The Crime Writers' Association

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CWA Appoints New Champions for Libraries

The Crime Writers’ Association has appointed new Libraries Champions based in England, Scotland and Wales. The trio take over from Ruth Dudley Edwards, the CWA’s very first Libraries Champion.

The new champions are crime writers Priscilla Masters, John Dean and Jan Newton.

Key elements of the Libraries Champion role include linking libraries who want crime writers as speakers with the CWA’s local chapter convenors; encouraging libraries to spread the word about the Crime Readers’ Association; supporting libraries under threat via social media where appropriate, while remaining apolitical; seeking further ways to build closer links for the good of libraries and CWA members and including independent libraries in our efforts wherever appropriate.

Cilla Masters lives in Staffordshire and writes about DI Joanna Piercey and coroner Martha Gunn. “Like many other CWA members, I suspect my relationship with libraries goes back a long long way. Right back to when I was a seven-year-old and was issued with a red card for fiction and a blue card for non-fiction. By age 11 I was busy complaining to my mother that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had short-changed me as he hadn’t written enough Sherlock Holmes stories. Via Cat Among the Pigeons, my mother introduced me to Agatha Christie. The rest, as they say . . .

“My relationship with libraries changed in 1987 when I self-published a children’s book set in some local National Trust gardens and was invited to visit practically all the Staffordshire libraries. But the real change came in 1994 when I had my first book contract with Pan Macmillan. It took me a few years to understand a few things about libraries. I hadn’t understood how significant PLR is to the income of many authors. I hadn’t realized how their support can sustain a long series or how they can get behind a new series particularly when it set in their area. I hadn’t realized just how knowledgeable many librarians are about book borrowings, popularity and an important source of feedback. My relationship with libraries and librarians altered again when I started to organize the 2018 CWA conference. And that relationship will, I am sure, morph yet again as I become a libraries’ champion following in the dauntingly able footsteps of Ruth Dudley Edwards. I am very happy to have support from John in Scotland and from Jan in Wales.”

John Dean, who lives in Dumfries and Galloway, is the creator of the DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris series of crime novels published by the Book Folks. He moved from the North East of England at the end of 2017 where he campaigned to save several libraries threatened by council cutbacks. John, who has delivered numerous talks to library audiences and was a founder member of the CWA’s campaign to support libraries several years ago, said: “Libraries have always been close to my heart because my father was a librarian. Indeed, my first summer job was in a library. Libraries are precious and at a time when public sector cutbacks threaten so many of them in the UK, writers need to do all they can to support and celebrate them.”

Jan Newton, like her character DS Julie Kite, is based in Mid Wales. “I adore libraries.  The ones local to me have been so supportive of me – it would be lovely to give something back for all the years I’ve skulked in libraries! I remember going to Middleton Library before I went to primary school and getting my own library ticket.  All those drawers with little pink and beige tickets, and the date stamp with its own ink pad.  I was mortified when I wasn’t chosen to be school librarian.  When I was at secondary school in Marple, I went to the library to do my homework.  It was the only place to get any peace.  I compiled a list of the most imaginative reasons why people were late back with their books as I sat on the mezzanine, struggling with Latin verbs and listening to the customers below.  And then there was Central Ref in Manchester.  I remember the day my dad took me there for the first time.  A glorious piece of architecture, it had curved radiators and a dizzying number of books on miles of shelving.  Many years later, when a gang of us would get the bus into town, I ignored the underground market, Stolen From Ivor and Etam and went to sit in the library, just taking in the smell of the books, and listening to people’s urgent whispers.  It probably explains a lot…”

Ruth Dudley Edwards says: “Libraries and crime writers go together like horses and carriages and it’s been a privilege to be the CWA’s Libraries Champion. I’m sad that work commitments have forced me to step down from the job, but I’m absolutely thrilled that my wonderful, life-enhancing colleague and friend, Priscilla Masters, is taking over, together with John Dean and Jan Newton.”

Martin Edwards, Chair of the CWA, says: “Creating the role of Libraries Champion was an important and practical signal of our commitment to and support for libraries. Ruth has done sterling work in building closer relations between libraries and CWA members nationwide, and we’re now moving into an exciting new phase of the programme, as Cilla, John and Jan seek to build on those firm foundations.”