Lee Child has tonight won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, one of the most prestigious prizes in crime fiction, for his Jack Reacher thriller 61 Hours.
The Coventry-born, Birmingham-raised Child - real name Jim Grant - is one of the UK's bestselling authors. He has sold over 50 million books worldwide, and been translated into 40 languages. Despite a Reacher novel being sold somewhere in the world every few seconds, this is Child's first win.
Child beat off stiff competition from Mark Billingham hoping to make this year his hat-trick win, as well as last year's Festival Chair, Stuart MacBride. It wasn't to be Irish debut novelist William Ryan's year either, and despite critical acclaim for The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor and Blood Harvest by SJ Bolton, Child emerged as a clear favourite.
Now in its seventh year, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, in partnership with Asda, and this year in association with the Daily Mirror, was created to celebrate the very best in crime writing and is open to British and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback between 1st January 2010 and 31st May 2011.
Child was presented the £3000 prize by radio broadcaster and festival regular Mark Lawson on the opening night of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate (Thursday 21st July). He also collected a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.
A special presentation was also made to PD James, the winner of the second Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. At 91, she was delighted to collect the award: "It is always a satisfaction and an encouragement for a writer to win a prize, but I am particularly proud to be honoured by the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award because it comes from Harrogate, a town which it is always a delight to visit and which is the home of one of the most distinguished and pleasurable English literary festivals."
Born in Oxford in 1920, Baroness James of Holland Park began writing in the 1950s. Her debut novel, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962 featuring her now famous investigator, Adam Dalgliesh. Many of her books have been adapted for film and television, including her 1992 novel Children of Men, which in 2006 was adapted for Hollywood, starring Clive Owen and directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston, and one of five judges on this year's panel, said: "All the novels on this year's shortlist were of an exceptionally high standard but 61 Hours was a clear winner. The appeal of the eternal wanderer Jack Reacher is hard to resist as he travels the frozen landscape of South Dakota, fighting the good fight. 61 Hours is a great example of Lee Child's immense talent, and we're thrilled to present him with this much deserved award for the first time."
"We are also hugely honoured and excited to welcome the crime fiction grandmaster P.D. James to Harrogate this year, to collect her Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. Few are as prolific as she, dominating the genre for over 50 years. This award acknowledges that immense achievement."