Wednesday, 11 January 2017
The Crime Writers' Association
The Crime Writers' Association has a new Chair. I can tell you this authoritatively, because it happens to be me. Len Tyler, who has piloted the CWA with aplomb for more than eighteen months, has stepped down early, because of the scale of the workload of the Chair's role. So I've taken his place. And the first thing I'd like to say is what a pleasure it's been working alongside Len as his Vice Chair. I wish him all the best with his writing projects, and very much hope he'll become involved again with the CWA at a future date once he's met a few killer deadlines.
As it happens, this year sees the thirtieth anniversary of my joining the CWA (I was only a lad at the time, you understand....) Shortly after I joined I was contacted by Peter N. Walker, and invited to the inaugural meeting of the CWA's northern chapter. That was a great occasion, if thinly attended. Reginald Hill, who was there with his wife Pat, dubbed us "the Few". That day I met Peter for the first time - long before he became famous as the guy who created Heartbeat. As well as Reg, I met another future CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Bob Barnard, and his wife Louise. Plus Peter Lewis, biographer of Eric Ambler, and his wife Margaret Lewis, biographer of Ngaio Marsh. What I remember vividly is how kind they were to a young chap from Cheshire they knew nothing about. We all became friends, and my admiration for them all will never falter. That experience also makes me feel strongly that looking after newcomers to membership is so important, just as is making sure that long-standing members continue to feel valued.
Before long I started going to CWA annual conferences, where I met many delightful people. Some are still around, some are not. All of them, pretty much without exception, were great fun to be with. Youngish writers by the name of Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, and Margaret Murphy among others joined the northern chapter and I enjoyed their company as well as their books. Margaret formed Murder Squad in 2000, and this collective of writers is still going strong.
I am not by nature a very sociable person. Like many writers, I'm content with my own company and I often prefer it to the alternative. But I've found the company of my fellow crime writers truly life-enhancing over the years. The CWA is a terrific organisation and it's very significant that it has grown to a point where it's now bigger than at any time in its history of over sixty years. Its Daggers (their trademarked logo heads this post) are world famous. This is quite something in an era where membership organisations generally tend to be in substantial decline.
Of course, I am proud to have been picked to lead the CWA. And I'm startled to find that I'm the only person to have been both Chair of the CWA and President of the Detection Club at the same time. Inevitably I'll make a few mistakes as I try to move things forward, but I plan to do my best to make sure both organisations look after their members, and continue to play a significant part in the crime writing world, here in the UK and further afield.