Thursday, 09 February 2023

Walter Mosley 2023 CWA Diamond Dagger Recipient

Image courtesy of CWA

The Crime Writers' Association (CWA) has awarded American writer Walter Mosley a Diamond Dagger, considered the highest honor in crime writing in the United Kingdom. The Diamond Dagger recognizes authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

Since he first introduced readers to Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins in Devil in a Blue Dress over three decades ago, Mosley has gone on to pen more than 60 books spanning genres and styles across mystery, science fiction, memoir, graphic novels, short stories, young adult fiction, and more. In addition to Easy Rawlins, who was brought to life on the big screen in 1995 by Denzel Washington in a film adaptation of Devil, Mosley's canon includes Fearless Jones, Leonid McGill, and Socrates Fortlow, to name just a few of the beloved characters he's has brought to readers.

Mosley's Diamond Dagger follows on the heels of the recently announced 2023 Mystery Writers of America Raven Award, which was given to the Crime Writers of Color, an organization cofounded by authors Mosley, Kellye Garrett, and Gigi Pandian in 2018. It's just the latest recognition for Mosley in a long career of advocating for stories, characters, and creators of color in the genre. Mosley's other awards include an MWA Grand Master Award, a Grammy, and a PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others.

"At the beginning of my writing career I was fortunate enough to be awarded the CWA’s New Blood Dagger, otherwise called the John Creasey Award," said Mosley in a statement from CWA. "That was the highest point of my experience as a first book author. Since then, I have picked up other honors along the way but the only award that comes near the Diamond Dagger is the MWA’s Grand Master nod. These two together make the apex of a career that I never expected.”

Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the CWA, said, “I am truly delighted my friend Walter has been deemed worthy of the Diamond Dagger by my colleagues and members of the CWA. His voice has dominated the fiction scene for decades and I can think of no more deserving and ground-breaking an author to be given this ultimate accolade, for the so many things he has contributed to our genre but also to modern society.”

The Diamond Dagger will be awarded before the annual CWA Dagger Awards, dubbed the "Oscars of the crime genre," due to take place on July 6 at a glittering gala evening. Congratulations to a true master.

Walter Mosley Receives the 2023 Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger
Mystery Scene
Monday, 06 February 2023

For those looking for adventure, thrills, new worlds, and brave young heroes, Tyndale House has compiled five book recommendations for young adult readers (and those of us who are young at heart).

The Architect
(The Architect Series, Book 1)
by Jonathan Starrett

There’s a golden rule in Phantom City: “No one about when the Zeppelin is out.” Determined to find the truth in a city plagued with lies, Charlie Crane, along with a quirky band of unlikely heroes, works to free the people of Phantom City from the clutches of a shadowy villain. Helped by a mysterious Architect who only communicates over radio and telephone, Charlie wrestles with two big questions: Can she trust a guide she can’t see? And is the truth actually worth the trouble? Filled with sinister schemes, bumbling superheroes, unexpected friendships, and plenty of humor and plot twists, The Architect keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Readers will be fascinated by the unique world of Phantom City, with its steampunk and Gotham City–type elements, and will quickly find themselves cheering for our heroes in their fight against evil. Find your copy of Jonathan Starrett’s debut novel wherever books are sold.

The Crescent Stone
(The Sunlit Lands Series, Book 1)
by Matt Mikalatos

A girl with a deadly lung disease... A boy with a tragic past... A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in... Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give anything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt-stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price. When a mysterious stranger named Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach further than they could ever guess. Kirkus Reviews says, "For Narnia fans who enjoy heavy snark, this is a must-read.” Lorie Langdon, author of Olivia Twist and the Doon series says, “With the rich characterization of John Green and the magical escapism of Narnia, this book is a must read for all fantasy fans!” Be on the lookout this summer, also, for Matt Mikalatos' series bundle.

Raising Dragons
(Dragons in Our Midst Series, Book 1)
by Bryan Davis

Outcasts Billy (a boy with fiery breath) and Bonnie (a girl with dragon wings) must come together to preserve a secret legacy more than a millennium in the making. They find their lives turned upside down when they are thrust into a war against evil—a war they didn’t even know was being waged. Their newly formed friendship is tested and shaped as they are forced to fight a malevolent slayer who wields a powerful, medieval weapon and is intent on exterminating their dragon heritage forever. Raising Dragons is a hair-raising, modern-day Arthurian adventure and a glimpse into another world filled with knights, dragons, and fair maidens fighting to destroy evil. Reader Jeremiah F. says, “Bryan Davis writes with the scope of Tolkien, the focus of Lewis, the grandeur of Verne, and most of all, the heart of Christ.”

