The Crime Writers’ Association has five Library Champions covering the UK and Ireland: John Dean in Scotland, Sharon Dempsey in Northern Ireland, Catherine Kirwan in Republic of Ireland, Priscilla Masters based in England, and GB Williams in Wales.
Key elements of the Library Champion role include linking libraries who want crime writers as speakers, whether this is during National Crime Reading Month in June or during the rest of the year, sometimes in liaison with the CWA’s regional chapter convenors; encouraging libraries to spread the word about NCRM and the Crime Readers’ Association; supporting libraries under threat where appropriate, while remaining apolitical; seeking further ways to build closer links for the good of libraries and CWA members and including independent libraries in the efforts wherever appropriate.
Other responsibilities include promoting CWA initiatives such as the Dagger in the Library award and the two writing competitions; the Debut Dagger and the Margery Allingham Short Mystery Prize.
John Dean (Scotland)
John Dean lives in Dumfries and Galloway and is the creator of the DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris series of crime novels published by The Book Folks. He moved from the North East of England at the end of 2017, where he had been part of a successful campaign to save a couple of libraries threatened by council cutbacks.
Among his work as a Libraries Champion, he represents the Crime Writers’ Association on an initiative to help support the library service in Scotland:
The Public Library Advocacy Network for Scotland (PLANS) brings together organisations and individuals across the nation who care about its libraries. PLANS aims to build on the recent ‘Libraries Are Essential’ campaign run by CILIPS, the UK library and information association, and is being co-ordinated by CILIPS in Scotland. Its primary aim is to share ideas on how best to champion the role that public libraries and library workers play and ensure that its voice is heard by the public and decision makers.
The work includes sharing information and resources to promote libraries and their staff, collecting evidence to support the case for public libraries and generating ideas for events in which libraries feature.
Sharon Dempsey (Northern Ireland)
Sharon Dempsey’s new novel The Midnight Killing (part of the Rose and Danny mystery series published by Avon Harper Collins) is out now in Ireland and will be published in the UK in August 2022. The first in the series, Who took Eden Mulligan? came out in 2021.
She is undertaking a creative-critical PhD at Queen’s University, exploring the body as crime scene with reference to class and gender in crime fiction. She has published five novels and three non-fiction books.
Catherine Kirwan (Republic of Ireland)
Catherine Kirwan grew up on a farm in the parish of Fews, County Waterford. She studied law at UCC and lives in Cork where she works as a solicitor. Her first novel, Darkest Truth, was chosen as Cork’s One City One Book by Cork City Libraries in 2019. Her current book, Cruel Deeds, is out now from Hachette Ireland.
Priscilla Masters (England)
A lifelong fan of crime novels, Priscilla Masters began writing in the mid 1980s in response to a challenge made by an aunt asking her what she intended doing with the rest of her life. She borrowed a typewriter the next day. In 1994 the first of her DI Joanna Piercy novels, Winding up the Serpent, was published by Pan Macmillan. Since then she has had 14 Joanna Piercy novels published and is currently working on her fifteenth. She has also written 7 novels set in Shropshire featuring Shrewsbury Coroner Martha Gunn, a series featuring a forensic psychiatrist Dr Claire Roget set in Stoke on Trent, and a number of medical standalones.
‘Like many other CWA members, my relationship with libraries goes back a long way. Right back to when I was a seven-year-old and issued with a red card for fiction and a blue card for non-fiction. By eleven I was busy complaining to my mother that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had short-changed me as he hadn’t written enough Sherlock Holmes stories. Via Cat Among the Pigeons my mother introduced me to Agatha Christie. The rest, as they say…’
G B Williams (Wales)
Author of the Locked series and various standalone novels, including Welsh-set The Chair, GB Williams is originally from Kent, but now lives in South Wales with her husband and their demanding moggy. In 2014 GB was longlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Short Mystery Prize.
‘I was always a big reader, and libraries were a fantasy hangout when I was younger. I loved the fact that I could try so many new authors, and genres, I wouldn’t have found in bookshops or the school library. As a writer I’m already aware of what a great bonus librarians are as source of research support and suggestions, and I would hate to see libraries disappear. It’s been wonderful to see the evolution of libraries, now lending e-books and audio books, that was a real bonus through lockdown. I wish more people realised this facility exists and used it.
‘Last year I was surprised by my first ever PLR income, and while not a huge amount, it was important to me and I’m hugely grateful to all library readers who picked up my book and gave my work a try.
As an active member of the writing community, I am currently involved in organising Wales’s only crime-focused literary festival, Gwyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, which will be online from April 27 to May 3, 2022. This will showcase Welsh authors as well as big national and international crime writers.’