A debut novel is up against one of Britain’s biggest and most celebrated authors for the crime novel of the year.
The 2021 shortlists for the prestigious CWA Dagger awards, which honour the very best in the crime writing genre, have been announced.
The world-famous Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers are the oldest awards in the genre, and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.
Past winners of the CWA Gold Dagger, which is awarded for the crime novel of the year, include John le Carré, Reginald Hill and Ruth Rendell.
This year’s shortlist sees City of Ghosts by Ben Creed, praised as a ‘brilliantly orchestrated and totally engrossing’ debut thriller by the CWA judges, up against Robert Galbraith’s Troubled Blood, hailed as a ‘magnificent multi-layered epic’.
Galbraith, the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, is also in contention for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger is supported by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, the Fleming family-owned company that looks after the James Bond literary brand. The award celebrates the best thriller.
Heating up the shortlist is Chris Whitaker, who took home the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in 2017 with his debut, Tall Oaks. His latest novel, We Begin at The End is not only up for the Ian Fleming Steel but also the Gold Dagger. Praised as ‘truly memorable’ by the CWA judges, We Begin at The End has been a Waterstones Thriller of the Month and sold in 17 territories, with screen rights snapped up by Disney.
Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, said: “The Dagger shortlists again highlight the wealth of great books and diversity within the crime genre. With terrific new titles from authors both familiar and new, including some books impressively nominated in more than a single category, the presence on the Publisher Dagger shortlist of long-standing traditional publishing houses and smaller independents and even, on the Dagger in the Library (voted on by librarians throughout the country), a first, with a self-published writer rubbing shoulders with established veterans. The Daggers are assuredly the best and most prestigious reflection of what's happening on the crime and mystery writing front.”
Set against the bleakness, terror and depravity of Stalin’s 1950s Leningrad, City of Ghosts by Ben Creed returns for the much-anticipated CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, awarded to the best debut novel. Ben Creed is the pseudonym for an author duo who met on a writing course, Barney Thompson a classically trained musician and fluent Russian speaker, and Chris Rickaby, formerly an advertising copywriter.
Booker prize winner John Banville is the heavyweight contender on the Sapere Books Historical Dagger shortlist. The prizewinning novelist and literary polymath, considered Ireland’s greatest living novelist, is in the running for Snow, his first murder mystery published under his real name rather than his nom de plume, Benjamin Black. The shortlist also includes Vaseem Khan who swapped his contemporary light-hearted Baby Ganesh Agency series with a historical crime novel Midnight at Malabar House, set in 1950s Bombay.
The ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction sees the forensic pathologist Sue Black’s reflections, Written in Bone on the shortlist, praised by the CWA judges as a ‘humane, wise book’. She’s up against Andrew Harding’s These Are Not Gentle People, a beautifully written investigation into dark and murderous events in a rural South African community, dubbed by Alexander McCall Smith as a masterpiece.
The Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger shortlist features the Swedish writer Mikael Niemi with his sumptuous blend of historical fact with fictional intrigue, To Cook a Bear, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner. From one of Israel’s most beloved writers is Three by D A Mishani, translated by Jessica Cohen, and from South Korea is Yun Ko-eun’s original and inventive thriller The Disaster Tourist translated by Lizzie Buehler.
The CWA Daggers are one of the few high-profile awards that honour the short story. The shortlist features the Sunday Times bestseller, Clare Mackintosh, and the founding member of the North East Noir crime writers’ group, Robert Scragg.
The Dagger in the Library is voted on exclusively by librarians, chosen for the author’s body of work and support of libraries. This year sees C L Taylor, Peter May, Lisa Jewell, James Oswald, Denise Mina and L J Ross on the shortlist.
The Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year Dagger celebrates publishers and imprints demonstrating excellence and diversity in crime writing. Among the shortlist, the esteemed Faber & Faber vies against the independent publisher, No Exit Press.
