Finn Clarke

Photo: Mathew Keller Design & Photography for the CWA

Finn Clarke wins the CWA Debut Dagger 2013

Prize: £700, sponsored by the Orion Book Group

Finn Clarke, from Devon, has won this year’s Debut Dagger competition with her story Call Time, which the judges said was tense, with an unexpected twist in the plot.

Jon Harlow has stopped stalking women. Mostly. But when he overhears a murder, Jon needs to find the killer before the police pin it on him - a task that will take all his old stalking skills if he hopes to survive.

Click the link to read the first two chapters of Call Time (PDF).

She was presented with her Dagger and a cheque for £700 by Debut Dagger organiser Mary Andrea Clarke, at the CWA Gala Awards Dinner held in London on July 15th.

Finn Clarke lives on the edge of Dartmoor, which she explores far less than she’d like, and returns regularly to Quebec, where she worked for many years. Past jobs include assistant psychologist and prison project worker - both of which she preferred to shelf stacking - and she currently works in management training. Her short stories have been published in anthologies such as Endangered Species, edited by Val McDermid, and in British and North American magazines ranging from Big Pulp to Descant. One of her other novels was long-listed for the Debut Dagger in 2012.

Eleven other authors were shortlisted for this year’s CWA Debut Dagger. CWA Chair Alison Joseph said “To read the submissions for the Debut Dagger is to be reminded, once again, how successful the genre of crime fiction is. Many of the submissions are from people who have come to writing as readers, and their enthusiasm for the genre is palpable in their own work. The successful submissions show how our genre can endlessly re-create itself, with works that push against the boundaries, that find new ways of telling their story. Past winners of the Debut Dagger have gone on to become very successful crime authors, and I am sure that this year will prove no exception.”

Presented in the order that we received their entries, the shortlist was:
Aine O Domhnaill (Ireland) The Assassin’s Keeper
Sue Dawes (UK) TAG
Alex Sweeney (UK) Working in Unison
Marie Hannan-Mandel (USA) Lesson Plan for Murder
Ron Puckering (UK) Honour or Justice
David Evans (UK) Torment
Jayne Barnard (Canada) When the Bow Breaks
DB Carew (Canada) Fighting Darkness: The Killer Trail
Mike Craven (UK) Born in a Burial Gown
Emma Melville (UK) The Journeyman
Joanna Dodd (UK) A Cure for All Evils

Here is more information about each of these shortlisted authors and their stories:

Born in Queens, New York City, Aine O Domhnaill is currently settled in Co. Meath, Ireland. Relatively new to the writing scene, Aine only began writing five years ago, inspired mostly by her passion for film. However, many of her stories are loosely based on her experiences growing up in New York with much of her childhood spent on Long Island. Aine mainly enjoys writing about Organized Crime. In her spare time, she plays the violin and loves cooking international cuisine.

The Assassin’s Keeper is the first book in a trilogy of the same name, told by assassin Charles St. Vincent. But it’s in his revenge that he creates the biggest mafia war New York City will ever see.

The judges said this story was well-written with immediate action.

Although Sue Dawes likes to call herself a writer, and has had several short stories published, the reality is that she’s primarily a mum with a compulsion to write. Being shortlisted for the Debut Dagger is a huge motivator and one day she hopes to make writing her living.

TAG: Wheelchair-bound and struggling with his own independence, the last thing Martin Meyers needs are complications. But that is exactly what he gets when his dying brother hands him an envelope containing a locket and a newspaper article about a missing girl from their childhood. To protect his niece Martin must solve this twenty-year-old puzzle.

The judges liked the interesting and complex plot.

Alex Sweeney lives in the North of England, where the wet weather is conducive to staying indoors and getting on with the writing. Writing which has been going on since Alex was small enough to sit upright under the parental bed.

Publication includes poetry, magazine articles and reviews and erotic comics. Apart from this a variety of jobs have come and gone: sales assistant, nurse, car-valet, kitchen assistant, 3d artist, wargames figure painter and crossing guard are just some of them.

Working in Unison: Detective Dante Wietrzychowski normally works alone in the city of Unison until a visit to Japanese bathhouse owner Miao Shou nets him agunshot wound and some unusual and unoffical partners. After this, going home to find a body on his doorstep seems almost ordinary.

The judges enjoyed this well written and humorous story.

Marie Hannan-Mandel, raised in Ireland, lives in Elmira Heights, NY with her husband, two partially-launched adult children, and a Chorkie, Horace. She summers in Ireland overlooking the Atlantic. She is editor of the Noose, the newsletter of the Mystery Writers of America – New York chapter. An Assistant Professor in English at Corning Community College, Marie (pronounced marry, as in marry me) received an MFA in Popular Fiction from the Stonecoast program, University of Southern Maine. Lesson Plan for Murder is drawn from hard won experience teaching high school in the wilds of Brooklyn.

Lesson Plan for Murder High school can be murder. Just ask Johanna Lawless, Irishwoman teaching in a tough Brooklyn high school.

The judges said this story was lively and humorous, with a likeable main character.

