as “A powerful and hugely enjoyable thriller that races between the Middle East, Africa, Scotland and London. Dense and raw with an elaborate plot and complex characters.”
The announcement was made at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on October 8th, where our photograph of Simon (right) with CWA Chair Tom Harper was taken. The Awards ceremony was also screened on ITV3 during the following week.
Simon Conway is a former British Army officer and international aid worker. With The HALO Trust and later as director of Landmine Action he cleared landmines and unexploded bombs in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He is now a full-time writer. A Loyal Spy is his third novel. Here he talks about the book:
Simon Conway’s website is simonconwaybooks.com The photo is © 2010 Fiona Davies.
The broadest definition of the thriller novel is used for books eligible for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; these can be set in any period and include, but are not limited to, spy fiction and/or action/ adventure stories. Ian Fleming said there was one essential criterion for a good thriller - that ‘one simply has to turn the page’; this is one of the main characteristics that the judges were looking for.
The other three finalists were:
Innocent, Scott Turow (Mantle)
The Dying Light, Henry Porter (Orion)
The Gentlemen’s Hour, Don Winslow (Heinemann)
These books were chosen from the seven books shortlisted on July 23rd. CWA Chairman Tom Harper said then: “The shortlists this year are incredibly strong, from exciting new talents to established masters, all working at the top of their game.”
A Loyal Spy
Hodder & Stoughton
Synopsis: The last time Jonah saw Nor ed-Din, he was lying face down in a pool of black water in the Khyber Pass. For many years, Jonah had been under the impression that he’d killed him there.
Jonah: an undercover operative for one of Britain’s most secret agencies
Nor: the agent he befriended, recruited, then left for dead
Miranda: the woman he thought he loved enough to give up everything for.
How far can loyalty be stretched before it reaches a limit? Millions of lives depend on the answer, as a twisting road of betrayal and revenge leads from the mountains of Afghanistan to the heart of London . . . . . . and a ticking bomb.
Judges’ comments: A powerful and hugely enjoyable thriller that races between the Middle East, Africa, Scotland and London. Dense and raw with an elaborate plot and complex characters.
Synopsis: “A man is sitting on a bed. He is my father. The body of a woman is beneath the covers. She was my mother. This is not really where the story starts. Or how it ends. But it is the moment my mind returns to, the way I always see them...”
In its predecessor Presumed Innocent, Rusty Sabich, family man and the number-two prosecutor of Kindle County, was handed an explosive case – the brutal murder of a woman who happened to be his former lover.
Now 20 years have passed, and Rusty Sabich, 60 years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, sits on a bed where his dead wife Barbara lies. She has died under mysterious circumstances, and her death will once again pit Rusty against his old nemesis, Tommy Molto, the district attorney who tried to prosecute him for the murder of his lover all those years ago...
Judges’ comments: A masterful legal thriller exploring personal responsibility and the damage wrought by malice. Expertly handled sequel to Presumed Innocent.
Scott Turow is the world-famous author of several bestselling novels about the law, from Presumed Innocent to Reversible Errors, as well as the wartime thriller Ordinary Heroes. He has also written an examination of the death penalty, Ultimate Punishment. He lives with his family outside Chicago, where he is a partner in the international law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.
His website is www.scottturow.com
The Dying Light
Synopsis: At his funeral the bells of the church were rung open rather than half-muffled, as is usual for the dead. Kate Lockhart has come with corporate leaders, ministers and intelligence chiefs to a beautiful town in the Welsh Marches to mourn her soul mate, David Eyam, the brightest government servant of his generation. All that remains of Eyam are the burnt fragments of a man killed far from home in a devastating explosion.
But Eyam has left a devastating legacy and certain members of the congregation on that bitterly cold March day are desperate to suppress it. A group of locals come to feel the full weight of the state's determination. Kate Lockhart, now a Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer from Manhattan but a former SIS officer in Indonesia is equal to Eyam's legacy . She becomes the focus of the state's paranoiac power and leads the local resistance to it, with all the cunning of her former trade, directed from beyond the grave by Eyam. The state is no match for the genius of the dead.
Judges’ comments: Alarming political thriller with a powerful message: our freedom and personal integrity are at risk.
Henry Porter has written for most national broadsheet newspapers. He contributes commentary and reportage to the Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard and Sunday Telegraph. He is the British editor of Vanity Fair, and lives in London with his wife and two daughters.
His web site is www.henry-porter.com
The Gentlemen’s Hour
Synopsis: Boone Daniels, the most laid-back of private investigators, gathers with his surfing buddies on Pacific Beach, California as per usual. There’s no surf to speak of, but the Dawn Patrol are out in force anyway… it’s what they do. Having no work at the moment, and no real reason to go to the office other than to see the red ink getting redder, Boone sticks around for the second shift on the daily surfing clock – the Gentlemen’s Hour, frequented by the older veteranos and successful entrepreneurs – and ends up taking on a hated matrimonial case. But that soon becomes the least of his worries.