A Gentle Tyranny
(Nedé Rising Series, Book 1)
by Jess Corban

What if women unraveled the evils of patriarchy? With men safely “gentled” in a worldwide Liberation, the matriarchy of Nedé has risen from the ashes. Seventeen-year-old Reina Pierce has never given a thought to the Brutes of old. Itching to escape her mother’s finca and keeping her training for the Alexia and her forbidden friendship a secret, her greatest worry is which Destiny she’ll choose on her next birthday. But when she’s selected as a candidate for the Succession instead, competing to become Nedé’s ninth Matriarch, she discovers their Eden has come at a cost she’s not sure she’s willing to pay. Jess Corban’s first novel of the Nedé Rising duology presents a new twist to the dystopian genre, delivering heart-pounding action, thought-provoking revelations, and a setting as lush as the jungles of Central America.

Search for the Astral Dragon
(Astral Alliance Series, Book 1)
by Bryan Davis

This fast-paced YA space opera (reminiscent of Star Wars) from Bryan Davis follows a strong female protagonist, Megan, on an interplanetary search for her mother. On her journey, Megan witnesses the horrors of child trafficking and slavery and joins with a group of other teens to fight against corrupt systems and stand up for the vulnerable. Full of unusual characters and daring escapes, Search for the Astral Dragon draws readers into a world of snarky spaceship computer systems, a variety of different sentient species, spaceship tech, and magical elements. Megan is smart and quick-thinking, competent with spacecraft technology, and a person of strong character whose experiences give readers difficult questions to consider.

5 Fantastical Thrillers for YA Readers
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Monday, 06 February 2023

Deborah Crombie

Deborah Crombie’s 19th Gemma James & Duncan Comrie novel, A Killing of Innocents, finds Duncan catching a knife crime case and Gemma running a knife crimes unit in London. The series, rich in setting, character, and plot, continues to develop and the books are compelling, intelligent reads. I found this installment especially crisp, well written, and hard to put down.

Robin Agnew for Mystery Scene: I have so enjoyed the development of Gemma and Duncan’s characters and their relationship throughout the series. Can you talk about creating them and the arc you have in mind for each of them?

Deborah Crombie: I wish I could say I had a master plan, but then that would be a bit boring, wouldn’t it? I’m also a little reluctant to say that I started with Duncan, but that’s how it happened. I adored British police detective novels, and I was desperately homesick for the UK, having moved back to the United State after having lived in Edinburgh and in Chester. I’d had an idea for a novel set in a timeshare that I’d seen on a visit to Yorkshire, but I needed a detective, a Met officer senior enough to consult on cases outside of London.

So Duncan was born. He was divorced and hailed from a market town in Cheshire near where I’d lived, and where his parents own a bookshop. But he needed a partner. I wanted her to be a woman, but very different in both upbringing and personality. Enter Gemma, a single mother of a toddler, from a working-class area in north London, juggling a demanding job with her parenting responsibilities.

By the end of the second book there were hints that their relationship was going to be more than professional, but I certainly hadn’t planned it. This was complicated for so many reasons, and I was never sure from book to book how—or indeed if—they would work things out. Duncan’s son from his previous marriage, Kit, came into their lives, and then Charlotte, their little foster daughter.

A Killing of Innocents finds them living in Notting Hill, a blended family with three children. Oh, and two dogs and three cats! They seem to accumulate children and pets. I’m usually thinking a book or two ahead about the developments in their personal lives, but I don’t have any end goals in mind. It’s much more fun to see where life takes them.

A Killing of Innocents bt Deborah CrombieI enjoy just as much the work teams they’ve both assembled. Do you have some favorites out of this group, or characters you especially enjoy writing about?

When Gemma and Duncan became an official couple, they had to separate professionally and work with new partners. This brought Melody Talbot and Doug Cullen into the series, Melody as Gemma’s sergeant and Doug as Duncan’s. I love writing about these two and their sometimes difficult friendship. Another favorite is Rashid Kaleem, the very dishy Home Office pathologist who comes into the series in Necessary as Blood, and Detective Inspector Jasmine Sidana, Duncan’s second in command on his Holborn team. The cast of the series has grown like topsy and the most frustrating thing is not being able to work all the characters I like into every book.

When you start a new book, are there themes in mind that you want to tackle? Or is it always all about the story first and the themes comes from that? In this latest novel you definitely touch on revenge and reckoning.