As Senior Lecturer at the City of Westminster College Ron Puckering wrote a series of four technical books for Blackwell Scientific Publications, two of which went to second editions. Folowing early retirement he took a short course on creative writing, and had a short story, Harry Meets Mandy published in the Your Cat Magazine. Subsequently he was twice runner up in the Writers News short story competitions and also took first prize in the 2011 Tavistock Music and Arts Festival Historic Fiction competition with his short story Patrick Mahoney’s Waterloo.

Honour or Justice: Tom Calhan continues his fight against terrorism and the people who have raped his fiancée Christine. Cerebral yet emotional, dedicated yet flawed, he’s caught between Honour or Justice, in a plot that is a balance of intrigue, hard action and angst, that grips from start to finish.

The judges liked that this had immediate action.

David Evans lives in rural Essex with his wife and daughter and has been involved in the construction industry as a professional for over 30 years. He began writing at night-classes, has attended screen writing courses and various Writers’ Conferences. His stage play was shortlisted in the Essex Playwrights Festival and he has written short stories and poetry but now concentrates on novels. Torment is his second crime novel.

Torment: is the second of a planned trilogy of crime novels featuring Wakefield based police detective COLIN FEAR and Yorkshire Post journalist SPUD SHAW, who have been best friends since primary school. When Fear investigates the discovery of an injured woman in the basement of a derelict farmhouse as well as the disappearance of a young Albanian woman, and a teenage street girl approaches Spud for help to find her missing friend, they are drawn into the murky and dangerous worlds of missing women and schoolgirls, luxury car thefts, sex-trafficking and at least two murders.

The judges enjoyed the unusual plot twist.

Canadian Jayne Barnard grew up reading British children’s adventure tales and, later, Golden Age mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Canadian magazines and anthologies since 1990, winning a Saskatchewan Writers Guild award and the Bony Pete as well as other prizes. Her Debut Dagger entry, When the Bow Breaks, was short-listed for Canada’s Unhanged Arthur award. She divides her year between her home in Calgary, Alberta and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, where her story is set.

When the Bow Breaks: Orphaned in a horrific car crash in the Pyrenees, little Dominic is pursued to Canada, where only the dedication of three women - his devoted nanny, a disenchanted Mountie, and a determined street-dweller - can save him.

The judges appreciated the tense opening of the plot.

DB Carew was born in Newfoundland and Labrador and has called British Columbia, Canada home for the past eighteen years where he lives with his wife and their two children. He has an interest in Criminology and Psychology and has a Masters Degree in Social Work. He has been a Social Worker at a provincial forensic psychiatric hospital for the past fourteen years. He is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and the Federation of BC Writers. His entry is the debut novel in the Fighting Darkness series.

Fighting Darkness: The Killer Trail is a psychological thriller about a psychiatric social worker who accidentally becomes involved in a murder and must come to terms with his emotional, personal, and work relationship with the killer before his own life spirals out of control.

The judges said this story was well written, with an unusual set up of its opening.

Mike Craven has worked for the Probation Service for fourteen years, the last few as a senior manager, and states that the incredible variety of work he is involved in provides him with an endless inspiration for plots, sub-plots and characters. When he isn’t badgering his wife about being allowed to use the large spare bedroom as an office, he spends his time working as trustee for a charity working with ex-offenders, watching cricket and reading. Mike lives in Cumbria with his wife Joanne and their springer spaniel, Bracken.

Born in a Burial Gown: Having committed a crime to get back to work, lying to stay at work and haunted by memories of a spree killing, DCI Avison Fluke thinks life can’t get anymore complicated. That is until a professional killer starts plying his trade in Cumbria and Fluke’s investigation takes him on a nightmare journey all around his beloved county - from picture perfect villages to the parts the public are never meant to see.

The judges thought that this story draws in the reader.

Emma Melville lives and works in Warwickshire. She is a school teacher of students with special needs who writes in her spare time, concentrating mainly on crime and fantasy short stories, often inspired by her involvement with folk dance and song. She has published several short stories in anthologies and won the Deddington Arts Festival prize in 2009. Many of her stories involve Inspector Marshall and the fantastical crimes in Fenwick. This is her first novel involving him.

The Journeyman: Inspector John Marshall, new to Fenwick and its wonders and miracles, finds himself with two murder victims and two missing girls. Amidst traveller’s tales and music full of magic he must cling to what he knows of truth to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The judges said that this story was atmospheric and well written.

Joanna Dodd lives in London and works at the House of Commons. A Cure for All Evils is the first of a series she plans to write featuring Josiah Crayley.

A Cure for All Evils – London, 1792: When someone poisons dozens of bottles of Crayley’s Cures digestive tonic, French revolutionary spies are blamed. Businessman and prospective Member of Parliament Josiah Crayley is determined to uncover the truth, but to do so he must confront his own long-buried secrets, and decide whether extraordinary times ever justify murder.

The judges thought that this story has a good plot which draws in the reader.

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 for the 2014 competition have been decided.


The Judges for 2013 are:

Alison Joseph – Chair, Crime Writers’ Association
Rachel Rayner – Commissioning Editor, Crime and Thrillers, Transworld Publishers
Kate Lyall-Grant – Publisher, Severn House
Thalia Proctor – Senior Desk Editor, Little, Brown
Jemima Forrester – Fiction Editor, Orion Books
Sarah Ballard – Literary Agent, United Agents