The 2021 recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger, Martina Cole is the long-reigning Queen of Crime Drama and a publishing powerhouse. Martina has written 25 novels, all published by Headline, seventeen of which reached No.1 and her books have collectively spent over 4 years in the bestseller charts. Total sales stand at over 17 million copies, making her Britain’s bestselling female crime writer and with The Faithless she became the first British female adult audience novelist to break the £50 million sales mark since Nielsen Bookscan records began. Her books have been translated into 31 languages and adapted for multiple stage plays and television series.
Martina’s own story is as remarkable as any bestseller plot. Martina grew up on an Essex council estate and Ronnie and Reggie Kray once visited her family’s home when she was a child.
The youngest of five children in a large, poor, Irish Catholic family, she attended a convent school, where her struggle against authority started; this culminated in two expulsions. She finished school at 15 with no qualifications; was married at 16, divorced at 17 and pregnant at 18. A single mum, she struggled to bring up her son, Chris, taking on waitressing jobs.
Aged 21, she lost both her parents and started to write her iconic debut novel, Dangerous Lady, but it wasn’t until she was 30 that she gave up her job and decided to devote herself seriously to writing and finished the manuscript. Dangerous Lady caused a sensation when it was published in 1992 – and the rest is history.
Martina is a passionate advocate for prisoner rehabilitation and visits prisons to give writing classes. She often quips to her classes: ‘there’s one thing you’ve got that all writers want – time’.
Martina is a long-standing Ambassador for the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme which works to inspire and encourage less confident readers to develop an enjoyment of reading at the same time as improving their literacy skills.
She also supports Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, and Safer Places. a charity which supports survivors of domestic abuse.
Diamond - 2021
British Book Award for Crime Novel of the Year with The Take 2006.
Nielsen Bookscan Honorary Platinum Award 2017 – four of her titles sold over half a million copies that year.