Top Ranking at The Savoy © 2005 Ali Karim

Ali Karim and Ian Rankin.jpg
Ali Karim and Ian Rankin

The Crime Writers Association of Great Britain announced that this year, they were going to award the Cartier CWA Diamond Dagger to Ian Rankin OBE. This honour is awarded annually, to mark a lifetime’s achievement in crime writing.

The Award was set up in 1986 when the first winner was Eric Ambler. Subsequent recipients have been P.D. James, John le Carré, Dick Francis, Julian Symons, Ruth Rendell, Leslie Charteris, Ellis Peters, Michael Gilbert, Reginald Hill, H.R.F. Keating, Colin Dexter, Ed McBain, Margaret Yorke, Peter Lovesey, Lionel Davidson, Sara Paretsky and Robert Barnard. The CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for 2004 went to Lawrence Block.

This years award is additionally special as it is the twentieth anniversary of the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, and also marks Ian Rankin’s twentieth year as a crime writer as his debut was ‘The Flood’ published in 1986. Ian Rankin was also incidentally Chair of the CWA during 1999-2000.

Shame on you if you’ve not experienced the world of Rebus and the writing of Ian Rankin; because he is without doubt one of the main pillars in the crime fiction genre internationally. In fact he is Top Ranking as the London Underworld would say. In the UK alone he is the number one best-selling crime writer, and is perhaps best known for his Inspector John Rebus novels, which have been translated into 22 languages and dramatised for TV. He won the CWA Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction in 1997 for ‘Black & Blue’ (Orion), which was also shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America ‘Edgar’ award. He is twice winner for the CWA Short Story Dagger. ‘Dead Souls’ (Orion), the tenth novel in the Rebus series, was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger in 1999 and in 2004 he won the MWA Edgar for ‘Resurrection Men’ (Orion).

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow and is a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Abertay Dundee, and was elected Alumnus of the Year of Edinburgh University. He was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Birthday Honours List in June 2003. He is married with two sons.

When told about the award of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger, Ian Rankin said: “I'm overwhelmed, but really feel this lifetime achievement award should go to Inspector Rebus rather than his creator. After all, Rebus is in his late-50s, rapidly approaching retirement, with deteriorating health and a fixation on cigarettes, alcohol and 60s rock. Through the course of his life, he has been knocked about, shot, pushed out of helicopters, tortured, walked out on by a host of girlfriends, fallen out with his family, seen friends and colleagues murdered in cold blood, and been haunted by ghosts. He's tackled terrorists and serial killers, racists and bigots, pimps and dealers and gangsters. On the other hand, all I've done is sit at a desk in a well-heated room, drinking coffee and eating chocolate, while I put Rebus through the mill for the umpteenth time. I'm still in my forties, enjoy general good health, and feel my best books may still be ahead of me. Put simply, he deserves this award more than I do… but I'm more than happy to accept it on his behalf.”

So the assembled members of the CWA arrived in The Strand to toast the success of Ian Rankin at London’s Savoy Hotel on a blistering summers evening. I came with my camera and a thirst for Champagne. I met up with my colleague and friend Mike Stotter [editor of] at a pub called ‘The Coal Hole’ in The Strand. Mike and I had a swift beer with Myles and Liz discussing the upcoming Left Coast Crime Event [Bristol 2006] that Adrian Muller and Myles were organizing. Then we wandered into The Savoy.

The CWA suite was brimming with writers and industry professionals. I chatted to many of the assembled including Zöe Sharp, Lesley Horton, Simon Brett, Peter Robinson, Iain McDowall, Meg Gardiner, Caroline Carver, Robert Barnard, Deryn Lake, John Harvey, Peter Lovesey, as well as previous CWA Chair’s Daphne Wright [aka Natasha Cooper], Russell James, Mike Jecks and the new Chair of the CWA Danuta Reah. I have been knocked out by the brilliant debut of a writer called Carla Banks ‘Forest of Souls’ - who I had later discovered was actually Danuta Reah - and we had a great laugh about that.

I mingled and chatted to the various guests. I congratulated Zöe Sharp for getting her latest novel ‘First Drop’ nominated for this years Barry Award for best British Novel [The Barry Award is sponsored by George Easter’s excellent Deadly Pleasures Magazine]. Iain McDowall was in town and was preparing the launch of his latest thriller ‘Killing for England’. I chatted to Peter Robinson who explained that he had been spending the last six weeks in Yorkshire researching his latest Inspector Alan Banks novel, and was due to fly back to Canada the following day. He was pleased to be able see Ian Rankin receive the Dagger Award. I congratulated Peter vis-à-vis his last Banks novel ‘Strange Affair’ as well as his recent short story collection ‘Not Safe After Dark’. Peter Lovesey had just returned from America and he chatted about his work, and I smiled recalling when he appeared [in disguise] as the Ghost of John Creasey at The Daggers a couple of years ago!

I then had a drink with the prolific John Harvey and we chatted about his last two excellent thrillers, ‘Ash and Bone’ as well as the Dagger winner ‘Flesh and Blood’. I congratulated John on his excellent BBC Radio adaptation of Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet - which my father was currently enjoying on Radio 4.

I also chatted to many of the folk at Orion, Ian’s Publishers who were out in force supporting one of their top crime writers. It should be noted that Orion have one of the UK’s biggest crime fiction lists. I have been very impressed by some recent Orion releases - George Pelecanos’ latest novel ‘Drama City’, Mike Connelly’s ‘The Closers’, Harlan Coben’s ‘The Innocent’, Joe Finder’s ‘Company Man’, Walter Mosely’s ‘Little Scarlet’ as well as Roger Jon Ellory’s ‘A Quiet Vendetta’ and Chris Simms’ ‘Killing the Beasts’.

We were then told to hush, as Mike Jecks the exiting CWA Chair introduced Monsieur Arnaud Bamberger of Cartier, who gave a witty and extremely long speech which had everyone rolling with laughter. Ian Rankin was then summoned to receive the award, which he accepted modestly with his usual self-depreciating manner. Ian showed off his Cartier watch [which he’d loaned from a friend] which he brought to impress Monsieur Bamberger. He then explained that the award was really for John Rebus, as he’d given him a real hard time in his life. We all toasted his success, as well as John Rebus with more champagne and then the photographers appeared.

After the award ceremony, Ian mingled with the guests and chatted with everyone. I got a chance to talk to Ian about Hawkwind - a rock band that we both share a passion for [as does Rebus]. He was amused when I told him that I have converted George Pelecanos to Hawkwind, explaining that he hadn’t lived if he hadn’t listened to Hawkwind’s classic 1970’s album - ‘Space Ritual’ at least once. Ian incidentally has a Radio series on Radio four shortly, about the influence of music in crime fiction novels, with interviews with John Harvey and Mike Connelly [Jazz], George Pelecanos [Soul], Mark Billingham [Country] and many others. Sounds good to me.

Then the Orion team appeared and whisked Ian off for dinner.

It was a great evening, and it was good seeing Ian awarded by his peers for his efforts in his writing career - Top Ranking as they say! And if you’ve never read Rebus, it’s time to catch-up [start at]

Ali S Karim is an industrial chemist, freelance journalist and book reviewer living in England. He is Assistant Editor at Shots Ezine and also contributes to Crimespree Magazine, Deadly Pleasures Magazine and January Magazine. Ali is also an associate member of The Crime Writers Association (CWA) of Great Britain as well as The International Thriller Writers Association. He is currently working on a violent techno-thriller.

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