Paul French wins the CWA Non-fiction dagger
and Richard Hoskins is highly commended
Sponsors: The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society
Monday July 15th: Paul French was today announced as the winner of the 2013 CWA Non-fiction Dagger for Midnight in Peking, the story of the murder of the adopted daughter of a former British consul in 1938 Peking, a tale which had been almost entirely overtaken by the Second World War. The judges praised the way he brilliantly evoked the uneasy atmosphere of China’s capital 80 years ago, and the sordid exploits of the Anglophone expat community.
They also highly commended Richard Hoskins for The Boy in the River, “a gripping story” according to the judges: his dramatic account of his obsession with the case of ‘Adam’ the unidentified African child whose torso was found floating in the River Thames in 2001, and the uncovering of a horrifying network of trafficking in African children for magical rituals.
Midnight in Peking
Synopsis: Pamela Warner’s body, her heart cut out, was found on 8 January 1937 under a haunted watchtower in Old Peking. Aged 19, she was the adopted daughter of a former British consul. Her murder in the years of menace that led to World War II, has been almost totally forgotten. Drawing on a long lost file in the National Archives, the author captures the culture and daily life of a city and a country that have long vanished, while weaving a riveting narrative of the constantly twisting investigation of a strange, terrible death.
Judges’ comments: ‘ Drawing initially on the discovery of a long-lost Foreign Office file, French brilliantly evokes the uneasy atmosphere of China’s capital 80 years ago, and the sordid exploits of the Anglophone expat community.’
Born in London, Paul French has lived in China for more than 10 years. He is a widely published analyst and commentator on China; his books include a history of North Korea, a biography of Shanghai adman and adventurer Carl Crow, and a history of foreign correspondents in China.
The Midnight in Peking website is at www.midnightinpeking.com
The Boy in the River
Synopsis: On 21st September 2001 the mutilated torso of a small child was found floating beside London’s Tower Bridge, one tide away from being swept into the North Sea. Unable to identify the victim, the Murder Squad turned to Richard Hoskins, a young professor of theology with a profound understanding of African tribal religion, whose own past was scarred by a heartbreaking tragedy. Thus began a journey into the tangled undergrowth of one of the most notorious murder cases of recent years; a journey which would reveal not only the identity of the boy they called Adam but the horrific truth that a succession of innocent children have been ritually sacrificed in our capital city. Insightful and grippingly written, The Boy in the River is an inside account of a series of extraordinary criminal investigations and a compelling personal quest into the dark heart of humanity.
Judges’ comments: ‘His dramatic account of his obsession with the case… African children for magical rituals, is a gripping story.’
Richard Hoskins has worked on many of Britain’s biggest criminal investigations and is the only registered multi-cultural expert on the national police database. He has applied his expertise to over a hundred major investigations by police and social services. He divides his time between London and Devon.
His website is www.richardhoskins.co.uk
This Dagger is a competition for any non-fiction work on a real-life crime theme or a closely-related subject by an author of any nationality, as long as the book was first published in the UK in English between between 1st June, 2012 and 31st May, 2013.
The ALCS, which is sponsoring this award, is a membership organisation for writers and seeks to protect and promote the rights of authors writing in all disciplines and ensure they receive fair payment for their work. It collects fees on behalf of the whole spectrum of UK writers: novelists, film & TV script writers, poets and playwrights, freelance journalists, translators and adaptors.
The other four books on the shortlist were:
Against a Tide of Evil by Mukesh Kapila (with Damien Lewis) (Mainstream)
A Fine Day for a Hanging by Carol Ann Lee (Mainstream)
Injustice by Clive Stafford Smith (Random House)
Murder at Wrotham Hill by Diana Souhami (Quercus)
Against A Tide of Evil
Mukesh Kapila (with Damien Lewis)
Synopsis: When darkness stalked the plains of Africa one man stood alone to face the evil … The former head of the United Nations in Sudan reveals for the first time the shocking depths of evil plumbed by those who designed and orchestrated ‘the final solution’ in Darfur. A veteran of humanitarian crisis and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, Dr Mukesh Kapila arrived in Sudan in March 2003 having made a promise to himself that if he were ever in a position to stop the mass-killers, they would never triumph on his watch. Against a Tide of Evil is a strident and passionate cri de coeur. It is the deeply personal account of one man driven to extreme action by the unwillingness of those in power to stop mass murder. It explores what empowers a man like Mukesh Kapila to stand up and be counted, and to act alone in the face of global indifference and venality.
Judges’ comments: ‘His desperate attempts to prevent the slaughter continuing, in the face of the opposition of those in power, not only in Sudan but internationally, deserve wide recognition.’
Mukesh Kapila was until recently under-secretary-general at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, having served in other senior roles there since 2006. As a result of recent media work over Darfur and the ethnic cleansing unfolding in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, he has resigned from his post at the IFRC so as to better concentrate on such work.
