Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Hart wins the Steel Dagger

Further to my earlier post about former Franciscan friar and practising barrister William Brodrick winning the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger overnight (NZT) at the 2009 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards (which will be televised on ITV3 later next week), here is a run-down on one of the other major winners on the night:

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2009 (for the year’s best thriller) went to North Carolina author John Hart, for his novel THE LAST CHILD, beating out some strong competition from Michael Connelly (the Anthony Award-winning THE BRASS VERDICT), Gillian Flynn (DARK PLACES - see review), Charlies Newton (CALUMET CITY), Daniel Silva (MOSCOW RULES), Olen Steinhauser (THE TOURIST) and Andrew Williams (THE INTERROGATOR) in what the judges called "an exceptionally strong, literary short list".

According to the CWA website, Hart is "the Edgar-Award winning author of two international bestsellers, THE KING OF LIES and DOWN RIVER. His books have been translated into twenty-six languages and published in over thirty countries. He was born in North Carolina in 1965, and lives with his wife and two young children in Rowan County. He has degrees in French, accounting and law, and worked as a banker, stockbroker and attorney before beginning his writing career."

On his own website, Hart calls himself a “recovering attorney”, while noting he also worked as an apprentice helicopter mechanic. It says that "other than writing, his favorite job was pouring pints in a London pub. A husband and father of two, John still lives in his native North Carolina, where he writes full-time."

I've actually had THE LAST CHILD in my TBR pile for a little while now (one of my colleagues reviewed it for the mag I intended to review if for, so it got put temporarily aside), so I am kind of kicking myself that I hadn't got to it yet. I don't read books based on awards, but hearing about Hart's win led me to do some more research about the book, and his writing career, which has collectively sparked my interest in the story and his writing (rather than the mere fact he won the award). I also spent a fair chunk of time in North Carolina during 2006-2008 (3-4 months each year), so the fact he is a writer from there also added to my interest, as well as the fact he is a former lawyer (like myself), but he hasn't written a courtroom thriller.

So I think it's jumping to the top of the pile and getting read this weekend, and then I will place a review in a publication or two (linked on here of course).

On his website he says: "I have three great passions: my family, my writing, and the protection of North Carolina’s open spaces. In time, I hope to make room for more. For now, however, that’s it; and it’s enough."

The panel of judges for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger called THE LAST CHILD "Accomplished and ambitious piece of southern gothic. It is beautifully rendered, with a cast of memorable characters - full of pathos, atmosphere and mystery. A cracking and original story."

The extended publishers' blurb about THE LAST CHILD says:

Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is---confident in a way that he can never fully explain.

Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene.

Then a second child goes missing . . .

Undeterred by Hunt’s threats or his mother’s pleas, Johnny enlists the help of his last friend, and together they plunge into the wild, to a forgotten place with a history of violence that goes back more than a hundred years. There, they meet a giant of a man, an escaped convict on his own tragic quest. What they learn from him will shatter every notion Johnny had about the fate of his sister; it will lead them to another far place, to a truth that will test both boys to the limit.

You can read an interview with Hunt in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel here.

Have any of you read John Hart? THE LAST CHILD? Thoughts and comments welcome.

1 comment:

  1. I have his Edgar Award winning novel Down River on my TBR pile.
    You are a lucky man to have spent 3 months in beautiful North Carolina, we had a holiday there in 2001 and travelled all over the state returning to the mountains in 2003 for a brief visit on our way north to Kentucky. As well as having superb scenery, and lots of history, it looked fertile ground for crime novels.