Crime festival rewards top authors

THE opening night of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival saw the presentation of two prestigious awards.

In front of a crowd of writers, publishers, agents and fans, host Mark Lawson presented PD James with the award for outstanding contribution to crime fiction.

Despite her 91 years, Baroness James was present to be given a standing ovation and collect her prize.

She said: “It is always a satisfaction and an encouragement for a writer to win a prize, but I am particularly proud to be honoured by the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award because it comes from Harrogate, a town which it is always a delight to visit and which is the home of one of the most distinguished and pleasurable English literary festivals.”

Referring to her most famous character, she added: “Adam Dalgliesh from now on will be drinking no other beer.”

The presentation was followed by the announcement of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

From a shortlist of six, the judges chose Lee Child’s 61 Hours as the winner, presenting him with a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by the sponsor.

He said: “Oh bloody hell. You know when they say ‘I didn’t expect to win and so I haven’t prepared a speech’? Well, I really didn’t expect to win so I haven’t prepared a speech! I really didn’t expect this.

“I very much admire the other authors on the shortlist, I have read them all and I would have been really happy to be sixth behind them.

“But most of all I will remember winning this tonight following PD James up to the stage. That really does make it special.”

A representative of Asda, which has teamed up with the festival to support the award, said more than 11,000 copies of the long-listed books had been sold in its stores.

Simon Theakston, executive director of T&R Theakston, and one of five judges on this year’s panel, said: “All the novels on this year’s shortlist were of an exceptionally high standard but 61 Hours was a clear winner.

“The appeal of the eternal wanderer Jack Reacher is hard to resist as he travels the frozen landscape of South Dakota, fighting the good fight. 61 Hours is a great example of Lee Child’s immense talent, and we’re thrilled to present him with this much deserved award for the first time.

“We are also hugely honoured and excited to welcome the crime fiction grandmaster PD James to Harrogate this year, to collect her outstanding contribution to crime fiction award. Few are as prolific as she, dominating the genre for over 50 years.

“This award acknowledges that immense achievement.”