When the CWA made the announcement in early January that the 2010 Cartier Diamond Dagger was to be given to best-selling author Val McDermid, it was without doubt one of the most anticipated. The award, now in its twenty-fifth year, remains sponsored by Cartier UK Limited, and honours outstanding achievement in crime writing.
The formal ceremony took place on Thursday 6 May at the Gore Hotel in Kensington. The fact that it was the same day as the elections did not stop a huge number of well-wishers from converging on the hotel to join Val in celebrating her award in recognition of her work, which spans over twenty years.
Fresh from the CWA committee meeting, it was the incoming CWA Chairman’s first official duty, and one which Tom Harper did very well indeed. He welcomed the guest of honour, sponsor and supporters to the evening with a toast in champagne.
In a brief introduction, he pointed out that this was the silver anniversary of the Diamond Dagger, and paid tribute to Cartier as the CWA's longest-standing sponsor and supporter.
This year’s Dagger was presented to Val by Cartier UK Limited’s Managing Director, Arnaud Bamberger. It is the nineteenth Diamond Dagger ceremony in which Monsieur Bamberger has been involved, and one which he is happy to continue to support – as he has told us on many occasions he is very proud to be associated with the award presented to his beloved “super sleuths”.
In his speech, Monsieur Bamberger paid homage to Val and her work. It was quite a concession – as a Chelsea supporter himself – that he also mentioned Raith Rovers. There is no mystery that Val loves this football team of which she is a sponsor. When he mentioned Thierry Henry, Val quipped that the French footballer “was better at handball”.
Accepting the award Val gave a very moving speech in which she paid tribute to all those who have supported her writing over the years and the pleasure she felt in being honoured with the Diamond Dagger Award. She said: "I'm delighted to be admitted to this very select group of crime writers. To be awarded the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger is a distinction every writer dreams of.”
Recalling her early school days, she told us that they were positively unhelpful when she wanted to go to Oxford. It was her English teacher’s determination to get Val away from a grim childhood that made him give up his free time to help her prepare for the exam. When she went into journalism, she mentioned that it was “in the mistaken belief that it had something to do with writing”. She added that it provided an excellent starting point for learning how to drink. A tradition kept up by many a crime writer.
Val also paid tribute to the late-greats, such as Christie, Marsh and Allingham, all of whom had inspired her, and contemporaries such as Colin Dexter, Ruth Rendell and P.D. James. She thanked her first editor at Harper Collins, Julia Wisdom, and then David Shelley, her current editor at Little, Brown, for encouraging her to push the boundaries. Also helping Val celebrate were her partner Kelly Smith and her agent Jane Gregory.
Throughout the evening the dagger was on full display, and CWA members wandered up to view the magnificent diamond-encrusted trophy. I swear you could see it in their eyes: “One day, this will be mine.” The event was fun, with the canapés and champagne arriving more regularly than the Gatwick Express. Mind you, a small group of people were determined to hijack the food as soon as it appeared – you know who you are!
There were also a large number of her fellow crime writers in attendance amongst whom were Andrew Taylor (last year’s recipient), Colin Dexter, Meg Gardiner, Stella Duffy, Mick Herron, Priscilla Masters, Natasha Cooper, Laura Wilson, Keith Miles, Simon Brett and Judith Cutler to name a few. Others present included Myles Allfrey and Adrian Muller (the co-hosts of CrimeFest in Bristol), Thalia Proctor, Selina Walker (from Transworld), Geoffrey Bailey and Krystyna Green (Constable Robinson).
2010 has certainly been a good year so far for Val McDermid. Place of Execution recently won an Edgar Award for Best TV Episode Teleplay whilst A Darker Domain was a winner at the annual Reviewers' Choice Awards which were announced by RT Book Review (Romantic Times) in the PI/Police Procedural category. A Darker Domain was also shortlisted in the Mystery/Thriller section of the Los Angeles Book Prizes.
To see exclusive photos from the evening CLICK HERE
All photos copyright: SHOTS Ezine