Students Staff

04 August 2016

Writing with a dark twist wins Essex Book Festival’s Crime Writing Short Story Competition

judging panel

The judging panel

Writers from around the world entered Essex Book Festival’s first Crime Writing Short Story Competition with three writers from the East of England winning the top awards.

Murder, mystery and grand larceny featured in the many entries received with the winners announced at a special awards event at The Hexagon at the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus.

The evening included a discussion between BBC Essex presenter Dave Monk – one of the judges - and award-winning crime writer Jim Kelly, who has worked as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Essex for the past four years.

Dave Monk and Jim Kelly

Dave Monk and Jim Kelly

The overall winner was Bella D'Arcy Reed, a writer and consultant from Little Totham, for her story Rogue. Mr Kelly praised her work for “brilliantly” fooling the reader at the beginning to allow a stunning twist right at the end. He said: “I really didn’t see it coming! You think you know what is going to happen, but that allows her to subvert the genre.”

Second-placed was Cheryl Greyson, a marketing expert from Ramsey in Cambridgeshire who works at Anglia Ruskin University. Mr Kelly said the writing The Lessons of Jack Raymond was “very confident” – particularly as the murderer is revealed early on. He said: “Rather than taking the tension out of the story it increases it as you are left wondering what the twist will be.”

Third-placed was Mark Bibby Jackson, a publisher based in Great Dunmow, who Mr Kelly praised for his “very clever approach” to describing the mind of a murderer in A Slow Death.

The first-placed writer received £250, second £100 and third £50. The winning story will soon be published on the Essex Book Festival website.

Mark Bibby Jackson with Dave Monk and Jim Kelly

Mark Bibby Jackson with Dave Monk and Jim Kelly

The Crime Writing Short Story Competition award was established by Essex Book Festival to celebrate the life and work of Essex literary legend, crime writer Margery Allingham who lived in Tolleshunt D’Arcy.

The judging panel also included Chair of the Dorothy L Sayers Society and Essex Book Festival Seona Ford, Trustee of Essex Book Festival and Agent for Estates and Backlist at Peters, Fraser & Dunlop Camilla Shestopal.

Ms Ford thanked Arts Council England for its support of Essex Book Festival and the competition. She said: “We are keen to champion new work, create opportunities for new writers and find innovative ways to ignite a passion for writing in all its forms.

“We had an overwhelming response not only from within Essex, but across the country and internationally with entries coming in from India and Japan. The standard of writing was outstanding.”

Mr Monk added: “It was incredibly competitive and incredibly hard to judge. The quality was superb.”

Essex has a long tradition of nurturing some of the UK’s best-loved crime writers, including renowned Witham-resident Dorothy L Sayers, and more recently, number one bestselling author Martina Cole, born in Aveley, Essex.

The competition was unveiled by Dave Monk during a special BBC Essex programme broadcast from the heart of the University of Essex to launch Essex Book Festival. 

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