Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Aces of Diamonds

Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association is breaking seven decades of precedent, and this year will present its Diamond Dagger Award to not just one writer, but two. Both Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke are to receive that honor, which “recognises authors whose crime-writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.”

As a CWA news release today explains, English novelist La Plante started her career as a TV and theater actress, but in 1983 created and scripted the six-part small-screen robbery drama Widows. Eight years after that, she debuted Prime Suspect, a police procedural series starring Helen Mirren as ambitious Jane Tennison, described by Wikipedia as “one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors in Greater London’s Metropolitan Police Service.”

La Plante’s first novel, The Legacy, was published back in 1987, and since then she has produced dozens of other books. Her latest two, released in 2023, are Taste of Blood (starring Jane Tennison) and Pure Evil (the latest of her tales about Detective Jack Warr). The CWA quotes La Plante, now 80, as saying, “In 2024 I will publish both the final book in the young Tennison series, and a memoir detailing my long career as an actress, television producer and crime writer.”

Houston, Texas-born author James Lee Burke, 87, saw his first novel, Half of Paradise, published in 1965. He went on to teach at universities, become a newspaper reporter, and eventually gain international fame penning a variety of books, including 24 about Dave Robicheaux, a former New Orleans homicide detective relocated to New Iberia, Louisiana. (The latest installment in that series is Clete, due out in June.) The CW adds that “James Lee Burke has two Edgar Awards, a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow.”

CWA chair Vaseem Khan says, “James Lee Burke's lyrical depiction of the American South transcends crime fiction—his prose is often considered among the best to have graced the genre. For many, Dave Robicheaux is the very embodiment of the dogged, morally incorruptible detective beset by personal demons—a beautifully rendered character.”

Burke and La Plante are scheduled to receive their Diamond Daggers on July 4, during the annual CWA Dagger Awards presentation. They join a distinguished pantheon of previous winners, among whom are P.D. James, John le Carré, Peter Lovesey, Sara Paretsky, Reginald Hill, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, and Walter Mosley.

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