Lynda La Plante wins crime writing award for career ‘redefining women’

Lynda La Plante has been honoured for her outstanding contribution to crime writing.

The 80-year-old British author, actress and screenwriter was awarded the prize after she “redefined the role of women in police procedurals and made a star” of Dame Helen Mirren through her work on Prime Suspect.

The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announced the winners of the Diamond Dagger, its highest accolade, to both La Plante and American author James Lee Burke on Tuesday.

Previous winners include Ruth Rendell, Baroness Phyllis Dorothy “PD” James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill and John Le Carre.

This is the first time in the award’s 70-year history it has gone to two winners, the CWA said.

76th Cannes Film Festival
Dame Helen Mirren played Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison in Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect (Doug Peters/PA)

Vaseem Khan, a Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series author and chairman of the CWA, said: “Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect redefined the role of women in police procedurals and made a star of Helen Mirren, while Widows remains a talismanic – and wickedly entertaining – female-led heist caper.”

In 1991, the cop drama made its debut with Dame Helen as hard-edged Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison.

Prime Suspect was a sensation for ITV, catapulting Dame Helen to international fame before she was nominated for her first Oscar in 1994 for playing Queen Charlotte in The Madness Of King George and winning an Academy Award for The Queen in 2006.

Across its seven series, the show won six Baftas, the Edgar Allan Poe Writers’ Award and an Emmy for best mini series.

La Plante said: “In 2024 I will publish both the final book in the young Tennison series, and a memoir detailing my long career as an actress, television producer and crime writer.

“To also be awarded the Diamond Dagger from the CWA makes 2024 even more special, and I look forward to thanking all those involved in person at the awards ceremony on July 4.”

La Plante released her latest Tennison novel, A Taste Of Blood, last year. She has released other book series Anna Travis Mysteries, Trial & Retribution and Widows which also were TV shows.

Starting as a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), the author was also an actress who appeared in a number of classic TV series including the Professionals, The Sweeney and Minder.

Her debut novel The Legacy was published in 1987 following her writing the 1980s crime series Widows about armed robbers’ wives.

The winner of the Diamond Dagger is chosen after a panel vote by previous winners including Lee Child, Lawrence Block, Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly.

Lee Burke created New Orleans Police Department officer Dave Robicheaux who features across his series, beginning in 1987’s The Neon Rain.

Mr Khan said his “lyrical depiction of the American South transcends crime fiction – his prose is often considered among the best to have graced the genre”.

Lee Burke has previously been a university teacher, case worker with ex-criminals, a pipeliner for an oil company, a long-distance truck driver and a newspaper reporter.

The author, who has won two Edgar Allan Poe Awards and is a Guggenheim Fellow, has also written the Holland novels, starting with Lay Down My Sword And Shield in 1971.

Lee Burke said he was “honoured and humbled to receive” the Diamond Dagger.

He added: “It is also an honour to have my name among the best mystery and crime writers in the world. I cannot thank you enough.”

His and La Plante’s awards will be presented at the CWA Dagger Awards on July 4.

The CWA was founded in 1953 by John Creasey and the awards began in 1955.