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There's daggers in men's smiles

You can always rely on the Bard to provide an appropriate quote for any situation. I don't know what the context of this quote was, but for me it reflects what I will see on Wednesday if Mark Wightman's Waking the Tiger wins the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. There will be daggers in the smiles of men - i.e. Adrian, Mark and Mark's agent, Euan.


Adrian and I are still in a state of disbelief that we have a book under our belts that has been longlisted and shortlisted for so many awards. Mark's Waking the Tiger was longlisted and shortlisted last year for the two Bloody Scotland prizes (the McIlvanney and the Crime Debut, respectively), longlisted for the 2022 Ngaio Marsh prize and longlisted and now shortlisted for the 2022 John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.


We saw the quality in this book when we read the submission. I distinctly recall the email from Mark arriving (it popped into the Hobeck inbox while we were driving to Clacton-on-Sea to visit another author). I remember turning to Adrian to say 'oh, we've had a submission', then opening the attachment straight away and without having much else to do on a three-hour drive, I started to read. Shortly after that I looked again towards Adrian to say, 'I like this one'. Ten minutes later my comment was, 'We have to have this one!' I replied to Mark straight away, before Adrian had a chance to read anything, to ask for the full manuscript. In those days, we had time to read submissions straight away. Once we have made a decision, we run with it.


What can I say about Waking the Tiger? If you haven't read it yet, why not? It is a stunning book that completely transports the reader to a time and place. It gives the reader the sights, the sounds and the smells of this time and place. The language is beautiful, without being complicated. The characters carefully and powerfully drawn. The story compelling. It paints as well as tells.


Mark is up against some very noble competitors. I have read a couple of them and I think it is going to be a very hard decision for the judges. I don't envy those in charge of making a decision. On the night of the announcement, I will be at home, sadly, as I have to take care of the little people. I might put on a posh frock and pretend I am there. Adrian will be there, sporting his special bow tie (I will say no more) and getting slowly sloshed on whisky, knowing him. I will have the champagne on ice at home, just in case. We could win. It could happen. If it happens, it will be a pivotal moment for all of us. Of course everyone on the short list deserves to win. But I hope Mark does!


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