I don’t usually start with a theme—I think theme should grow out of story. I do often start with topics or ideas I want to explore. I’m often writing about family and relationships and how characters navigate them. I might say that A Killing of Innocents is about the collateral damage caused by a certain type of damaged personality, but it’s about a lot of other things, too.

Can you talk about the knife crimes unit? I was fascinated to do a tiny bit of research and discover this is actually a problem in Britain. What kind of research did you do?

Knife crime is a huge problem in the UK, especially among young people. The Metropolitan Police reorganizes so often that it’s hard to keep up with the latest structures and terminology, but as of 2020 the Violence Suppression Unit included knife crime in its remit. Gemma and Melody are assigned to a data and intelligence gathering group.

As for research, I read regularly about policing in the UK and especially in London. It’s amazing what’s available on the internet these days. The Guardian newspaper is especially useful for deep level investigative reporting. It was the Guardian that uncovered the scandalous doings of some of the Met’s undercover officers and provided much useful background for earlier series novels To Dwell in Darkness and Garden of Lamentations.

And what about research in general? How do you take on a whole different culture and make it believable down to the slang the characters use?

I’ve lived in both England and Scotland and now spend as much time in London every year as I can manage. I read and listen to British books, watch British films and telly, read British newspapers. But, mostly, my brain just switches over into that voice when I’m writing. I love the details of ordinary daily life there.

Do you feel like you learn something with every book? And if so, what did you learn from this one? What lessons do you think you’ve brought with you from the first book in the series?

Writing this series has been like a continuing masterclass! I’ve learned so much about so many fascinating things and places. The history of the tea trade, London docklands, Cambridge poets, the Bloomsbury Group, London auction houses, racial tensions in Notting Hill from the '50s to the present, rowing, Scotch, British waterways and narrowboats, professional kitchens—that’s just picking a few favorites off the top of my head!

In A Killing of Innocents I wanted to explore London’s Bloomsbury and Soho, they are such fascinating and historical areas. I’m a really nerdy researcher and can never get in all the detail I’d like. Also, I had great fun learning about pottery for this book, and even trying my hand at it. Which wasn’t nearly as scaring as rowing!

I always knew I wanted to write a series, but I had no idea at the beginning what a delight it would be to watch the characters develop. I suppose I’ve learned that to some extent they do have a life of their own.

I read once that Picasso used to be allowed into the Louvre after hours and the artist that drove him crazy was Delacroix. He would put one of his own paintings next to one by Delacroix, and it fired him up. Who have your influences been, detective fiction wise? Are there any classics (if you are a re-reader) that you reread and think, Damn, I wish I could do that.

I loved P.D. James, but I don’t find myself inclined to reread the Dalgliesh books. I do reread Dorothy Sayers with such delight. Her language sparkles, her characters jump off the page—what a talent she was. Interestingly, the books I read and wish I’d written are not usually crime fiction. I love fantasy, historical fiction, and big sprawling novels. I’m a huge fan of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series—I’d love to have written something that imaginative.

What makes you happy when you sit down to write every day?

I love putting myself into the setting, and into my characters’ lives. It really is an amazing thing to have this alternate life going on in your head. I suppose it is the purest form of escapism.

What’s the hardest part about sitting down to write every day?

Actually sitting down and getting started! It’s so easy to be distracted by the world and all the things you feel you should do. But then once I really get into a scene and it’s flowing, I never want to quit. We have lots of late dinners around here…

Finally, please tell me there’s another Gemma & Duncan book on the way. What are you working on?

Yes, yes, absolutely! I’m working on Kincaid/James #20 (I don’t have a title yet) and I spent most of October in London. After a three year absence due to the pandemic, it was absolute bliss. There is never enough time to do all the research I want to do, but I made a good start.

Deborah Crombie's novels are published in North America, Japan, Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Romania, Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and numerous other countries. Although she travels to England several times a year, Crombie lives in McKinney, Texas, a historic town north of Dallas, sharing a circa 1905 Texas Craftsman bungalow with her husband, Rick Wilson, two German shepherds (Dax and Jasmine), and two cats.  She is an aficionado of tea and cocktails, enjoys cooking and admiring her garden, reading, bird-watching, and playing with her dogs.

Robin AgnewRobin Agnew is a longtime Mystery Scene contributor and was the owner of Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for 26 years. No longer a brick and mortar store, Aunt Agatha has an extensive used book collection is available at and the site is home to more of Robin's writing.



Gemma and Duncan Are Back in Deborah Crombie's "A Killing of Innocents"
Robin Agnew