S.J. Watson (pictured above with CWA Chair Peter James) is the winner of the 2011 CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger and the prize of £1000, for Before I Go To Sleep published by Doubleday. The announcement was made at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards on 7th October 2011. Responding to the announcement, he said: “I’m stunned and delighted! It was such an honour to have been shortlisted, but to have actually won, especially when up against such fine books, is incredible!”
The judges highly commended Kiss Me Quick by Danny Miller, published by Robinson.
Rooted in the workings of memory, Before I Go To Sleep is all the more frightening for its authenticity as Watson based his protagonist’s terrifying predicament on a factual medical condition. The judges called this “ A powerful and compelling suspense novel that explores the intricacies of the human mind.” The book was also in the running for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and the film rights have already been bagged by Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: ‘As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’
Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust is only telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.
SJ Watson was born in the Midlands and lives in London. He has worked in the NHS for a number of years. In 2008 he took up a part time post in order to concentrate on his writing and subsequently gained a place on the first six month ‘Writing a Novel’ Course at the Faber Academy.
Kiss Me Quick
Synopsis: Set in Brighton over the bank holiday weekend of 1964, an ambitious and handsome young detective named Vince Treadwell is sent down to solve a murder and catch the elusive and powerful gangster, Jack Regent. In the tangled web of the crime, Vince falls for Jack’s beautiful girlfriend, Bobbie LaVita, and discovers the truth about their own dark pasts.
Kiss Me Quick goes behind the headlines of rioting Mods and Rockers, and into the deadly world of a secret Corsican crime organization, a burgeoning drug trade, police corruption, pornography rackets, and the dark side of the music business. With its elaborate and compelling plot, a cast of deliciously treacherous and vividly drawn characters, this page turning thriller introduces us to the dangerous world of Vince Treadwell.
Judges’ comments: Miller creates a dark and complex thriller set against a threatening and realistic evocation of 1960s Brighton, and the sleaze that underlies its vibrancy and excitement.
Danny Miller was born in Brighton and studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths, University of London. As a playwright he's had his worked performed at the National Theatre Studio, the Bush Theatre, and the Theatre Royal Srtatford East. As a sricptwriter he's worked for the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4.
This award is made in memory of CWA founder John Creasey, for first books by previously unpublished writers. The CWA Dagger Awards are the longest established literary awards in the UK and are internationally recognised as a mark of excellence and achievement.To be eligible in this round, books must have had their first UK publication between 1 June 2010 and 31 May 2011.
Two other authors were shortlisted for this year’s coveted prize:
Conor Fitzgerald The Dogs of Rome (Bloomsbury)
Sam Hawken The Dead Women of Juarez (Serpent’s Tail)
Another four were longlisted - details at the foot of the page.
To be eligible in this round, books must have had their first UK publication between 1 June 2010 and 31 May 2011. Here are more details about the shortlisted books, and why the judges chose them:
The Dogs of Rome
Synopsis: Alec Blume, born of American parents, is a Chief Inspector in the Roman police, yet is fated to be a constant foreigner, a constant observer. Like many a hard-boiled detective/ sheriff/ western hero, he will negotiate his own moral course, but not without mistakes and doubts.
Alec Blume is called on to investigate the atrocious killing of an animals’ rights activist during the hottest days of the summer. The victim is also the husband of an important Italian politician, and Blume is reminded that even a murder inquiry has to follow the lines of political convenience. In a world where compromise rules and the rules are compromised, Blume must risk his reputation and safety to bring the killer to justice. In doing so, he discovers some uncomfortable truths about himself and his own past.
Judges’ comments: Chief Commissioner Alec Blume, an American with Italy as his adopted home, finds the murder of an anti-vivisectionist takes him to the heart of Rome’s political machinations, where expediency and personal gain too often carry more weight than simple justice.
Conor Fitzgerald was born in Cambridge in 1964 and has lived in Italy since 1989. In 1992 he began to write a daily English and French-language journal on Italian political and economic affairs, which he continued to produce throughout the entire “Mani Pulite” period of political upheaval in Italy which lasted until 1998. In 2001, he co-founded a translation agency (Makeperfect) specializing in institutional and financial translations. More recently, he has taught translation and interpreting in Ostia.
