Wartime tale wins historical crime fiction award
Andrew Martin wins the CWA Ellis Peters Award
November 30th: Andrew Martin was today announced as the winner of the 2011 Ellis Peters Historical Award for The Somme Stations, published by Faber and Faber, a dark tale of wartime intrigue. Chair of judges Eileen Roberts presented him with the prestigious award, and a cheque for £3,000, at a ceremony at the Athenaeum in London.
The judging panel said of The Somme Stations: “Martin’s novels featuring railway detective Jim Stringer reveal their treasures in subtle fashion with a winning synthesis of period atmosphere, intriguing plotting and a passion for steam railways.”
The Somme Stations plunges into the horrors of World War One trench combat. Stringer and his unit must undertake dangerous nocturnal assignments: driving the trains taking munitions to the front. Death is everywhere, as the trains travel through blasted surrealistic landscapes, and a single-minded military policeman continues to investigate a killing that occurred before the departure for France.
Andrew Martin’s website is www.jimstringernovels.com.
The award is sponsored by the Estate of Ellis Peters, Headline Book Publishing Company and Little, Brown Book Group. It is given to 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, and 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 Peter James said: “Yet again, our judging panel had a tough task but after much deliberation came up with a truly worthy winner. Historical crime fiction is certainly in a healthy position with so many talented writers at work.”
Changes next year
The CWA has also announced some changes to the award, effective from 2012. The Ellis Peters award will once again become a CWA Dagger and submission dates will gradually move to correspond with the other CWA awards. Already entries are being accepted from UK publishers via the specialised Daggers website for publishers.
The changes are in line with the CWA’s commitment to increase the profile of their non-TV Dagger awards. It’s planned that the Ellis Peters and the other Dagger awards will be presented as part of a new awards ceremony in summer 2012. The new rules are being finalised and will be published shortly on the Daggers website.
The other five books on the shortlist (more details below) were:
Rory Clements Prince (John Murray)
Sam Eastland The Red Coffin (Faber & Faber)
Gordon Ferris The Hanging Shed (Corvus)
RN Morris The Cleansing Flames (Faber & Faber)
Imogen Robertson Island of Bones (Headline)
Rory Clements won the Ellis Peters award last year for Revenger, the second instalment in his John Shakespeare series. Prince is the third book to feature this Elizabethan intelligencer, and finds Shakespeare caught up in the infighting between the Queen’s rival favourites, Robert Cecil and Lord Essex, as he investigates a series of bombings targeting Dutch immigrants in London. There are some clever references to twenty-first-century concerns, as well as the wit and breakneck pace we have come to expect from Clements.
The Red Coffin
Faber & Faber
Sam Eastland’s second novel sees the return of the brilliant special investigator Inspector Pekkala, once the trusted advisor of Tsar Nicholas II, now forced to work for Stalin. It is 1939 and rogue Russian soldiers are trying to precipitate war with Germany before Stalin’s secret weapon is ready — a super tank known as the “red coffin”. This manages to be a superbly entertaining thriller while fully conveying the horrors of life under Stalin.
The Hanging Shed
The Hanging Shed was a massive success even before its print incarnation hit the bookshops, when it became one of the most downloaded books in Britain after being released on the Amazon Kindle. The setting is Glasgow in 1946, and the author’s delineation of the immediate post-war years has a bristling immediacy. Ferris’s protagonist Brodie is an ex-policeman, forced to save a childhood friend from hanging via a daunting odyssey through the dangerous backstreets of the Gorbals, obstructed by both bent coppers and murderous razor gangs.
The Cleansing Flames
Faber & Faber
Reading this splendid fourth entry in the RN Morris sequence of riffs on the detective Porfiry from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a bittersweet experience, as Morris is about to put the character on hold. In the new book, St Petersburg is in flames, and the fires are harbingers of the revolution that will tear the country apart. After a post-winter thaw, a body surfaces in a canal, and Porfiry is in business again. As before, character building, locale, and historical detail are all beautifully balanced.
Island of Bones
This is Imogen Robertson’s third novel to feature her wilful heroine Mrs Harriet Westerman and gives us some background to her sleuthing sidekick, the eccentric and reclusive amateur anatomist Gabriel Crowther, as the duo head to the Lake District to investigate when one corpse too many is found in the ancestral tomb at Gabriel’s family seat. Robertson expertly juggles family politics, murder mystery and kidnap thriller, while giving a fascinating picture of country life in the late 18th century.
Chair of Judges: Eileen Roberts – Originator and organiser of St Hilda’s annual crime symposium in Oxford, mystery and crime enthusiast.
Geoffrey Bailey – Bookseller specialising in crime.
Barry Forshaw - reviewer, editor of Crime Time magazine, and editor of British Crime Writing: An Encyclopaedia.
Sir Bernard Ingham – Press Secretary to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and crime fiction fan.
Jake Kerridge – Jake Kerridge takes an unhealthy interest in violence and murder as the Telegraph's crime fiction critic.