Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – The Opening Night

Ten years on and the festival is showing no signs of flagging – quite the opposite, it’s growing in popularity and attendance if tonight’s (Thursday’s) opening night was anything to go by.

A fantastic who’s who of the greatest names in crime fiction from across the globe have begun their takeover of The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate for another long weekend of criminal activities.

The festival kicked off in style with the Crime Novel of the Year Award and a special Lifetime Achievement Award. In the latter the happy recipient, Colin Dexter, gave a lovely moving, funny and heartfelt speech and thanked the ‘happy band of crime writers’

We may be using #TOPcrime2012 as our hashtag this year with the ‘TOP’ being for ‘Theakstons Old Peculier’, but this festival is ‘TOP’ in many more ways than just the acronym. 





Scottish author Denise Mina has tonight scooped the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award with her ninth book The End of the Wasp Season.  One of the most prestigious crime writing prizes in the country, the Glaswegian writer was presented the award by title sponsor Simon Theakston, at the opening night party of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.


Beating off stiff competition from a shortlist that included SJ Watson’s smash hit debut Before I Go To Sleep; veteran crime writer John Connolly’s The Burning Soul; and Steve Mosby’s acclaimed Black Flowers; this is the first time that Mina has been awarded the coveted accolade. Collecting a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade oak cask provided by Theakstons Old Peculier, Mina expressed her shock at her win:


“I’m only here to prove I’m a good sport! I’ve lost a tenner in a bet! There’s something lovely about the collegiate attitude of crime writers and together it makes us ball-sier! I’m a bit blown away to be honest. I was really blown away by being on the shortlist. I’m so astonished I can’t even swear!”


Born in Glasgow in 1966, Mina grew up in various locations in Europe thanks to her father’s work as an engineer.  Having left school at sixteen she tried her hand at a number of jobs including meat factory worker, kitchen porter and cook, before returning to education to study Law at Glasgow University followed by a PhD at Strathclyde University.  She wrote her debut novel, Garnethill when she was supposed to be studying!  In addition to writing crime fiction novels, Mina also writes comics, short stories, stage plays and even a graphic novel. Her latest book isGods and Beasts.


Now in its eighth year, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, in partnership with Asda – who is promoting the shortlisted titles in stores nationwide – and in association with the Daily Mirror, was created to celebrate the very best in crime writing and is open to British and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1st June 2011 to 31st May 2012.


The overall winner was decided by a public vote and a panel of experts which this year was comprised of DI Tom Thorne actor David Morrissey; Festival chair Mark BillinghamDaily Mirror Literary Editor and crime novelistHenry Sutton; Asda Fiction Buyer Ruth Lewis; and Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston Ltd.


Tonight too, a special presentation was made to the winner of the third Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award, which this year was awarded to Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse.


Born in Lincolnshire in 1930, Dexter won a scholarship to the local grammar school and, after completing his National Service, went on to study at Cambridge. Since 1966 he has lived in Oxford with his wife, with whom he has two children. After retiring from a 13-year teaching career, he began writing mysteries in 1973 while on a family holiday. His debut novel, Last Bus to Woodstock, was published in 1975 and introduced the world to Inspector Morse for the first time. One of the most iconic detectives ever to have been created, Morse’s crime-solving talents found a whole new audience in the successful TV series, bringing further acclaim for Dexter. Inspector Morse has appeared in 13 novels and numerous short stories. Dexter has won many awards for his novels, including the CWA Silver Dagger twice and the CWA Gold Dagger for both The Wench is Dead and The Way Through the Woods. In 1997, he was presented with the CWA Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature and, in 2000, was awarded the OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours.


Dexter said: “Never had I thought that the gods would be kindly enough to give me such a huge honour so late in my life. Yet here I am, in my early eighties, feeling a profound and heartfelt gratitude for the great honour bestowed on me.”


Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston, said:

“Denise Mina is a fantastically talented writer and The End of the Wasp Season is a thoroughly deserving winner and a great example of ‘tartan noir’. It was a very tough decision this year as all the books on the shortlist were outstanding in different ways but I’m delighted to be able to hand the trophy to Denise, the first woman to have woman since 2008, for this hugely atmospheric and haunting book.


“I’m also delighted and privileged to welcome Colin Dexter to Harrogate to collect his much- deserved Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. Few writers are as prolific as Colin has been over his long and varied career and even fewer create a character as iconic and well-loved as Morse. This award acknowledges Colin’s huge contribution not only to crime fiction and to British culture, but also to real ale. Few detectives enjoy a pint better than Morse!”

1 Comment

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One response to “Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – The Opening Night

  1. Rebecca Bradley

    I also managed to blog on the first night of Harrogate Keith, but not as professionally and well written up as this. There were mentions of Betty’s cream teas and things thrown in! A great post on a great first night!

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