The Dead Women of Juarez
Synopsis: In the last twenty years, over 3000 women have disappeared from Ciudad Juárez, on the border between Mexico and the USA. Sam Hawken takes this story of mass murder and abduction and around it weaves the story of Kelly Courter, a washed up boxer from Texas, who doesn’t mind playing the stooge in the ring, so long as he gets paid. Courter is sucked into the underworld of organised crime that flourishes in the city, soon finding himself in way over his head. As his life spins out of control he becomes obsessed with seeking the truth about the female victims of Juárez. Sam Hawken is a classic American voice and Kelly Courter is a timeless American hero, fighting for freedom and justice in this fast-paced and brutal novel.
Judges’ comments: A noir novel set in a small town on the Mexican border. Hawken explores the consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ and its effects on the community. A gripping and thought provoking thriller.
Sam Hawken is a native of Texas now living on the east coast of the United States. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he pursued a career as a historian before turning to writing.
Danuta Reah (Chair) is a crime writer who also writes as Carla Banks. She is an educational consultant who has also taught creative writing. She lives in Sheffield and has written six novels and three non-fiction books.
Chris Simmons is co-founder and, for the past five years, Online Editor of the highly successful UK review fansite, CRIMESQUAD.COM. He possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of the crime and thriller genre and has a special interest in promoting the work of new authors.
Rhian Davies has a background of pedantry gained in the audit profession, and started blogging about crime fiction in 2005. She has focused on debut authors and those she feels deserve a wider audience in the rich world of the genre.
Four other novels were longlisted for this award. In alphabetical order they are:
Elizabeth Haynes Into the Darkest Corner (Myriad)
Erin Kelly The Poison Tree (Hodder & Stoughton)
Rosamund Lupton Sister (Piatkus)
Jason Webster Or the Bull Kills You (Chatto & Windus)
Into the Darkest Corner
Synopsis: Catherine has been enjoying the single life for long enough to know a good catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic, spontaneous – Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell. But there is a darker side to Lee. His erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour means that Catherine is increasingly isolated.
Driven into the darkest corner of her world, and trusting no one, she plans a meticulous escape. Four years later, struggling to overcome her demons, Catherine dares to believe she might be safe from harm. Until one phone call changes everything. This is an edgy and powerful first novel, utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, and a tour de force of suspense.
Judges’ comments: Catherine escapes from an abusive relationship – or does she? Haynes creates a real sense of menace in this tense and creepy thriller.
Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst. She started writing fiction in 2006 thanks to the annual challenge of National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) and the encouragement of the creative writing courses at West Dean College. She lives in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son.
The Poison Tree
Hodder & Stoughton
Synopsis: It is the sweltering summer of 1997, and Karen is a strait-laced, straight-A university student. When she meets the impossibly glamorous Biba, a bohemian orphan who lives in a crumbling old mansion in Highgate with her enigmatic brother Rex, she is soon drawn into their world – but something terrible is about to happen, and someone’s going to end up dead…
Judges’ comments: In a hot summer London Karen has been dumped by her friends and is seduced by the flamboyant, unconventional Biba and her brother Rex. What follows changes lives completely as past and present collide to bring the narrative to a shocking conclusion.
Erin Kelly read English at Warwick University. She has worked as a freelance journalist for over ten years and has written for the Daily Mail, Psychologies, the Guardian and Cosmopolitan, among others. She lives in North London with her family.
Synopsis: Nothing can break the bond between sisters … When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister’s life - and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice’s fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.
Judges’ comments: The disappearance of the heroine’s sister tears her family apart. In the search for the truth more lives are endangered. An exploration of grief and guilt in a well-crafted novel.
Rosamund Lupton has for many years been a script writer for the BBC. She lives in London with her husband - a doctor - and two children.
Or the Bull Kills You
Chatto & Windus
Synopsis: Meet Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Spanish National Police: a flamenco-loving, dope-smoking detective who thinks in proverbs, worries about his fertility and hates bullfighting. A gripping, hot-blooded, compelling crime novel, launching the first in a brand new detective fiction series set in Valencia.
Judges’ comments: In a traditional detective novel set in Spain, Jason Webster introduces Chief Inspector Max Cámara with a plot set around the bullring. Webster had created a complex intertwining of murder, political intrigue and personal beliefs.
Jason Webster is the author of four highly acclaimed non-fiction books on Spanish life including Duende: A Journey in Search of Flamenco, which was Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4, and Sacred Sierra: A year on a Spanish mountain. Valencia has been his home for several years, where he lives with his wife, the flamenco dancer Salud, and their son.