Writing saved my life says crime novel of the year winner

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He has won the Theakston Old Peculier award 2021, supported by the Daily Express, for We Begin At The End. The award was presented at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. The sold-out event, which runs until Sunday in the North Yorkshire spa town, is the UK’s first live literary festival post-lockdown.

Chris, who was 19 when he was stabbed in London for his mobile phone, said: “I began writing this book as a form of therapy after being mugged. Without doubt this story saved my life, so to win this award feels like the most wonderful, dreamlike end to a journey that has been 20 years in the making.

“I have read the shortlisted books, so know with some certainty that I’m not a worthy winner, but I am a grateful one, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop smiling now.”

Now 39, he is a father of three and lives in Hertfordshire.

He clinched the title on his first nomination, receiving £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery. 

An unprecedented decision was taken to highly commend Northern Irish author Brian McGilloway for his exceptional political thriller, The Last Crossing.

Previous winners of the award, now in its 17th year, include Mark Billingham, Val McDermid and 2020’s Adrian McKinty for his smash-hit thriller The Chain.

Simon Theakston, executive director of T&R Theakston, said: “The contest for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award has been fiercely fought ‑ a reflection of the outstanding quality of all the longlisted and shortlisted crime fiction published within the last year. I offer Chris Whitaker my hearty congratulations.”

Gary Jones, Express Editor-in-Chief, said: “It’s a great pleasure to be associated with the world’s most famous celebration of crime writing and we’re thrilled the Theakston Old Peculier Festival is back this year in the flesh and better than ever.

“Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and especially winner Chris Whitaker.”

Special presentations were made to Ian Rankin OBE and Mark Billingham, winners of the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award for 2021 and 2020, respectively.

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