When we launched The Big Issue crime writing competition in search of Britain’s next Agatha Christie or Ian Rankin back in March, little did we expect the overwhelming response you gave us. Hundreds of manuscripts were submitted, and the quality was outstanding.
Entries were read blind, with the judges not even knowing the author’s name. But now, after months of marvelling at endless skill and ingenuity, we are delighted to reveal the winner of a two-book deal with Avon, which is part of the prestigious HarperCollins publishing house.
Louise Sharland came out on top with her debut novel, currently titled Vigil, a psychological mystery about loss and revenge in which a grieving mother becomes convinced the death of her teenage son was not an accident.
To say I am thrilled would be a ridiculous understatement
Sharland, who completed an MA in Crime Writing at the University of East Anglia, says: “To say I am thrilled to be receiving this prize would be a ridiculous understatement. I’m delighted not just because of all the hard work and commitment I’ve put into to my writing, but also because of my deep connection to the work of The Big Issue. From 2015 to 2018 I was employed as a work and learning coach for Crisis UK, based at a homeless charity in Plymouth. I worked with a wide range of vulnerable adults with multiple/complex needs centred around homelessness, addiction, criminality and mental health issues.”
Jane Graham, books editor of The Big Issue, says narrowing down the entries to a shortlist and eventual winner was a tough case to crack.
“The panel have been so impressed with the calibre of entries, and the diversity in approaches to crime fiction,” she says. “Shortlisting was a difficult task but I’m so pleased that we’ve uncovered this wealth of new talent in the UK. And it was great to be introduced to lots of intriguing new characters, from no-nonsense nosey spinsters to memory-haunted old cops.
“I’m excited to see what Louise goes on to do next, but also to follow the progress of the other shortlisted entrants – there is so much promise in this set of new writers.”
The judging panel included Graham, Julia Silk, agent at Kingsford Campbell, Sunday Times best-selling author Katerina Diamond and editor and author MJ Ford.
Paul McNamee, editor of The Big Issue, commented: “What an opportunity this presents. Everybody is said to have a book in them but people frequently don’t know
how to get their great ideas to the right people and into print. So here we are.
Working with such a legendary publishing house is a way to make somebody’s dream become reality – and we are delighted to announce Louise is the person to realise this unique opportunity.”
Entrants spanned a broad spectrum of experience, from complete newcomers to prize-winning short-story writers. Here are some of the shortlisted authors who are worth looking out for in the future:
Neil McIntosh – Damascus
Neil McIntosh, who lives in Brighton with his wife and cat, says: “I spent 10 years working in the Home Office and the Department of Health, developing and strengthening access to mental health support across the justice system for suspects, victims and offenders. Listening to the stories and experiences of people within criminal justice and mental health services provided me the first inspiration for Damascus, the opening novel in a series featuring forensic psychotherapist Joe Keegan.”
Belinda Saddington – Lessons On Dying
Belinda Saddington grew up in southern Africa, where she trained as a journalist, later retraining to become a lawyer. She has had articles published in several legal journals but Lessons in Dying is her debut novel. It is the first in a new series of stories featuring London-based detective Jack Barnard, who grew up in Zimbabwe, and his Nigerian-born sergeant Gabriel Adebayo. Saddington now lives in Wales with her husband and their three children.
Andrew French – The Hashtag Killer
Born amid industrial grime but now living within reach of the sea and the glorious north-east countryside, Andrew French is currently working on numerous manuscripts and short stories. He made the shortlist for Strands Publishers Water Anthology and was shortlisted for the seventh Eyelands International Short Story Contest. French has been a winner twice and a runner-up twice in Writing Magazine competitions. When not writing or reading he’s riding a bike, running around the UK attending gigs or tweeting.
Gerry Duffy – Forgetting Charlie
“I was born in Leicester to Irish parents and lived the first half of my life on council estates in Leicester and the East End of London,” says Gerry Duffy. “Then I accidentally became an accountant, an error I’ve been trying to rectify ever since. These days I write short stories and thrillers, mostly about the alienated and the dispossessed. I wrote my first novel while completing an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa. My second, Forgetting Charlie, is now finished, and I’m looking for an agent. I’m currently working on a third novel.”
Callum McSorley – Green Ink
Callum McSorley is a writer based in Aberdeenshire, where he lives with his wife, son and dog. Originally from Glasgow – the setting for his Victorian crime novel Green Ink – he graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a degree in English, Journalism and Creative Writing in 2013 and in 2014 was selected for the Hermann Kesten writing scholarship in Nuremberg. Since then, his short stories have appeared in Gutter magazine, the Glasgow Review of Books and the BFS award-wining sci-fi magazine Shoreline of Infinity among others.