Tuesday, June 27, 2023

A season of celebrations

At the torchlit parade in historic Stirling to open Bloody Scotland in 2018 (left to right): Craig, Val McDermid, Liam McIlvanney, and Denise Mina
Craig, every second Tuesday. 

Kia ora and gidday everyone.

I hope you're all doing well as we passed the summer solstice last week here in the northern hemisphere, and the winter one for my friends and family back home Down Under. As the seasons change we're entering a new season for crime writing too, as many awards are announcing their longlists and shortlists celebrating some terrific crime and thriller reads, and plenty of terrific crime writing festivals and events are also underway and on the way.

Tonight in London we have the launch celebration at Goldsboro Books for Capital Crime 2023, a wonderful festival being held again in London later this year (31 August-2 September), that was created by literary agent and bookseller David Headley and events star Lizzie Curle. I had the privilege of being involved in last year's festival, getting to chair a cool couple of panels on the Thursday afternoon before I had to fly to New Zealand on the Friday. It was wonderful, and knowing David and Lizzie, 2023 may be even better. Check it out here. 

2022 Capital Crime in Battersea Park, with Andreas Alambritis, BP Walter, AA Chaudhuri, SA Cosby, Ayo Onatade & Tariq Ashkanani

Definitely check out Capital Crime if you can this year; it's a newer event on the festival circuit compared to some longer-running crime writing conventions and festivals, but has already become a highlight of the year. 

Another of my favourite crime fiction events, Bloody Scotland, has its London launch tomorrow night, after announcing its programme in Stirling last week. I went to Bloody Scotland my very first weekend in the UK in 2014, and have returned every year since (well, I appeared 'onstage' online in the 2020 online-only version of the festival).

There's a host of amazing festivals and events coming up for crime fiction fans over the summer; along with Capital Crime and Bloody Scotland, I'm really looking forward to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate next month, and Bute Noir in Scotland in early August. Later in the year Iceland Noir and Newcastle Noir - two festivals I've really enjoyed in past years - both return as well. Among others. Lots to look forward to.

With Aussie crime writer Chris Hammer in Harrogate last year;
celebrating Aussie & Kiwi crime in the bookshop

Of course we can't get to everything; I pick a handful of events each year and have to live with missing others. Some friends enjoyed the likes of Shetland Noir and Lyme Crime recently. I have them on my future to-visit list. 

But it's not just events celebrating all that's good and great about crime fiction lately. 

On Friday morning NZT (Thursday evening in the UK, Europe and the USA), the Ngaio Marsh Awards which I helped establish back in 2010 will announce their longlist for the 2023 prize for Best Novel (there are also Best First Novel and Best Non-Fiction categories; the finalists for all three categories will be announced in August). The Ngaios, as they're known, celebrate crime, thriller, and mystery writing by New Zealand authors and are of course named after one of the famed Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, Dame Ngaio Marsh. 

Each year the Ngaios are presented in Christchurch, Dame Ngaios hometown. 

The 57 books entered for the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel

While I'm not part of the international judging panel for the Ngaios anymore - I just manage the process/wrangle the judges who are all crime fiction experts from Australia, New Zealand, UK, South Africa, and USA - I am very curious to see who emerges from the diverse array of stories and styles to win this year's awards. 

Recently I had the privilege of being involved in a wee way with another Crime Novel of the Year Award, the McIlvanney Prize for best Scottish crime writing. The prize was renamed for the legendary author William McIlvanney back in 2016, following the passing of the man considered 'the Godfather of Tartan Noir'. Each year its presented on the opening night of the Bloody Scotland festival, with past winners leading the torchlit parade.

Like with New Zealand's crime writing prize, the Ngaios, the McIlvanney Prize has grown significantly in entries year on year, and now gets several dozen entries - which is terrific from a smaller country (5 million population) - with lots of good and great reads that make it hard for the judges to narrow down longlists, finalists, and winners. 

The dozen books longlisted for the 2023 McIlvanney Prize showcase a great range of Scottish crime writing, with 'writing royalty' like Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, and Denise Mina joined by past winners Craig Russell and Robbie Morrison (Best Debut), some fresh newer voices like Kate Foster, Callum McSorley, Mark Leggatt, and Heather Darwent, and recognition for terrific historical mysteries authors SG MacLean, Douglas Skelton, and DV Bishop. 

Lots of great reads to enjoy there! It's going to be tough for the judges to choose finalists and a winner. 

In the last fortnight, the shortlist for the 2023 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, celebrating the best in British and Irish crime writing, was also announced. Six fascinating finalists. You can have your say here

And next week, on Thursday 6 July, the Crime Writers' Association will be hosting its annual Dagger Awards dinner and celebration in London. Among the various 'best of the year' awards for Crime Novel (Gold Dagger), Thriller (Steel Dagger), first novel (New Blood Dagger), etc, it will also be an historic night as legendary US crime writer Walter Mosley (author of the Easy Rawlins mysteries, among many others) will be presented with the prestigious Diamond Dagger for "a lifetime contribution to crime writing". As the CWA says on its website:

"The Diamond Dagger recognises authors whose crime-writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre. It is the most prestigious UK lifetime award awarded to a crime writer."

Mosley certainly qualifies. I had the privilege of interviewing him recently for a profile feature in the New Zealand Listener magazine, out this week. He was thrilled to be receiving the Diamond Dagger, which along with the MWA Grand Master honour he received from the US Mystery Writer's Association in 2016, he sees as the two highest potential honours in crime writing in the English language. It's been a long, fascinating journey for Mosley over the past 30+ years, from when he was originally told no one wanted to read about black male heroes, to now. 

Next Thursday he'll become to my understanding the first crime writer of colour to receive the Diamond Dagger. Fittingly, one of the authors he influenced, Vaseem Khan, has recently been voted as the new chair of the Crime Writers Association. Talking about Mosley with Vas recently (for the article), Vas said: 

"Walter Mosley took the genre and bent it to his whim like Superman bending an iron bar around his neck; in his Easy Rawlins novels, he centred a black protagonist at a time when that was all but unthinkable, and in so doing inspired legions of crime writers of colour, including myself."

"This year I was elected the first non-white chair of the the 70-year-old UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA). There’s something surreal to me about the fact that, in 2023, the CWA will be awarding Walter our highest accolade, the CWA Diamond Dagger. Walter kicked down doors so that writers like myself could follow. Crime fiction owes him a debt." 

So from Daggers to Ngaios, Theakston Barrels to Capital Crime to Bloody Scotland, plus more, there's lots and lots to enjoy and celebrate across the crime and thriller writing world in the coming months. Good books, great authors, superb events. We're living in a new golden age of the genre, for sure. 

Or maybe a diamond one.

Until next time. Ka kite anō.

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 

Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I'll be ending my posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

Whaowhia te kete mātauranga

(Fill the basket of knowledge)

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