Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rising crime: Dundee Book Prize goes to unpublished crime writer

Following on from Donna Malane winning the inaugural NZSA Pindar Publishing Prize for her unpublished crime novel SURRENDER, on the other side of the world another unpublished author prize (open to all types of writing) has gone to a budding crime writer.

59-year-old Wigan teacher Alan Wright (pictured right) has been awarded the £10,000 Dundee International Book Prize, the most lucrative award in the United Kingdom for an unpublished writer, and with it a publishing deal for his debut novel, ACT OF MURDER, a dramatic murder mystery set in a Lancashire town during Victorian times.

The book was launched last Friday at Dundee’s Howff burial ground.

"I suppose it’s only aspiring writers who can fully understand what winning such a prize means,” said Wright, a former head of English at Standish High School, and a published short story writer and experienced playwright. “It was much, much easier to become a published author seventy or so years ago, and it takes an act of great courage from the organisers and sponsors of the Dundee Prize to support new writing in such a positive way. Winning the Prize has not only given me the inspiration to continue to write, it has filled me with a deep sense of responsibility. I owe Dundee a great deal, and I’m determined to justify the faith it’s shown in me.

“As for my future plans, I’m writing another murder mystery set in Wigan, but I am also exploring another world from the late Victorian period – that of psychic research, séances and mediums, where murder and the growing fascination with the supernatural should prove an interesting background. The first draft of Murder at the Séance is already complete!”

While working as a teacher, Wright found it difficult to devote sufficient time to writing a book, but his ambition to have a full-length crime novel published never went away. He says the Dundee International Book Prize, which he found out about on the Internet, allowed him to fulfil a lifetime ambition, and he is incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

The Dundee International Book Prize, a collaboration between the University of Dundee, Polygon and Dundee: One City, Many Discoveries, has been running for a decade (this is the sixth award - it has not been annual up to this point, but apparently may be becoming an annual award), establishing itself "as the UK's premier prize for emerging novelists". Its £10,000 cash award together with publication, "make the Prize highly valued by tomorrow's great new writers seeking to break into the publishing world". The award is for an unpublished novel on any theme and in any genre.

Reportedly, ACT OF MURDER appealed to the judges because of its exciting plot and excellent characters. "This fantastic Victorian murder mystery is a tale of magic, poisonings and thespians, with some gruesome murders thrown in for good measure," says the Prize press release.

ACT OF MURDER centres upon the fictional gruesome murder of entertainer Richard Throstle, who came to town with his wife Georgina and their ghoulish magic lantern show. Sergeant Slevin takes charge of the investigation into Throstle’s murder and finds that, at the Royal Court Theatre, the Morgan-Drew Players theatre troupe harbour many dark secrets.

The Prize-winning book has been published by Edinburgh-based Polygon (an imprint of Birlinn Ltd) and is now on sale - see for details. You can pre-order the book from here.

More than 110 writers from across the globe submitted manuscripts for consideration by the judges. Anna Day, Director of the Dundee Literary Festival, said: “We had entries from New York, Florida, South Africa and all over Europe. It is ironic that Alan’s connection to Dundee, in the form of DC Thomson comics was what sparked his interest in literature, and so he has come full circle in a way. The book will appeal to anyone who loves a good crime book. It is gritty, historical, fast paced and brilliantly plotted, and we are sure it will do very well.”

Does ACT OF MURDER sound like the type of crime novel you'd like to read? What do you think of unpublished author prizes like the Dundee International Book Prize, NZSA Pindar Publishing Prize, CWA Debut Dagger, and others? How important are such other avenues to publication in the modern world of publishing? Thoughts and comments appreciated.


  1. I have recently re-kindled my interest in historical fiction and so will keep an eye out for this one. In fact I see it is also available for order at Book Depository which is my personal favourite online store...and I've gone a whole week without ordering anything :)

    To be honest I think the unpublished author prizes are more valuable to the reading public than the awards for published books - it seems so damned easy these days for utter rubbish to get published that it's good to see people going through the prize process with their manuscripts - often even the non-winners get something out of it like some editing and other advice - I have DNFd several books this month that would have benefited from this kind of thing.

  2. Craig - Thanks for this news. I quite enjoy historical fiction, and will definitely be looking out for this. And I agree with Bernadette that it's very nice to have this prize; it lets people who are very good but might not otherwise have had a chance get the opportunity to get their work "out there."