His website is www.mukeshkapila.org
A Fine Day For A Hanging
Carol Ann Lee
Synopsis: In 1955, former nightclub manageress Ruth Ellis shot dead her lover, David Blakely. Following a trial that lasted less than two days, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. She became the last woman to be hanged in Britain, and her execution is the most notorious of hangman Albert Pierrepoint’s ‘duties’. Despite Ruth’s infamy, the story of her life has never been fully told. Often wilfully misinterpreted, the reality behind the headlines was buried by an avalanche of hearsay. But now, through new interviews and comprehensive research into previously unpublished sources, Carol Ann Lee examines the facts without agenda or sensation. A portrait of the era and an evocation of 1950s club life in all its seedy glamour, A Fine Day for a Hanging sets Ruth’s gripping story firmly in its historical context in order to tell the truth about both her timeless crime and a punishment that was very much of its time.
Judges’ comments: ‘The author has impressively researched Ellis’s background fully for the first time, providing a fascinating study of a flawed personality.’
Carol Ann Lee is an acclaimed biographer and has written extensively on the Holocaust. Her most recent publication, One of Your Own, focused on the life and death of Myra Hindley and was published to blanket critical acclaim.
Clive Stafford Smith
Random House/Harvill Secker
Synopsis: In 1986, Kris Maharaj, a British businessman living in Miami, was arrested for the brutal murder of two ex-business associates. His lawyer did not present a strong alibi; Kris was found guilty and sentenced to death in the electric chair. It wasn’t until a young lawyer working for nothing, Clive Stafford Smith, took on his case that strong evidence began to emerge that the state of Florida had got the wrong man on Death Row. So far, so good - except that, as Stafford Smith argues here so compellingly, the American justice system is actually designed to ignore innocence. Twenty-six years later, Maharaj is still in jail. Stafford Smith’s conclusions will act as a wake-up call for those who condone legislation which threatens basic human rights and, at the same time, the personal story he tells demonstrates that determination can challenge the institutions that surreptitiously threaten our freedom.
Judges’ comments: ‘Stafford Smith’s close examination of a bogus conviction for murder, for which Maharaj has already spent 26 years under constant threat of execution, brilliantly highlights the shortcomings of the present US legal system.’
Clive Stafford Smith is a lawyer specialising in defending those accused of the most serious crimes, and is founder and Director of UK legal charity Reprieve. Based in the US for twenty-six years, he now works from the UK where he continues to defend prisoners on Death Row, and challenges the continued incarceration of those held in secret prisons around the world. He has secured the release of 65 prisoners from Guantánamo Bay and still acts for fifteen more. His book Bad Men (shortlisted for the 2008 Orwell Prize) described this campaign. Alongside many other awards, in 2000 he received an OBE for ‘humanitarian services’.
The photograph of Clive Stafford Smith is © Ian Robins.
Murder at Wrotham Hill
Synopsis: Murder at Wrotham Hill takes the killing in October 1946 of Dagmar Petrzywalski as the catalyst for a compelling and unique meditation on murder, punishment and destiny. Dagmar, a gentle, eccentric spinster, was the embodiment of Austerity Britain’s prudence and thrift. Her murderer Harold Hagger’s litany of petty crimes, abandoned wives, sloughed-off identities and army desertions was its opposite. With their characters so indelibly marked, the tragic outcome of their meeting seemed determined by fate. Featuring England’s first celebrity policeman, Fabian of the Yard; the celebrated forensic scientist, Keith Simpson; and history’s most famous and dedicated hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, this is a captivating, provocative and deeply moving book by one of our most acclaimed authors.
Judges’ comments: ‘A classic case, and a classic investigation.’
Diana Souhami is the author of Coconut Chaos, Selkirk’s Island (winner of the Whitbread Biography award), The Trials of Radclyffe Hall (shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Biography and winner of the US Lambda Literary Award), the bestselling Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter (also winner of the Lambda Literary Award and a New York Times ‘Notable Book of the Year’). She lives in London and Devon.
Her website is www.dianasouhami.co.uk
Brian Innes, Chair: Graduated in chemistry, and worked for some years in biochemical research. He is the author of more than 40 books, mainly on criminal matters, and published in 16 foreign languages.
Elli Gooden: Eleanor Gooden has been employed for over twenty years in the Probation Service, working both in prisons and out in the community, specialising in sex offences, domestic abuse and other violent crimes. She has run therapeutic programmes to treat offenders.
Carol Anne Davis is an author with seven crime fact and six crime fiction to her name, most recently Extinction.
Robert Richardson is a journalist whose first crime novel, The Latimer Mercy, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger in 1985. His eight subsequent novels include The Hand of Strange Children, shortlisted for CWA Gold Dagger in 1993. He chaired the CWA in 1993/4 and 2006/7.
Helen Pepper: Helen’s first job was with the Forensic Science Service. She currently works as a senior lecturer in Police Studies at Teesside University. Helen enjoys helping crime writers with their research, and is also a consultant for ITV drama.