National Crime Reading Month: A Wrap-Up
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) is a thriving, growing community that celebrates the thrilling genre of crime fiction all year round. During the month of June, however, this love for the genre is encouraged and shared amongst a wide variety of readers all over the country, as part of a major initiative run in collaboration with the national charity, The Reading Agency. This year the campaign included features across BBC radio, a #PickUpAPageTurner campaign on Twitter and appearances by celebrity authors such as Anthony Horowitz and L. J. Ross, all culminating in the exciting CWA Dagger Awards ceremony on 29 June. Inspired by this fantastic project we decided to explore the lively events of this year's National Crime Reading Month (NCRM) and pick up some tips on how to promote an often-underappreciated genre.
Across the UK and Ireland, hundreds of events took place in June to promote National Crime Reading Month (NCRM). Using the hashtag #PickUpAPageTurner, attendees were encouraged to share their highlights from these events across social media. This jam-packed events calendar bolstered “the biggest campaign to date” (The Bookseller) and aimed to engage with crime readers old and new.
NCRM was officially launched on 1 June at Waterstones Piccadilly, in London. Host of the popular writing podcast, Red Hot Chilli Writers, Abir Mukherjee hosted a panel discussion with a mixture of CWA and The Reading Agency directors, ambassadors and popular crime authors. These included New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell, whose crime and psychological thriller novels have had worldwide success and have been translated into over twenty-five languages. Launch events were also held in Cork and Dublin, in Ireland, with panel discussions and readings from authors. The book launch for previous Gold Dagger winner, M. W. Craven’s The Botanist, was also hosted at the Old Fire Station in Carlisle. This free, in-person event offered author interviews as well as signed copies sold by local indie bookshop, Bookends.
After a lively first day, the author events didn’t stop there. Ian Rankin’s new novel, The Dark Remains, co-authored with William McIlvanney, was celebrated at several “an evening with” events. Lesley Thomson spoke about her novel, The Companion, at “writing for my life” interviews. Crime fans could also have afternoon tea at a “Scream Tea” with Louise Mumford in Llantwit Major. Finally, NCRM events were also held at numerous literary festivals, including the Essex Book Festival, Wild Words Festival and the Jaipur Literature Festival London, not forgetting the famous Hay Festival.
In this exciting celebration of a month of crime writing, the objective to promote a variety of voices in the genre was clear to see. Whilst including prominent crime authors, the organisation of several crime writing events across the country saw an effort to cultivate new crime writers. Shrewsbury Library held a “sleuthsbury writers lab” led by crime author Leslie Scase, and The Campus Library in North Somerset held a writing event on 15 June focusing on the science in writing about crime. Other workshops and writing labs ranged from podcast creation to creating the perfect “baddie” for your narrative.
The CWA Daggers
After an event-filled few weeks, the month culminated with the annual Crime Writers’ Association Daggers Awards Ceremony on 29 June. The Daggers began in 1955 as the brainchild of John Creasey to celebrate the best in crime writing. The twelve award categories were judged by a panel of leading authors, reviewers, academics and journalists, as the CWA prepared to host their first live event in three years. The ceremony, taking place at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in London, was co-hosted by podcasters and authors Barry Forshaw and Victoria Selman, with bestselling author Elly Griffiths, herself a winner of a Dagger in 2016, giving the after-dinner speech.
Highlighting the year’s best debut novels, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger was awarded to Janice Hallett for The Appeal, a page-turning cosy crime and former Waterstones Book of the Month. The Dagger in the Library, voted for by librarians based on the author’s overall body of work, went to Mark Billingham, author of Rabbit Hole. Perhaps the most exciting award, the Debut Dagger, offers an excellent marketing opportunity for up-and-coming authors. Only open to uncontracted writers, many former winners have gone on to gain representation and a publishing contract. This year’s winner was Anna Maloney whose novel The 10:12 follows a woman embroiled in a train hijacking and its aftermath.
Further awards were received by:
· Ray Celestin – Historical Dagger and Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year.
· M. W. Craven – Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller.
· Julia Laite – ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction.
· Simone Buchholz – Dagger for Crime Fiction in Translation.
· Paul Magrs – Short Story Dagger.
· Faber & Faber – Dagger for the Best Crime and Mystery Publisher.
· Thalia Proctor – Red Herring Award for services to crime writing.
· C. J. Sansom – Diamond Dagger.