Last Thursday night we had a packed and sold out event for the CWA’s Dagger Awards 2012. Let’s start with some clarity and fact. There are 10 Dagger Awards in total. The Diamond Dagger is awarded each year by the CWA committee, from a shortlist nominated by the membership. The two essential criteria for nomination are that the authors’ careers must be marked by sustained excellence and that they must have made a significant contribution to crime fiction. The award is made purely on merit without reference to age, gender or nationality. The other 9 Daggers are subject to individual judging panel determination and for 2012 all had an eligibility date of publication from 1 June 2011 to 31 May 2012 except for the Historical Dagger Award which ran from 16 September 2011 to 31 May 2012.
The timing of the awards is down to their sponsorship deals. Changes to the sponsorship of the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger led to the change in eligibility period for 2012. Previously it stood alone with its own ceremony in October or November. This change allowed for a ceremony to cover all the Daggers (last Thursday’s), bar the Gold, Steel and John Creasey which are sponsored by Cactus TV, ITV3 and Specsavers. These Daggers will be awarded, as in the previous years of this sponsorship arrangement, in October at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards televised by ITV3.
Hence those gathered on Thursday in London saw the awarding of 7 Daggers and heard the longlists for the remaining 3.
Once dinner had been served, a few speeches were delivered and then we had the reading of the longlists from (in the main) the Chairs of the judges for each panel, which I previously reported here. Even though a large and packed attendance, the event remained intimate enough to serve as a reminder of how much it means to authors and those they work with to be honoured in this process. Here is a first example. Sitting on the same table as N J Cooper, I hope she won’t mind that I divulge that she welled up when her name was announced as one of those on the longlist for the Gold Dagger for Vengeance in Mind.
When the 7 Daggers were awarded further evidence of this appeared. For the International Dagger, winner Andrea Camilleri was not in attendance but his editor, Sophie Orme of Pan Macmillan was delighted to accept the Dagger on his behalf. Her heart-touching words revolved around the number of years she’d had the pleasure of working with him and how wonderful it was for him to win.
For the Short Story Dagger, former CWA Chair Margaret Murphy was up against friend and fellow Murder Squad member, Cath Staincliffe. In the exciting build-up to the night, both had tweeted reminders that they were rivals. When the award was announced, it was the first time in its history that a judging panel could not agree on one winner and had chosen to make joint winners. Sitting very close to both of them, I was able to see the thrill on their faces as their names were read out. This was swiftly followed by a second wave of pleasure when they realised they were in it together. Again, another reminder of how much this means to the authors concerned.
And when it comes to the Short Story Dagger, let’s not forget/overlook the editor of the book that contained the winning entries: Martin Edwards. Martin was also the editor for two of the other four stories on the shortlist, in Guilty Consciences published by Severn House.
Another highlight came with the awarding of the Dagger in the Library, for this year’s recipient was indeed a popular choice. When the name ‘Steve Mosby’ was read out, the immediate applause was accompanied by gasps and some verbal revelry. It was clear that many in the room thought this award was well-deserved.
Steve is a very popular author on a personal basis, known for wit and honesty, sometimes very direct and not afraid of controversy, but never with any malice. He went on to display a very soft and endearing side with a speech worthy of the Oscars, thanking many people and finally completing his list with thanks to his wife and young son. Where Colin Welland once declared at the Oscars ‘The British are coming!’, this was the night that said ‘Steve Mosby has arrived’, especially as the Library Dagger is awarded for a body of work. Good for him too that he also found himself on the Theakstons [sic for branding purposes] Crime Novel of the Year 2012 shortlist earlier on the same day. Afterwards, he told me that he felt it right to mention all those who had helped him along the way.
The Debut Dagger for an unpublished author went to Sandy Gingras from New Jersey for her story Beached. She wasn’t there, but it sounded as though many on the shortlist were present and enjoying the night. The judges also felt the field was strong enough for them to award ‘Highly Commended’ for two entries: Broken-winged Bird by Renata Hill and The Watchers by Karen Catalona.
Again, Aly Monroe’s Icelight proved a popular winner for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, as did The Eleventh Day by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. Of Icelight, the judges commented ‘…authentically downbeat yet absolutely gripping. Monroe has the young le Carré’s ability to conjure atmosphere and a poetic style worthy of Len Deighton.’ And for the Eleventh Day the judges described this winner as a ‘… most-extensively researched account by a leading investigative journalist, of what happened on 11 September, 2001, with the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, uncovering much of what has hitherto not been made public. With access to thousands of previously withheld documents, and many new interviews, the authors also deal with all the conspiracy theories, and their penetrating work impressed the judges highly.’
What a fabulous night and a great celebration of excellent reads.
The winners of the Gold, Steel and John Creasey Daggers 2012 will be announced in October. (Update: which can be found here.)