The Crime Writers’ Association

Emerging Author Dagger

The Emerging Author Dagger (formerly the Debut Dagger) opens for entries on 1 October every year, and runs to the last working day in February the following year.

The international competition, open to anyone in the world writing in English, is for a crime novel opening (max. 3,000 words) and synopsis (max. 1,500 words). The crime novel – of any subgenre; including but not limited to thriller, noir, cosy mystery, suspense, police procedural; spy story and crossover of any kind – should be suitable for adults or young adults.

Entries are eligible from writers who have never had a publishing contract for a full-length novel of any kind and who don’t have a literary agent when the competition closes at the end of February. Entrants must not have made this novel or any other piece of their fiction over 20,000 words available on sale to the public within five years of the closing date.

Any enquiries should be made to

Sponsored by ProWritingAid.

Debut Dagger 2024 Winner

Richard Jerram

Makoto Murders

The Makoto Murders is a noir thriller set in Tokyo. A mixed-race photographer from the gutter press embarks on a series of murders in a tale that is somewhere between Nightcrawler and The ABC Murders.


2024 shortlist

2024 longlist


Author name Title of book
Katherine Ahlert Burnt Ranch
Caroline Arnoul Unnatural Predators
Matt Coot Vilomah
Judy Hock Good Criminals
JR Holland Vigilante Love Song
Alan Jackson Bluebirds
Richard Jerram  Makoto Murders
Lynn Tavernier Long Way Home
Karabi Mitra Not a Good Mother
Jeremy Tinker The Last Days of Forever
James Tobin A Politician’s Guide to Murder
Megan Toogood The Blond

The 2025 Judges

Leigh Russell (Chair)
Leigh Russell has sold over a million books in her Geraldine Steel crime series which has been translated into several languages, including Chinese. Leigh has been shortlisted for two CWA Dagger awards, and has twice been a finalist for the People’s Book Prize. She has formerly served on the board of the Crime Writers’ Association, currently co-ordinates their Criminal Critiques service, and chairs the Debut Dagger judges. She is a Royal Literary Fellow.

Katherine Armstrong
Katherine is Deputy Publishing Director for crime and thrillers at Simon & Schuster. She has worked in publishing since 2005, first at Faber and Faber and then at Sphere (Little, Brown), before joining Bonnier Zaffre in 2016 and Simon & Schuster in 2021. She is also one of the co-founders of the First Monday crime nights in London.

Rachel Neely

Rachel Neely

Rachel Neely began her publishing career in 2016 at HarperCollins, before moving to Hachette where she worked as an editor for the next six years, most recently as a Commissioning Editor. Rachel then made the move from editorial to agenting in early 2022, joining Mushens Entertainment where she is a Literary Agent. Rachel is actively looking to find new crime and thriller writers for her list.

James Wills
James Wills is Managing Director at literary agency Watson, Little. He is always searching for strong storytelling and new, exciting material. “I’d particularly love to see upmarket crime, thrillers and mysteries and addictive, high-concept stories with incredible hooks that refuse to let go.”

ProWritingAid – Sponsors of the Debut Dagger

ProWritingAid was created by writers, for writers. Our primary goal is to help new writers get their stories and ideas across in the clearest and most effective way possible. We are passionate about language and believe good stories are intrinsically entwined with the words and phrases used to express them. ProWritingAid will never replace a human editor (our software can’t spot your plot holes!) Rather, our software helps you self-edit to a deeper level so that when you send your manuscript off to a human editor, they can focus on the content of your writing and not spend their time fixing basic writing issues like passive voice or emotion tells.

We are thrilled to sponsor the Debut Dagger competition. ProWritingAid’s primary goal is to help more writers get their stories out into the world, and the Debut Dagger is such an amazing opportunity for new crime writers to get their work in front of people that matter.

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