Wednesday, January 13, 2010

McDermid wins Diamond Dagger. Who should be next?

Overnight (NZT), the CWA announced its first Dagger Award of 2010 - naming Scottish author Val McDermid as the recipient of the prestigious CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award (which honours outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing, and is something of a 'lifetime achievement' award).

McDermid has written dozens of bestsellers, sold more than 10 million books, won and been shortlisted for many awards (including winning the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger for THE MERMAIDS SINGING, and also winning the LA Times Book of the Year Award and the Stonewall Writer of the Year Award), and had her stories adapted into acclaimed TV shows like Place of Execution and Wire in the Blood. In 2009 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the ITV3 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.

Last year McDermid also released FEVER OF THE BONE, her sixth novel featuring dysfunctional profiler Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan (of Wire in the Blood fame), a pair who’ve intrigued readers with their undefined/unresolved relationship as colleagues and housemates. It was her 26th book overall (and 23rd bestselling novel), since her 1987 debut, REPORT FOR MURDER. You can read a good review of this latest book by fellow blogger, reviewer, and crime fiction afficionado Maxine Clarke at EuroCrime here, or listen to a review by Catriona Ferguson on Radio New Zealand here. I also enjoyed the book, giving it 4 1/2 stars for Good Reading magazine (although in hindsight, looking across all my reviews and ratings for last year, I might have dropped this a touch to 4 stars).

McDermid, who was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, and divides her time between Northumberland and Cheshire, was reported as saying of the CWA Carter Diamond Dagger award: “'I'm delighted to be admitted to this very select group of crime writers. To be awarded the CWA Carter Diamond Dagger is a distinction every writer dreams of. It's been an amazing twelve months - inducted into the Hall of Fame, elected to an Honorary Fellowship at St Hilda's College, Oxford and now the Diamond Dagger. But my readers can be reassured about one thing - I'm not going to rest on my laurels. There are still plenty of mountains for me to climb.”

You can read the full CWA press release about McDermid's award here. “The recipient of the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award is chosen by the members and committee of the CWA and is very much an honour awarded by the author’s peers and thus makes it special,” said CWA Chair Margaret Murphy. Previous award winners are like something of an honour roll of the best US and UK crime writers of the past 25-35 years - including the likes of Ian Rankin (2005), Ruth Rendell (1991), PD James (1987), Ed McBain (1998), Lawrence Block (2004), Elmore Leonard (2006), Sarah Paretsky (2002), and Sue Grafton (2008).

You can see the full list of past winners here. I don't think there can be many arguments that McDermid deserves to be on such a list. But who else should be also? Who are the glaring omissions, as yet overlooked by the CWA committee (but hopefully to be added in the near future), in terms of big-name and deserving crime writers in modern times (leaving aside Christie, Chandler, Hammett, Marsh etc from earlier eras)?

From my perspective, the biggest omission thusfar, in terms of achievements over the past 25 years, is James Lee Burke. The man who has been described as "America's best novelist", and who has regularly won and been shortlisted (multiple, multiple times) for most major crime writing awards, and consistently puts out excellent novels - as well as having brought something 'new' to the genre with his lush and evocative writing. In my opinion, he should have been there on the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger list before many of those that are (admittedly deservedly) currently there. Another that I hope to see there soon, is Michael Connelly.

Who do you think the CWA Committee should turn its Diamond Dagger attention to in 2011 and beyond? What do you think of McDermid's award? Her writing? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Good question, Craig. For me, without a doubt, Michael Connelly. But I am surprised not to see Ruth Rendell on the list, or P D James, or many other excellent writers.

    Thanks so much for linking to my review, by the way. I think Val McDermid is a deserving winner because she consistently turns out excellent books on a range of genres.

  2. P D James (1987) and Ruth Rendell (1991) have indeed won the Diamond Dagger. As to who hasn't (yet), then the obvious British candidates are Len Deighton (who fights notoriously shy of all awards and prizes) and Anthony Price, who retired from fiction writing almost 20 years ago. Others who ought to be in the frame should include Maj Wahloo, from Sweden and (as Craig rightly says) James Lee Burke, though I believe the recipient has to collect the award in person and Lee Burke's fear of flying (which is said prevented him picking up his Gold Dagger) may mitigate against him.
    As a longshot - what about James Ellroy?