Saturday, February 9, 2013

Diamonds are a Child's best friend?

The Crime Writers' Association (CWA) has announced that the prestigious Diamond Dagger for 2013 will be awarded to the creator of the best-selling Jack Reacher books, Lee Child. "I am delighted that the CWA has chosen Lee Child as this year's recipient," said CWA Chair Peter James. "Lee is one of the few British crime thriller authors to have become a global brand name; he is also an extremely charming and open person and a tireless promoter of our genre."

The Diamond Dagger, which was first presented in 1986, is voted for by members of the CWA and celebrates an author with "an outstanding body of work in crime fiction". It is, in effect, the CWA's 'Lifetime Achievement Award', or Hall of Fame (for sporting fans), and Child joins a 'who's who' of crime fiction in receiving the Award, including the likes of PD James, John LeCarre, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill, Ed McBain, Sarah Paretsky, Ian Rankin, Elmore Leonard, and Val McDermid. 

I had the opportunity to interview Lee Child prior to his visit to New Zealand in early 2010, and then meet him when he visited. We chatted about everything from the character of Reacher as a modern-day knight errant or wandering cowboy, to how Child's thriller writing career was sparked by his redundancy from the BBC in the mid 1990s, and why thriller tales had been so beloved throughout history. Here's a snippet from my article, "From redundancy to writing royalty", based on our interview:
Jobless, but still passionate about providing entertainment, Child decided to attempt a novel. He settled on the thriller ‘genre’, he says, because it was what he’d always enjoyed reading, and because tales of excitement and danger have always been at the heart of storytelling. 
“Shortly after we developed language, we must have then started to tell stories,” he says. “And those first stories must have been about danger and surviving it, in order to make people feel a little bit more empowered, or a little more brave, in order to get them through the next day. That idea of the danger, the peril, the struggle, and then the success at the end of it, must have been the first kind of stories. What I’m doing is really continuing that tradition. All these other traditions, all these other genres, have really grown out of and up around that central mainstream. And so, I felt not only was it my preferred genre, it was THE genre. It was the centre of storytelling, and that’s where I wanted to be.”

(You can read my full NZLawyer feature - Child was a former law student - here)

Over the decade and a half plus since he dove into the world of thriller novels, he has firmly established himself as a leading exponent of the "centre of storytelling", as Child termed the genre himself. His Reacher novels consistently top the bestseller lists in the United States and Europe (as well as down here in the antipodes), have won various awards, sold some 60 million copies, and were even recently adapted into a much-talked-about movie, One Shot, starring Tom Cruise as the taciturn wandering hero. 

Lee Child will be presented with the diamond-studded Dagger at a gala dinner during the upcoming British summer, in the year of the Crime Writer's Association's Diamond Jubilee. Seventy five years after the CWA was started by prolific author John Creasey (whose name adorns the 'new blood' award for the best crime fiction debut each year), the CWA continues to provide support for published crime writers and promote the genre, as well as running the prestigious Dagger Awards, the oldest literary awards in the UK.

Have you read Lee Child's Jack Reacher books? What do you think of him winning the Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement? What other crime writers do you think should receive the honour in future?

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