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John Hart wins CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award for `The Last Child`

22-Oct-2009 • Literary

British readers have shown that they prefer the slick fiction of US author Harlan Coben to the home-grown talents of Alexander McCall Smith, Nicci French, Dick Francis and Martina Cole, voting him winner of the Bestseller Dagger, a new literary prize which saw ITV3 viewers voting for their favourite crime author - reports the Guardian.

"It's a real thrill," said Coben, who'd travelled to the Crime Writers' Association's Crime Thriller awards ceremony from his home in New Jersey with his 10-year-old son. "The only time I'd have expected to be on a list with those four names is in a restaurant, so it's just sort of stunning ... Maybe there's a little more love for me in the UK [than there is in the US]."

Coben is the author of 16 bestselling mystery novels including The Woods, Tell No One and the Myron Bolitar series, about a sports agent turned detective. He has won all the major US crime awards, but said he was particularly pleased to win a prize voted for by readers. "The readers are the ones who let us live our dreams," he said. "I try to write books which are really compelling – that you'd take on vacation and rather than going out, you'd read in your hotel room because you had to find out what happened. Hopefully that's what readers are responding to."

The awards ceremony, at London's Grosvenor House Hotel, also saw Augustinian-friar-turned-barrister-turned-author William Brodrick join an illustrious list of names including John le Carré and Ruth Rendell after winning the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger award. "I had schooled myself to think I wasn't going to win, that I didn't have a chance," said Brodrick. "From where I was sitting at the awards, I could see the writing engraved on the bottom of the prize and I thought it wasn't me, the name was too long, so when they read out my name it was a huge surprise."

Judges picked Brodrick's A Whispered Name, which pits his hero Father Anselm against an unsolved mystery from Passchendaele in 1917, over novels by the Whitbread-winning Kate Atkinson and the Theakston's prize-winning Mark Billingham. "It's the first award I've won," said Brodrick. "You write very much to a potential audience, but also with a great sense of responsibility. This subject – the first world war, capital trials ... I had an enormous responsibility to do it well. So with this award, I have the sense, not so much of relief, but of hope that I've treated with respect such a sensitive and delicate subject."

Judges said his novel "stretches the parameters of the crime genre, intertwining past and present and throwing light on a neglected aspect of World War One". "I think it's the best work I've done," said Brodrick. "Saul Bellow said his first book was like kindergarten, and round about his seventh he felt he'd got his PhD, and I've had a similar experience ... It's my third book, and now I'm doing my O Levels by Bellow's reckoning."

The Steel Dagger for best thriller went to John Hart's The Last Child, which judges called an "accomplished and ambitious piece of southern gothic", while the New Blood Dagger went to Johan Theorin's Echoes from the Dead. "Britain is home to most of the greatest mystery writers in the world, from Conan Doyle, Christie and Creasey and up to all the fine writers who are still alive and active today – and as a Swede I couldn't dream of competing with them," said Theorin. "But to my big surprise and honour, I guess I have."

The awards ceremony also saw Colin Dexter, Lynda La Plante, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid collect trophies to commemorate their inauguration into the Crime Writers' Association's Hall of Fame, while television drama The Wire picked up the International TV Dagger for best TV crime thriller, as well as the Best Actor Dagger for Dominic West.

The winners in full:

The ITV3 Bestseller Dagger: Harlan Coben

The CWA Gold Dagger 2009: William Brodrick's A Whispered Name

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller: John Hart's The Last Child

The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger: Johan Theorin's Echoes from the Dead

The International TV Dagger for best TV crime thriller: The Wire (BBC2)

The Best Actor Dagger: Dominic West for The Wire

The Best Actress Dagger: Juliet Stevenson for Place of Execution by Coastal Productions (ITV1)

The Film Dagger: Gran Torino (Warner Brothers)

The TV Dagger: Red Riding (Channel 4 Films)

The awards, which are sponsored by Specsavers, will be televised on ITV3 on 27 October at 9pm.

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