Steve Hamilton wins the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2011
The judges said “Hamilton has real narrative flair, keeping two time schemes going and producing plenty of twists as well as a very sympathetic lead character who never utters a word throughout the novel.” Hamilton responded “Ian Fleming’s work represents everything I’ve always loved about storytelling, whether it be books or movies. I can’t even express how honoured I am to receive an award with his name on it.”
Synopsis: Michael hit the headlines once before, a seven-year-old kid the papers called The Miracle Boy on account of how he survived the terrible incident that took his parents. But although his escape was miraculous, it left him unable to speak. Taunted as a freak, school becomes a fresh nightmare, until Michael discovers he has a special talent that makes people sit up and take notice: he can open locks.
But a teenage prank burgling the house of a rival school’s quarterback lands him in hot water and, despite his best intentions, Michael soon finds himself on a downward slope that ends with expert instruction on how to open safes. And unless he agrees to put his newfound skills to use, the mob are going to kill the father of the girl he now loves. So begins an extraordinary life of crime - at once terrifying and exhilarating - while all the while, Michael plots how to turn the tables on his employer, win back Amelia, and find the key to unlocking his traumatic childhood memories.
Steve Hamilton was born and raised in the Detroit area, and currently works for IBM in upstate New York, where he lives with his wife and two children. His website is www.authorstevehamilton.com
The broadest definition of the thriller novel is used for books eligible for this 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’.
Three other authors were shortlisted for this year’s coveted prize, in alphabetical order:
Michael Gruber The Good Son (Corvus)
Craig Smith Cold Rain (Myrmidon)
SJ Watson Before I Go To Sleep (Doubleday)
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 Good Son
Synopsis: A SON Once a child warrior in the mujhadeen’s struggle against the Soviets, once a Delta Force soldier, now a covert operative in the USA’s secret War Against Terror in Pakistan. His name is legend among the tribes of Pashtun.
A MOTHER Held hostage in the mountain fastness of North West Pakistan. With a long-standing fatwah hanging over her, her execution is a certainty. She knows she can’t out-fight her captors, but can she out-think them?
A FAMILY Prepared to do whatever it takes to protect its own, whatever the cost, even if it means unleashing a nightmare that could engulf the world in flames. THE GOOD SON A provocative, high-stakes thriller that moves from the subterranean corridors of Washington DC to the backstreets of Lahore to the high mountains of the Hindu Kush, tackling the collision of Islam and the West head on with a high-octane mixture of CIA and NSA tradecraft, Sharia law and Sufi mysticism.
Judges’ comments: ‘Big high-concept thriller. We were impressed with the portrayal of the female characters and the skilful interweaving of both physical and psychological jeopardy. Very original take on the War on Terror.’
Michael Gruber started out his remarkable and varied career working within the New York magazine circuit. His degrees include a PhD in octopus behaviour. From there, he served as a US Army medic, was a chef in a seafood restaurant (who said studies in marine sciences weren’t vocational?), toured as a roadie, and worked as a Washington D.C. policy analyst and speech writer. He now writes full time and is the author of the international bestseller The Book of Air and Shadows. Born and bred in New York, he now lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife, three children and an extremely large dog.
Synopsis: ‘I turned thirty-seven that summer, older than Dante when he toured Hell, but only by a couple of years.’ Life couldn’t be better for David Albo, an associate professor of English at a small mid-western university. He lives in an idyllic, out-of-town, plantation-style mansion with a beautiful and intelligent wife and an adoring teenage stepdaughter. As he returns to the university after a long and relaxing sabbatical, there’s a full professorship in the offing - and, what’s more, he’s managed to stay off the booze for two whole years.
But, once term begins, things deteriorate rapidly. The damning evidence that he has sexually harassed his students is just the beginning as Dave finds himself sucked into a vortex of conspiracy, betrayal, jealousy and murder. Unless he can discover quickly who is out to destroy him, all that he is and loves is about to be stripped away.
Judges’ comments: ‘Really well crafted. Intelligent, elliptical story-telling. Good thriller and pace.’
Craig Smith is the author of The Painted Messiah and The Blood Lance and lives with his wife Martha in Lucerne, Switzerland. His first novel, Silent She Sleeps, won the bronze medal in the mystery category of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards. Smith’s hobbies include reading, mountain hiking, travel, and the occasional game of bridge.
Before I Go To Sleep
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.
Judges’ comments: ‘Beautifully realised and enticingly stylised – really gripping and scary. Accomplished and highly effective debut.’
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. Before I Go To Sleep is his first novel, and he is currently working on a second.
