With the winners of the three 2018 HWA Crown awards announced on Wednesday, 7 November, this is a good time to say thank you to our judges, who’ve spent many weeks reading the longlists and choosing the shortlists and will have to make the hard choice of one winner in their Crown award category.
The HWA Sharpe Books Gold Crown award judges:
Elizabeth Fremantle (Chair)
Her most recent book, The Poison Bed, sees her “turn to the dark side” with a Jacobean thriller set in the scandalous and paranoid court of King James VI and I. She is a member of the HWA.
Imogen has written five novels set in the 1780s featuring the independently minded widow, Harriet Westerman, and her friend the anatomist Gabriel Crowther. The first, Instruments of Darkness, was published in 2009.
Her standalone novel, The Paris Winter, is set in 1909-1910.
Imogen is Chair of the Historical Writers’ Association.
He is a member of the HWA and has also written three more historical military novels in the Centurion series.
She is a member of the HWA.
Rukhsana has written and adapted several works for the stage and radio.
Her adaptations include some historical novels: MM Kaye’s The Far Pavilions, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
Richard is the founder of Sharpe Books, sponsors of the 2018 Historical Writers’ Association Gold Crown award, and is a best-selling historical novelist. He has also been a consultant and publicist to numerous authors. Read more about Richard Foreman.
Robin started reviewing and collecting books over 20 years ago. His reviews are highly regarded by writers, publishers and readers. He is the founder of Parmenion Books.
The HWA Non-fiction Crown award judges:
Miranda (MJ) Carter is the author two books of non-fiction, Anthony Blunt: His Lives, which won the Orwell Prize and was chosen by the New York Times as one of the best books of 2002. The Three Emperors, about the cousins George V, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas II, was a runner-up for the Hessell Tiltman history prize and the LA Times Biography prize.
Jason Goodwin is a historian and novelist whose Yashim detective series is set in 19th century Istanbul. The Janissary Tree won the Edgar Award for Best Novel and the series has been translated into over 40 languages.
His award-winning nonfiction includes a cookbook, Yashim Cooks Istanbul, and he is the author of Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.
Saul David is a historian and has written several critically-acclaimed works of fiction and non-fiction.
His history books include The Indian Mutiny (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature), Zulu (a Waterstone’s Military History Book of the Year), and Operation Thunderbolt (an Amazon History Book of the Year).
Lucy is an expert in the history of 20th century leisure, health, and beauty with a particular interest in the cultural history of radioactivity.
She has appeared as an occasional contributor on TV and radio, and her historical research has been featured in a range of publications. Lucy is a member of The Society of Authors and is currently the HWA’s administrator.
The HWA Debut Crown award judges:
Ben Fergusson (Chair)
Ben Fergusson is an award-winning novelist. A member of the HWA, he currently teaches at the University of Potsdam.
His debut novel, The Spring of Kasper Meier, was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2015. It won the 2015 Betty Trask Prize for an outstanding debut novel by a writer under 35 and the HWA Debut Crown 2015 for the best historical fiction debut of the year. His second novel, The Other Hoffmann Sister, was published by Little, Brown in 2017.
Ayo Onatade is a commentator on crime fiction. She writes articles and gives papers on all aspects of the crime and mystery genre. Ayo blogs at Shotsmag Confidential and writes articles for Shotsmag and Crimespree Magazine.
She is chair of the CWA Short Story Dagger and a judge of New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh award. She is co-editor of the anthology Bodies in the Bookshop and is a visiting lecturer at Kingston University on their MA in Publishing course.
Susan Heads is the creator of the Booktrail, a literary travel agency which matches novels with holiday destinations.
Each book they provide comes with a travel guide and interactive map to allow you to see where characters live and where mysteries unravel.
You might think that reading many of the best history books published during the past year is nothing but pleasure, but, as HWA chair Imogen Robertson says, it involves difficult decisions:
“I’m amazed at the range and quality of historical writing available today. Submissions for the Sharpe Gold Crown included thrillers and mysteries, perfectly-pitched studies of places and personalities, epic adventure and romance. One day I was reading a subtle study of character caught by and encapsulating the moral complexity of their time, and on another day racing through the pages following a fast-paced adventure. With some of the best books I read, I was doing both at once. All applause to the writers, publishers and booksellers who create, curate and celebrate this thriving sector of the industry.
“But judging is tough. I’ve often heard people describe historical fiction, rather dismissively, as escapist, and there’s no doubt a skilled writer can transport their reader across space and time, which is indeed some sort of escape, but then that writer, by playing through the contrasts, inevitably also enhances our understanding and appreciation of now. That’s to be celebrated. I resist any idea that a book is inherently better because it’s ‘serious’ as opposed to ‘escapist’.
“For guidance when I’m comparing novels with wildly different intentions and styles, though, I always come back to the quote from Sir Joshua Reynolds above the entrance to the V&A: ‘The excellence of every art must consist in the complete accomplishment of its purpose.’
“That’s what works for me. Does this book succeed in what it’s trying to do, whether that’s to speed up my heart rate, make me think, shed new light on a subject or dazzle and seduce me with a remarkable individual voice? The long and short lists of all the Crown Awards are packed with these successes and their range, ambition and accomplishment took my breath away.”