Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Andrew Taylor's Diamond Dagger

The public announcement that Andrew Taylor has been awarded the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger came after I'd written my post yesterday about the televised version of his extraordinary Roth Trilogy, but it was the happiest of coincidences.

The Diamond Dagger is awarded for a crime writing career of 'sustained excellence', and nobody can doubt that Andrew's track record demonstrates just that. I've followed his career since its beginnings, with the fascinating and quirky series about William Dougal, and when I became editor of the CWA's anthology, I was delighted when Andrew came up with the first short story featuring Dougal. 'The Cost of Living' appeared in Perfectly Criminal in 1996, and I said in introducing it that the story 'has all the strengths of the Dougal novels: a neat yet unusual story-line, convincing characterisation and that poignancy which is so characteristic of Taylor's writing'.

The same features were evident in his excellent Lydmouth series, and again Andrew honoured me with the first Lydmouth short story, 'The Woman who Loved Elizabeth David', which appeared in Past Crimes in 1998. Several of Andrew's stand-alone novels are quite outstanding. The American Boy won massive sales after it became a Richard and Judy selection, but one of my favourites is the less well-known, but brilliant The Barred Window. And I've mentioned before in this blog that I'm a huge fan of Bleeding Heart Square.

I read Andrew Taylor for pleasure, but in reading the books, I also learn more about the craft of crime fiction from a writer who is not only a consummate professional (a bit of trivia is that, years ago, he wrote a number of tv novelisations under a pseudonym), but whose literary gifts are subtle and original. A star of the genre, who will be a very popular Diamond Dagger winner indeed.


Anonymous said...

Shockingly, I have not yet read his books, though I have been meaning to for ages and have one, sent to me by one of his longstanding advocates, Crime Fiction Reader (of It's a Crime! blog). I have read and enjoyed quite a bit of his journalism (though not always agreed with it. But it is always well-argued, readable and highly literate), and particularly liked his introduction to one of the Sjowall and Wahloo novels. He also interviewed Ann Cleeves very insightfully at Crime Fest last year. (I presume this means it is likely to be his turn for interrogation this year!).

By all accounts, a very well deserved award and makes me determined to read him sooner rather than later. I will find out if the title you recommend is a stand-alone or a series novel, and if the former, perhaps read that one first.

Martin Edwards said...

Maxine, I think I have gained some idea of your tastes, and I'm confident you will enjoy his work. I don't suggest that every book he's ever written is a masterpiece - because he takes chances, not all of them come off every time, but his work is always interesting and intelligent. The Roth Trilogy, the later Lydmouth books, The Barred Window and BH Square are among my personal faves. The last two are both stand alones.

Philip Amos said...

I've had reservations about a few of the Diamond Dagger recipients, but certainly not about this one. A splendid choice. Maxine, I particularly recommend the Roth Trilogy, which is available in one volume as Requiem for an Angel, introduction by Frances Fyfield. Each of the three novels can stand alone, or the three can be read in any order, but reading all three in the order they were written, and thus following the story back in time, is greatly to be recommended. Lovely stuff.