Saturday, January 19, 2008


Sue Grafton has been named as the winner of the Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in the genre of crime writing. I have to admit that I have never read a Kinsey Milhone alphabet mystery, which is something I must remedy sometime soon.

The first winner, in 1986, was Eric Ambler. Subsequent recipients have been P.D. James, John le Carré, Dick Francis, Julian Symons, Ruth Rendell, Leslie Charteris, Ellis Peters, Michael Gilbert, Reginald Hill, H.R.F. Keating, Colin Dexter, Ed McBain, Margaret Yorke, Peter Lovesey, Lionel Davidson, Sara Paretsky, Robert Barnard, Lawrence Block, Ian Rankin and Elmore Leonard.
Last year's winner was John Harvey
. [from the Crime Writer's Association website]
This is an impressive list of 23 writers of whom I have read 16. I also have not read Julian Symons, Leslie Charteris, Michael Gilbert, Margaret Yorke, Peter Lovesey and John Harvey.
I assume the award is made only to living authors, but still there are some glaring omissions.
To whom would you give a Cartier Diamond Dagger? [work translated into English is allowed]
And who on the actual list do you consider overrated?


Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's a good set of questions. And I can recommend Peter Lovesey, particularly The Last Detective, the first of the Peter Diamond series and one of the great disgruntled-cop tales.

One the one hand, the Diamond Dagger is a British award. One the other, CWA has bestowed it on American authors. So I am surprised that Donald Westlake has not won. Here's an early prediction: He gets it next year, unless someone feels skittish about giving it to an American twice in a row.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Americans are eligible, then Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter and Harlan Coben of current writers, surely? Thomas H Cook seems to be suddenly big, after years of writing away. Peter Spiegelman is a favourite of mine, as is Mary Higgins Clark, who is vastly underrated although sells well. Not my personal cup of tea but surely in contention are Patricia Cornwell (early works), Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs. Then there is Jess Walter though perhaps he has not written enough books yet. Another favourite of mine is Philip Margolian, who has written lots but perhaps he is too "lawyer/thriller". Steven White is another favourite (series featuring psychologist Alan Gregory), similar to but nowadays better than another contender, Jonathan Kellerman (or, indeed, Faye Kellerman).
Of other nationalities, I'd recommend as "body of work" authors: Peter Temple (Australia), Maj Sjowell, Liza Marklund (Sweden), Andrea Camilleri (Italy), Fred Vargas (France). For Britain, Val McDermid is a bit of an omission, but also there are Ann Cleves, Martin Edwards, and many others I either haven't read or have temporarily forgotten.

Moving to your other question. I love John Harvey and think he is an excellent winner. I have read about the same number of the past winners as you. I read Michael Gilbert years ago, and although he isn't fashionable now (he died only a few years ago I think), I enjoyed his books at the time -- set in a solicitor's office I think, if memory serves. Robert Barnard is a good winner, he's written a very respectable and large number of books, in a range of genres and featuring several different series and stand alones.
Maxine (Google currently calling me Petrona)

7:17 AM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Very interesting and very tricky. I have not read Leonard or Paretsky. Fine though they are, Le Carre and Ambler wrote espionage novels, and I don't think they belong here. I am happy in varying degrees to see James, Symons, Rendell, Peters, Gilbert, Hill, Keating, Dexter, McBain, Lovesey, Barnard (though he as been slipping of late), Block, Rankin, and Harvey (though I wish he'd knock off the music nonsense) on the list. And perhaps Grafton, but I'm a bit uncertain there. It is years since I read or even saw mention of Lionel Davidson and I cannot remember the books I read clearly enough to judge. Charteris and especially Francis, I would say no -- just not very good writers. I think I must revisit Margaret Yorke. It is also years since I read her and I have an idea she stuck in my mind as belonging on my 'B' list, but perhaps unfairly. But the Cartier Dagger is a difficult award. In thinking of deserving writers, we have to think of those who have been in the game for a substantial length of time, which eliminates some names that may spring to mind. I'd be very happy to see Jonathan Gash get it. Also Peter Dickinson. Francis Fyfield eventually. Jan van de Wetering, of course. But this is a bit pointless. The problem is that once you honour the very obviously deserving (James, Rendell, Hill, Dexter,Lovesey, McBain, et al), of whom there aren't that many, you are left with an embarrassment of riches, a huge list of writers who have turned out fine stuff for years and all equally deserving. I could compose a very long list of writers whom one might well think deserve it, but obviously the vast majority won't get it. It's necessarily a very invidious award.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for your replies.

This is a more difficult than I thought at first glance. I wonder whether awards such as the Diamond Dagger, the Edgar Grand Master, the Eye etc.should be awarded every year.
I think it might be better to restrict them to the great, rather than award them to the good?
The Wolfe Pack have restricted the Archie to Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, Rex Stout [well they would wouldn't they] and Dorothy L Sayers. Which is going to the other extreme.

Peter; I am sure we would not be so parochial and Donald E Westlake would be a good choice, and he won Grandmaster in 1993.

Maxine; I agree Michael Connelly, and possibly Robert Crais would be candidates under the present entry standards. I am not sure Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reich have been around long enough.

I was thinking of Tony Hillerman, as someone who virtually created a sub genre by himself. As far as European entries for a "body of work" Maj Sjowall and Henning Mankell must be strong contenders.
I keep banging the drum for the Martin Beck books but one has only to look at the flood of Scandinavian crime writers today to see their legacy.

Another of my favourites is Peter Robinson, whose Alan Banks stories are of a uniformly high standard, but rarely gets the appreciation that goes to Rankin and McDermid.

Philip: I agree with your point entirely any such award should be restricted to the A list. I remember Lionel Davidson writing some excellent books a long time ago, and that they were more in the Le Carre/Ambler genre rather than mysteries, but my memory may be faulty.

Perhaps there should be a Hall of Fame restricted to twenty writers, and extended every ten years by ten further writers.
I might think up my twenty all time greats, when I am watching the news or any other boring TV.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I had forgotten Denis Lehane, who might creep in for a Diamons Dagger.

12:02 PM  

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