Corinne Turner (Administrative Chair) manages intellectual property development and is Managing Director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.
NJ Cooper is a crime writer and journalist and regularly speaks at crime-writing conferences and on the radio.
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.
David Headley is an agent and owner of Goldsboro Books independent bookshop.
Robert Laycock works in various entertainment related businesses involving Intellectual Property management, publishing and film.
Four other novels were longlisted for this award. In alphabetical order they are:
Charles Cumming The Trinity Six (HarperCollins)
Frederick Forsyth The Cobra (Bantam Press)
Chris Morgan Jones An Agent of Deceit (Mantle)
Don Winslow Savages (William Heinemann)
The Trinity Six
Synopsis: Europe is still littered with the darkest secrets of the Cold War. And the most deadly revelation of them all is about to be made…
Judges’ comments: ‘An intriguing concept, elegantly and deftly written. The escape from Vienna and the train journey to Budapest were reminiscent of Eric Ambler. A nice little twist at the end too.’
Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. He was educated at Eton and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 with First Class Honours in English Literature. In the summer of 1995, Charles was approached for recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). A year later he moved to Montreal where he began working on a novel based on his experiences with MI6.
Synopsis: The Cocaine industry is worth billions of dollars a year to the drug cartels who spread their evil seed across Western society. Its usage causes incalculable misery, poverty and death. Slowly, gradually, inexorably it is spreading…it is a blight which must be stopped. One man, Paul Devereaux, intellectual, dedicated, utterly ruthless and ex-CIA special ops, is given what seems like an impossible task. At his disposal, anything he wants - men, resources, money. He will not stop until he has completed his mission. Up to now the drug trade has been used to world governments attempting to prevent them plying their trade. But up to now, those governments have played by the rules. That is about to change. The rules no longer apply… and a dirty war is about to get a whole lot dirtier…
Judges’ comments: ‘A very fast-paced and intelligent novel. Forsyth keeps his old skills of marshalling facts along with absolute control of narrative.’
Frederick Forsyth, former RAF pilot and investigative journalist, defined the modern thriller when he wrote The Day of The Jackal, with its lightning-paced storytelling, effortlessly cool reality and unique insider information. Since then he has written ten further bestselling novels, most recently, The Afghan. He lives in Hertfordshire, England.
An Agent of Deceit
Chris Morgan Jones
Synopsis: Journalist Ben Webster had his investigation into a corrupt Russian business in Kazakhstan crushed, the cost of his scrutiny a terrible tragedy … Now employed by a private London intelligence agency, Webster’s interest is piqued when a client asks him to expose the dealings of shadowy Russian oligarch Konstantin Malin. Before long Webster finds himself fixated by Malin and by his front man Richard Lock. But how far is he willing to risk the wellbeing of his family? And that of Lock himself?
Meanwhile Lock finds himself under pressure to explain to the world how he – a simple lawyer – came to be one of Russia’s largest investors. And when one of Malin’s former protégées is found dead after meeting with Webster, begins to realise that he too may be at risk. Desperate to seek a haven with the wife he lost years before, Lock realises that he must now take action – but his options are fast running out.
Judges’ comments: ‘A complex political/financial thriller. The novel is gritty and pessimistic, and sweeps the reader on in a complex but gripping plot, with an ever-growing sense of menace.’
Chris Morgan Jones worked for eleven years at the world’s largest business intelligence agency. He has advised Middle Eastern governments, Russian oligarchs, New York banks, London hedge funds and African mining companies. An Agent of Deceit is his first novel.
Synopsis: Part-time environmentalist and philanthropist Ben and his ex-mercenary buddy Chon run a Laguna Beach–based marijuana operation, reaping significant profits from their loyal clientele. In the past when their turf was challenged, Chon took care of eliminating the threat. But now they may have come up against something that they can’t handle—the Mexican Baja Cartel wants in, sending them the message that a “no” is unacceptable.
When they refuse to back down, the cartel escalates its threat, kidnapping Ophelia, the boys’ playmate and confidante. O’s abduction sets off a dizzying array of ingenious negotiations and gripping plot twists that will captivate readers eager to learn the costs of freedom and the price of one amazing high.
Judges’ comments: ‘A pure delight. A smooth read bristling with keenly observed machismo and well-drawn characters. Original and gripping.’
Don Winslow, a former private investigator, is the Edgar® Award–nominated author of more than a dozen novels. His novel The Death and Life of Bobby Z was adapted to a feature film, and a film adaptation of Savages, to be directed by Oliver Stone, is currently underway. Winslow lives in Southern California.