When The Sundowner, symbolic icon of the San Diego surf scene, sees a dispute between a young surfer and a member of the territorial Rockpile Crew – a dispute that ends in murder – the painful truth that violence is seeping into the surf community can no longer be ignored. So when lawyer Petra Hall, who has a thing with Boone, asks him to help the defence on that particular case, Boone knows he'll be courting outrage from the community...and from the rest of the Dawn Patrol.
As his closest friendships begin to fray, and he digs deeper into the murkier side of surfing culture, Boone sees his two cases overlap in unexpected ways and finds himself struggling to stay afloat as the water gets deeper and deeper...and more deadly.
Judges’ comments: An engaging Californian surfing thriller by a writer who deserves greater recognition. Sparky and entertaining.
Don Winslow has worked as a movie theatre manager, a production assistant, and as a private investigator. In addition to being a novelist he now works as an independent consultant in issues involving litigation arising from criminal behaviour. His novels include The Death and Life of Bobby Z, California Fire and Life, The Power of the Dog and The Winter of Frankie Machine.
His website is www.donwinslow.com
The other three books that were shortlisted are:
61 Hours, Lee Child (Bantam Press)
Gone, Mo Hayder (Bantam Press)
Slow Horses, Mick Herron (Robinson)
Synopsis: Winter in South Dakota. Blowing snow, icy roads, a tired driver. A bus skids and crashes and is stranded in a gathering storm. There's a small town twenty miles away, where a vulnerable witness is guarded around the clock. There's a strange stone building five miles further on, all alone on the prairie. There's a ruthless man who controls everything from the warmth of Mexico.
Jack Reacher hitched a ride in the back of the bus. A life without baggage has many advantages. And crucial disadvantages too, when it means facing the arctic cold without a coat. But he's equipped for the rest of his task. He doesn't want to put the world to rights. He just doesn’t like people who put it to wrongs.
Judges’ comments: Jack Reacher saves the day in snow-bound South Dakota. A classic thriller expertly steered by a deft hand.
Lee Child is British, but after he was made redundant from his job in television, he moved with his family from Cumbria to the United States to start a new career as a writer of American thrillers. He now divides his time between France and New York. All his novels feature the maverick Jack Reacher, and all have been international bestsellers.
His website is www.leechild.com
Synopsis: November in the West Country. Evening is closing in as murder detective Jack Caffery arrives to interview the victim of a car-jacking. He’s dealt with routine car-thefts before, but this one is different. This car was taken by force. And on the back seat was a passenger. An eleven-year-old girl. Who is still missing.
Before long the jacker starts to communicate with the police: ‘It’s started,' he tells them. 'And it ain’t going to stop just sudden, is it?’ And Caffery knows that he’s going to do it again. Soon the jacker will choose another car with another child on the back seat. Caffery’s a good and instinctive cop; the best in the business, some say. But this time he knows something’s badly wrong. Because the jacker seems to be ahead of the police – every step of the way…
Judges’ comments: An ingeniously plotted and pacy thriller rooted in family tragedy. First-rate characterisation and a high level of tension throughout.
Mo Hayder has written some of the most terrifying crime thrillers you will ever read. Her first novel, Birdman, was hailed as a ‘first-class shocker’ by the Guardian and her follow-up, The Treatment was voted by the Times one of ‘the top ten most scary thrillers ever written’ Mo's books are 100% authentic, drawing on her long research association with several UK police forces and on her personal encounters with criminals and prostitutes. She now lives in England's West Country and is a full-time writer.
Her website is www.mohayder.net
Constable & Robinson
Synopsis: Slough House is Jackson Lamb’s kingdom; a dumping ground for members of the intelligence service who’ve screwed up: left a secret file on a train, blown a surveillance, or become drunkenly unreliable. They’re the service’s poor relations – the slow horses – and bitterest among them is River Cartwright, whose days are spent transcribing mobile phone conversations.
But when a young man is abducted, and it’s threatened that he’ll be beheaded live on the Internet, River sees an opportunity to redeem himself. Is the victim who he first appears to be? And what’s the kidnappers’ connection with a disgraced journalist? As the clock ticks on the execution, River finds that everyone involved has their own agenda … And unless the slow horses can prove they’re not as useless as they’re thought to be, a young man’s death is going to echo around the world.
Judges’ comments: Sardonic, complex and well written British spy thriller centring on a group of failed agents with a last chance to make good.
Mick Herron was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and was educated there and at Balliol College, Oxford. He still lives in Oxford today and commutes daily to London, where he works. His short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, where his first published story (Lost Luggage) was voted one of the top ten readers’ favourites for 2006. In addition to writing fiction Mick reviews regularly for Geographical and Bookdealer magazines.
One day soon his website will be at mickherron.com
Corinne Turner (Administrative Chair) manages intellectual property development and is Managing Director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.
Sarah Fairbairn is Editorial Manager at Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.
Philip Gooden is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a past Chairman of the CWA.
Samantha Weinberg is a writer and former winner of the CWA non-fiction gold dagger. She is the author of the Moneypenny Diaries trilogy (writing as Kate Westbrook).
NJ Cooper is a crime writer and journalist and regularly speaks at crime-writing conferences and on the radio.
To be eligible in this round, books must have had their first UK publication between 1 June 2009 and 31 May 2010.