Crime: First Chapters Winners

Crime: First Chapters Winners

Top 4 Crime: First Chapter Entries

Our judge, David Mark, is a master of the Crime genre. He has written eight novels in the McAvoy series: Dark Winter, Original Skin, Sorrow Bound, Taking Pity, Dead Pretty, Cruel Mercy, Scorched Earth and Cold Bones as well as two McAvoy novellas, A Bad Death and Fire of Lies, which are available as ebooks. His first historical thriller, The Zealot’s Bones, is out now. Praise for his novels:-

“Effortlessly blends the brutal and the tender, the dark and the light. Aector McAvoy is a true original. So is David Mark.”
Mick Herron, author of Dead Lions

“More twists and turns than a corkscrew through the eyeball.”
Val McDermid

“There is a good array of villains, and Mark is impressive in his sensitive portrayals of the relationships between the principal characters at work and home.”
The Times

David had this to say about the standard of entries:

‘Well, I have mixed feelings. On the plus side, there are lots of wonderful writers coming through. On the flip side, there’s only so much shelf space. There’s nothing a mid-list writer likes more than being given a glimpse at the people who are going to replace them! So, thanks for that. But in all seriousness, it’s been an honour to peer into some fantastically warped imaginations and to see that the art of good story-telling will be okay in the event of my untimely demise. Thanks to your entries I’ve delved into worlds of darkness, radiance, hope, redemption and taken a veritable trans-global journey into some exquisitely realised locations.’

What follows are David’s comments on the winners:-

1st place: Dead in the Water by Jude Simms

‘I adored this submission, bringing together the Holy Trinity of Plot, Place and Character in a way that should have agents salivating. It’s a remarkable self-assured piece of writing for a debut novelist and does a wonderful job of creating a richly textured landscape, using a gorgeously lyrical prise style to build a world which drew me in and held me prisoner. Historical crime fiction is such a difficult thing to get right, with the temptation to show off one’s impeccable research often getting in the way of character development and plot momentum. This sample found the perfect balance, as it did with its depictions of both the darkness and the light. A brilliant read.’

2nd place: Dutch Courage by Camilla McPherson

‘An exquisite piece of writing. The setting of the English bookshop was an inspired place to start and the way the writer brought the scene to life, lingering on those little details and elegances … it felt like a book by a writer who has been selling books in great numbers for a long time. There were echoes of such great literary talents as Helen Dunmore and Pat barker in the prose style, yet the narrative voice felt fresh and unique. I reached the end of the submission with an audible grunt of annoyance as I was already emotionally connected to the story and quite happy to forego the rest of my day in favour of reading the rest of it.’

3rd place: Neon Ghosts by K R Goto

‘Publishers don’t always know what they want, but they do seem to know what they’re afraid of. That being the case, it takes a brave author to embark upon a novel that is so gleefully far from the mainstream. It felt like nothing I had read before, which is something I so rarely get the chance to feel. A queer, feminist psychological drama set in Tokyo, and featuring a high-achieving special forces agent turned high-functioning addict with PTSD? It’s high-concept from the opening scene, but it feels fresh, real and thoroughly authentic. Moreover, it felt like a potential BookTok mega-hit, which is a phrase that should get even the most fearful commissioning editor picking up the phone. I enjoyed every word.’

Highly Commended (4th): Death Assured by Keith Porter

‘A tough, uncompromising and thoroughly compelling journey into an ugly, brutal world. I loved it! There’s a cleverness to the structure and a sense that the writer is thoroughly enjoying themselves, unspooling the story with a deft touch. Depicting serial killers and gangsters so often descends into caricature and pastiche but the characters here all felt fully realised and three-dimensional: deeply flawed, but human. The synopsis suggests that this is going to be an ambitious undertaking but the writer seems thoroughly equal to the task. British gangster noir has been under-represented in recent years. That may be about to change.’

Congrats to our winners! We hope you’ll agree – that’s some high praise from a judge.

ENTER the NEW 2024 Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize (5000 words max). OPEN NOW. UNBEATABLE, WORLD CLASS OPPORTUNITY TO SHINE! Judged by US National Book Award Winner, Jason Mott. 1st prize: £1,500. Deadline: 31st July 2024.