Michele Rowe

Michele Rowe wins the 2011 CWA Debut Dagger

Prize: £700, sponsored by Orion

Harrogate, 22 July: Michele Rowe from South Africa has won the 2011 CWA Debut Dagger for the opening chapters of her first novel What Hidden Lies. Follow that link to read the opening that the judges described as “Fluid and descriptive writing with an attractive setting.”

The murder of a sex offender on the spectacular Cape Town coast brings together Detective Persephone (Percy) Jonas and retired criminal psychologist, Dr Marge Labuschagne. As they struggle to find answers and confront their own prejudices, the past stretches out to touch the present. This is a story about secrets – particularly those we keep from ourselves.

Michele Rowe is a scriptwriter for television and film. Projects she has researched, originated, written or directed have been nominated for, or won, various International awards. Unable to be at the awards ceremony, Michele recorded a brief video to be shown on the night, saying
“Last year after reading Belinda Bauer’s debut novel Blacklands, I decided to submit the first chapters of my, as then unfinished, novel to the Debut Dagger Awards. Like most aspiring crime writers I hoped to acquire the coveted symbol of the two small crossed daggers for the front cover of my first novel.
Thanks to the Crime Writers’ Association, and the judges, who have honoured me with this award, that hope is one step closer to being realised.”

The judges also considered the field to be strong enough for them to pick a highly commended entry as well. This went to Graham Brack for The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-handed Dwarves. The judges found this story to have an appealing lead character and a fresh and interesting setting.

All Lieutenant Josef Slonsky wants to do is reach retirement age without anyone bashing in his head. But when he is called in to investigate the death of a young woman, he finds himself caught up in a series of scandals that reach to the highest levels in Government. In search of the truth – and his next meal – Slonsky strides through the mean streets of Prague keeping alive the fine tradition of the maverick detective.

Sunderland born Graham works as a pharmacist. He has produced plenty of technical writing but this is his first work of fiction (unless, he says, you count the answer to question 4 in his final paper in pharmacology).

The Debut Dagger is a new-writing competition open to anyone writing in the English language who has not yet had a novel published commercially. The 2011 Debut Dagger Competition opened on 30th October, and closed on 5th February. This year nearly 700 people submitted the opening chapter(s) – up to 3000 words – and a short synopsis of their proposed crime novel. Picking the shortlist proved harder than ever. Those chosen were “a varied and interesting collection of stories with some stand-out moments and a fascinating mixture of styles and settings”, according to the judges.

Below we list the other ten stories that were on the shortlist. If the past is any guideline, several of the names you see below will also go on to become successful published writers.

A Burial Place for Strangers – Sharon Hunt (Canada)

In 1942 five German sailors are murdered on a remote Newfoundland island. More than six decades later the death of a local man brings his estranged daughter back to the island to uncover family secrets and lay the past to rest.

Sharon Hunt is a Canadian writer with credits including CBC Radio, The Globe and Mail newspaper and Reader’s Digest. Her short stories have appeared in literary journals.

A Quiet Night in Entebbe – Peter Wynn Norris (UK)

Uganda 1952 – and the Winds of Change are beginning to stir. Juba Lubiri is swept up an anti-European cult and murder as he rebels against the religion of the missionaries and is drawn into a plot to kill the newly proclaimed Queen Elizabeth.

Peter Wynn Norris has drawn on his own experience as a Police Inspector in Africa to create the back-drop of this novel. His short stories have won awards.

A Vicious Indulgence – Annie Hauxwell (Australia)

Berlin in London: Catherine Berlin, investigator and heroin addict, must swim with the loan sharks to find her informant’s killer. But a more menacing predator awaits.

Annie Hauxwell abandoned the law to work as an investigator and now combines this with writing. She has written short films and long plays and decided to try a novel when her screenplays stalled in development hell.

Biographies of a Victim – Gunnar Lange-Nielsen (Norway)

A connection, not just in time, between the death of a beloved Pope and the demise of Vera, a defender of dialogue, sets DI Jacob Reenskaug on a search of more identities than one. Out of Vera’s past emerge a scorned admirer and a second victim, erased from memory.

Bilingual writer Gunnar Lange-Nielsen has used his knowledge of psychiatry and inter-religious dialogue to add to the backdrop of this novel. He is presently taking a sabbatical from his ‘day’ job of town planner/lecturer to concentrate on writing.

Hide and Seek – Sarah Darby (UK)

A violent abduction leaves a mother dead, a small boy badly injured, and a young girl missing. The doctor who is called in to treat the injured child helps to uncover a pattern of unsolved abductions.

Sarah Darby lives in a house structurally supported by paperbacks. She has been published in the Oxford Anthology of New Writing and her poetry has been variously published and short-listed for a poetry prize.

Men of the Rose – Jessica Ramage (UK)

Under investigation by the State Prosecutor and with his partner recently murdered, Czech Detective Antonin Rychtar’s enquiry into the murder of a Scottish tourist, leads him into the world of the occult and his own past.

Jessica Ramage remains a woman of mystery to us!

The Boy Who Loved Penguins – SWC Webb (UK)

A retired policeman determines to unravel the truth behind a series of unsolved events that took place in South Wales during the long, cool, summer of 1996. Aided by the cryptic promptings of a strange boy, Ariel, he is steered towards a startling and life-changing discovery.

Welsh author SWC Webb qualified as a town planner and now works as a Civil Servant. He is hoping to find time to follow the lead of his literary heroes (Robert Crais, Peter Corris and Henning Mankell).

The Greengrocers and Fruiterers’ Convention – Martin Ungless (UK)

A firm fleshed mystery crossed with a tangy romance. Ripe to bursting with secret sects, secret sex, GM crops, Military Intelligence, Customs and Excise and sanctions busting...…

Award winning architect and university lecturer, Martin Ungless is now edging towards writing full-time. In the past couple of years his work has won a leading literature prize and an Arts Council Award. He is currently revising the final draft of his novel.

The Temp – Luke Melia (UK)

The Temp introduces the brilliant mind and fragile body of genius sleuth Salvador ‘Sal’ Blatch in a book that blends amateur detective traditions with the grit of modern police procedurals.

Luke Melia’s background includes support and investigative roles for specialised crime agencies.

Unveiled Threats – Stephanie Light (UK)

The story moves between Afghanistan and London as Captain Mary Petersen becomes involved in a plot to uncover terrorists in the UK whilst trying to protect a battered wife from her murderous husband and his fellow plotters.

We were saddened to learn of the death, on Monday 18th July, of Stephanie Light. She was the author of two humorous weekly newspaper columns, plus articles as diverse as oil exploration, environmental matters, and trafficking of Eastern European women. She returned from living in India last year and at the time of her death was putting the finishing touches to her first novel.

The 2012 Competition will run from autumn 2011, with a closing date in early 2012. If you fancy a stab at it, and the chance to be a published crime writer, you can be working now on the opening chapter(s) – up to 3000 words – and a short synopsis of your proposed crime novel.

Head over to the Debut Dagger section of this website for a wealth of information about the competition, and to sign up to our free mailing list to be notified when the opening and closing dates have been decided.



David Shelley - Little, Brown Book Group
Helen Garnons-Williams - Bloomsbury Publishing
Kate Mills - Orion Publishing
Maxine Hitchcock - Simon and Schuster
Peter Robinson - Rogers, Coleridge and White (Literary Agents)
Peter James - Chair, CWA