An architect has carried off this year’s nationally-acclaimed Waverton Good Read Award for the best British debut novel.
Matthew Frank, author of ‘If I Should Die’, received the winner’s cheque for £1,000 and the Waverton Eddie trophy at a capacity dinner at Eaton Golf Club.
Pro vice chancellor and professor of history at Liverpool University Prof John Belchem presented the prize and expressed his admiration for Matthew’s ‘imaginative insights’ and his ability to switch from the language of the squaddie to the banter of the police squad with such ease.
In his acceptance speech Matthew explained the background to the story, which had begun life as a tale about a soldier and talked also of the challenge of balancing his day job as an architect with his writing and his three young sons.
As this was his first award, it was particularly important to him. “I can’t tell you how much receiving this award means to me,” he said.
He later blogged that 36 hours earlier he had been laid up in bed with tonsillitis and fever.
“The antibiotics were starting to work but I couldn’t drink for courage, I’d pushed my food around my plate for an hour and if the adrenaline didn't kick in soon I was about to topple off the acceptance speech cliff…”
He revealed that when Good Read co-founder Gwen Goodhew emailed to say he’d won, he ‘literally did a little dance around the room’.
Matthew added: “What makes this award even more special is to be judged not just against other crime novels but across genres.
“It was thrilling to discover its appeal to a broader readership.”
The Good Read say his book was chosen by nearly half of the 113 readers who took part in the vote in June. There were a total of 74 entries.
“By general consensus the outstanding feature of ‘If I Should Die’ was the superb characterisation, especially of the central figure, Joseph Stark,” according to Gwen.
Joseph returns from a stint with the TA in Afghanistan with a broken body, a plague of nightmares and an unbending determination to rebuild his life in the police force as a detective.
He becomes embroiled in a case involving a number of South London characters you would cross the road to avoid and it is the unexpected twist in Stark’s own story that lights up the later stages of the plot.
The next Joseph Stark novel is on its way and is said to be ‘eagerly anticipated by Matthew Frank’s fans in Waverton and beyond’.
The Good Read believes Matthew is destined to become a key figure in 21st century crime writing and says Waverton readers were delighted to be the first to fanfare this exciting new talent.
Matthew himself blogged: “Right now, I firmly believe I’ve been lucky enough to win literature’s finest award!”
The awards date back to 2004. Winners include ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’.