The winners will be announced at Daggers Live!, the online CWA Dagger awards ceremony on 1 July at 7.30pm. Barry Forshaw will be Master of Ceremonies and Abir Mukherjee is the guest speaker.
The 2021 Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, the highest honour in British crime writing, has already been announced, awarded to Martina Cole. She will also feature in the Daggers Live! event.
Dagger Shortlists 2021
CWA GOLD DAGGER
S A Cosby: Blacktop Wasteland (Headline, Headline Publishing Group)
Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Fiction, Welbeck Publishing Group)
Nicci French: House of Correction (Simon & Schuster)
Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)
Elly Griffiths: The Postscript Murders (Quercus)
Thomas Mullen: Midnight Atlanta (Little, Brown, Little, Brown Book Group)
Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier)
CWA IAN FLEMING STEEL DAGGER
Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)
Michael Robotham: When She Was Good (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)
Catherine Ryan Howard: The Nothing Man (Atlantic Books)
Stuart Turton: The Devil and the Dark Water (Raven Books, Bloomsbury Publishing)
Ruth Ware: One by One (Vintage, Harvill Secker)
Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK)
CWA JOHN CREASEY (NEW BLOOD) DAGGER
Eva Björg Ægisdóttir: The Creak on the Stairs (Orenda), Translator: Victoria Cribb
Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Publishing)
Egan Hughes: The One That Got Away (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)
S W Kane: The Bone Jar (Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing)
Stephen Spotswood: Fortune Favours the Dead (Wildfire, Headline)
John Vercher: Three-Fifths (Pushkin Press)
CWA SAPERE BOOKS HISTORICAL DAGGER
John Banville: Snow (Faber)
Vaseem Khan: Midnight at Malabar House (Hodder & Stoughton)
Chris Lloyd: The Unwanted Dead (Orion Fiction, The Orion Publishing Group)
Michael Russell: The City Under Siege (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)
David Stafford: Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons (Allison & Busby)
Ovidia Yu: The Mimosa Tree Mystery (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)
CWA ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION
Sue Black: Written in Bone (Doubleday, Penguin)
Becky Cooper: We Keep the Dead Close (William Heinemann, Penguin)
Andrew Harding: These Are Not Gentle People (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Debora Harding: Dancing with the Octopus (Profile Books Limited)
Nick Hayes: The Book of Trespass (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
Ben MacIntyre: Agent Sonya (Viking, Penguin)
CWA CRIME FICTION IN TRANSLATION DAGGER
Fredrik Backman: Anxious People, translated by Neil Smith (Michael Joseph, Penguin)
Roxanne Bouchard: The Coral Bride, translated by David Warriner (Orenda Books)
Yun Ko-eun: The Disaster Tourist, translated by Lizzie Buehler (Serpent's Tail)
D A Mishani: Three, translated by Jessica Cohen (Riverrun, Hachette Book Group)
Mikael Niemi: To Cook a Bear, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Agnes Ravatn: The Seven Doors, translated by Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books)
CWA SHORT STORY DAGGER
Robert Scragg: ‘A Dog Is for Life, Not Just for Christmas’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Miranda Jewess (Criminal Minds Group)
Elle Croft: ‘Deathbed’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg & Various (Criminal Minds Group)
Dominic Nolan: ‘Daddy Dearest’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg & Various (Criminal Minds Group)
Victoria Selman: ‘Hunted’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Miranda Jewess (Criminal Minds Group)
Clare Mackintosh: ‘Monsters’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)
James Delargy: ‘Planting Nan’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg & Various (Criminal Minds Group)
CWA PUBLISHERS DAGGER
Faber & Faber
Head of Zeus
No Exit Press
CWA DEBUT DAGGER
(Competition for an unpublished novel)
Ashley Harrison – The Looking Glass Spy
Fiona McPhillips – Underwater
Biba Pearce – Rough Justice
Hannah Redding – Deception
Edward Regenye – Lightfoot
Jennifer Wilson O’Raghallaigh – Mandatory Reporting
CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY
C L Taylor