I was preparing to record an interview with Manx radio this morning, in advance of a trip to the island in a few weeks' time, when I received the wonderful news that "Strangers in a Pub" has been shortlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger. The story appeared in Ten Year Stretch, the anthology that Adrian Muller and I put together last year to celebrate ten years of CrimeFest.
I'm conscious that I've been more than lucky with awards and award nominations during this past few years, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe that all this is not just another example of my escapist daydreaming. Maybe one or two of the other authors on the various shortlists feel the same way; in any case, my warm congratulations go to all of them.
I've had particular good fortune with short fiction. This is the fourth time a story of mine has been shortlisted for this particular Dagger - the others were "Test Drive", "The Bookbinder's Apprentice" (which won in 2008, the first major crime award I ever received, on a truly memorable night) and "Murder and its Motives". And "Acknowledgments" won the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize.
I love short stories, reading them, writing them, and editing anthologies of them. Some wonderful short stories are being written right now - Danuta Kot sent me her story, also on the shortlist, last week, and I think it's brilliant - and I'm glad to be part of that renaissance. I'm also very glad to see Teresa Solana on the shortlist - I gave a blurb for the book the story comes from, and can warmly recommend it. I very much look forward to reading the other stories on the shortlist. We all know that there is inevitably an element of luck about these things, but the recognition from one's peers in an independent and very well-managed judging process is heartwarming.
"Strangers in a Pub" introduces a new character who may well return again. I really enjoyed writing about him, and I think there's a great deal of mileage in him. Since publishing the story, I've had a couple of other ideas for stories in which he might appear, but pressure of time means that they remain unwritten. So far. Maybe this great news will prompt me, eventually, to get moving with them...