“It was a thrill just to be shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for my first novel, let alone to win. Blacklands is a small, simple book and I’m still stunned and delighted that it seems to have struck a chord with so many people.”
First time novellist Belinda Bauer has won the 2010 CWA Gold Dagger and the prize of £2,500 for Blacklands, published by Corgi. The announcement was made at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on October 8th, where our photo was taken. The Awards ceremony was screened on ITV3 the following week.
The CWA Dagger Awards are the longest established literary awards in the UK and are internationally recognised as a mark of excellence and achievement. The Gold Dagger is the year’s top award, for the best crime novel, originally written in English, by an author of any nationality, and published in the UK in the year to 31 May. The judges summarised why they chose Blacklands: “A Dysfunctional family, emotional turmoil, adolescent angst and a psychopathic paedophile in a riveting psychological suspense debut that demands a one-sitting read.”
Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa and now lives in Wales. She has worked as a journalist and screenwriter and her script The Locker Room earned her the Carl Foreman/ Bafta Award for Young British Screenwriters. She learned about the CWA’s Debut Dagger competition from Mslexia magazine and entered Blacklands where it was highly commended in 2008.
Agents then vied to represent her. She chose Jane Gregory who almost immediately sold the book for a “very big” amount to Transworld, who published it to critical acclaim. Blacklands was selected as a TV Book Club choice in 2010:Synopsis: THE BOY WANTED THE TRUTH. THE KILLER WANTED TO PLAY… Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school and at weekends, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven digs to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged 11 and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.
Only Steven’s Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it’s too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he’ll do it.
So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer…
Judges’ comments: A boy tries to lay to rest the ghost of a murdered uncle, leading to a chilling confrontation with a child killer in this disturbing coming-of-age novel.