Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke Honoured with CWA Diamond Daggers

Lynda La Plante & James Lee Burke Honoured with Highest Crime Writing Accolade

For the first time in its 70-year history, the Crime Writers’ Association is awarding two authors its annual Diamond Dagger. Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke have both been honoured with what is considered the highest accolade in the genre.

The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Diamond Dagger Award recognises authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

Vaseem Khan, Chair of the CWA, said, “The Diamond Dagger judges almost came to blows this year and for good reason. Ultimately, they have chosen to recognise two incredible bodies of work that have each, in their own way, made their mark.”

Lynda La Plante in a reflective mood by Gemma DayLynda La Plante CBE began her career as an actor in TV and theatre. She graduated from RADA, where her fellow students included Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt.

La Plante wrote her first treatment for TV, Widows, which went on to become one of the highest-rated series in the 1980s. She became a sought-after crime writer with her debut novel, The Legacy, published in 1987.

In 1990, La Plante began work on Prime Suspect, which was released in 1991, starring Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison. In 1993, she received the Dennis Potter Award from BAFTA and was made a fellow of the British Film Institute. The success led to her forming her own television production company, La Plante Productions.

She also wrote and produced multiple shows in the US, with actors including Vanessa Redgrave, Sam Neill, and Rob Lowe. In 2014, she formed a new global rights and production company – La Plante Global.

Her current book series features Detective Jack Warr. She received a CBE for services to Literature, Drama and Charity in 2008.

Vaseem Khan said, “Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect redefined the role of women in police procedurals and made a star of Helen Mirren, while Widows remains a talismanic – and wickedly entertaining – female-led heist caper.”

Lynda La Plante said, “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. To also be awarded the Diamond Dagger from the CWA makes 2024 even more special, and I look forward to thanking all those involved in person at the awards ceremony on July 4th.”

Born in Houston in 1936, James Lee Burke’s first novel was compared to the work of Faulkner and Sartre by the New York Times. Despite this, he was out of hardback print for 13 years until his third novel, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, was published and submitted for a Pulitzer Prize after being rejected over 111 times.

Over the years, he’s taught at universities, worked as a case worker with former felons, as a pipeliner for an oil company, as a long-distance truck driver, and as a newspaper reporter.

James Lee Burke has two Edgar Awards, a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow.

Vaseem Khan said, “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.”

Photograph of James Lee James Lee Burke by Deborah FeingoldJames Lee Burke (right) said, “I wish to thank the judges of the Diamond Dagger committee for honouring me with such a prestigious award. I’m honoured and humbled to receive it. It is also an honour to have my name among the best mystery and crime writers in the world. I cannot thank you enough.”

Nominations for the CWA Diamond Dagger are recommended by CWA members. Industry experts then narrow these down to a shortlist.

The winner is then voted for by a panel of past Diamond Dagger winners comprising Peter James, Walter Mosley, Lee Child, Lawrence Block, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Lindsey Davis, Andrew Taylor, Martina Cole, Ann Cleeves, Val McDermid, Robert Goddard, Martin Edwards, Catherine Aird and Simon Brett.

Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke join icons of the genre who have been recognised with the accolade, including Ruth Rendell, PD James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, and John Le Carré.

Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the CWA Daggers’ committee, said, “By an extraordinary quirk of fate, due to our new voting process, this year’s Diamond Dagger is, for the first time in seven decades, being awarded to two authors. If the Booker Prize can do it, so can we! Both such wonderful and deserving writers who, between them, demonstrate the marvellous diversity of crime writing.”

One of the UK’s most prominent societies, the CWA was founded in 1953 by John Creasey; the awards started in 1955, with its first award going to Winston Graham, best known for Poldark.

The CWA Daggers are now regarded by the publishing world as the foremost British award for crime writing. As the oldest awards in the genre, they have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.

The Diamond Dagger is presented at the annual CWA Dagger Awards, dubbed the ‘Oscars of the crime genre,’ which take place this year on July 4.

Photographs of Lynda La Plante by Gemma Day. Photograph of James Lee James Lee Burke by Deborah Feingold.

The CWA Golden Daggers LogoLynda La Plante and James Lee Burke Honoured with CWA Diamond Daggers 2

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