Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kerr Wins the Ellis Peters Award

After failing to capture last year’s Ellis Peters Historical Award, given out by the British Crime Writers’ Association, Scottish wordsmith Philip Kerr has received that commendation for his 2009 Bernie Gunther novel, If the Dead Rise Not (Quercus).

Also nominated for this year’s award: The Dead of Winter, by Rennie Airth (Macmillan); The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, by Shona MacLean (Quercus); The Information Officer, by Mark Mills (HarperCollins); The Interrogator, by Andrew Williams (John Murray); and An Empty Death, by Laura Wilson (Orion).

Calling in from the London reception at which Kerr’s win was announced, Rap Sheet contributor Ali Karim noted that the author gave “a lovely thank-you speech,” which he claimed had been gathering dust ever since last year, when he’d first hoped to deliver it. In the course of his address, Kerr noted that Ellis Peters (née Edith Pargeter), after whom the CWA’s annual historical prize is named, had produced dozens of novels before she became a best-seller; he is apparently looking for similar late-career fame.

To my mind, at least, Kerr is well deserving of this reward. I’ve been reading his Gunther novels ever since 1989, when I picked up the first entry in that series, March Violets, and found myself transported into the darkness of pre-World War II Berlin. The author turned out two more Gunther books in close succession--The Pale Criminal (1990) and A German Requiem (1991)--but then went off to compose standalone works for more than a decade, before returning to the troubled, dangerous, and sexually active life of his first protagonist in The One from the Other (2006). Last year’s A Quiet Flame, which dispatched cop-turned-private eye-turned-fugitive Gunther to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in pursuit of an ex-Nazi killer, was one of my favorite books of 2008. And If the Dead Rise Not is more than likely to feature on my favorites list for 2009.

So, while all of this year’s Ellis Peters nominees are deserving of congratulations, I am especially pleased to hear that the prize has finally landed in Kerr’s hands.

In other news from tonight’s event, Karim tells me that Janet Laurence, the present chair of the Ellis Peters Award judging panel, has decided to step down from that post. And two new judges--critics Jake Kerridge of The Daily Telegraph and Barry Forshaw--will be added to the panel next year.

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