Right of Reply

The former head of the Crime Writers' Association replies to a recent article on members' in-fighting

TO CORRECT just a few of Jane Jakeman's wilder inaccuracies ("Daggers drawn as black leather jackets take on the blue rinses", 8 April): Ian Rankin and I have not been in contention for the chairmanship of the Crime Writers' Association.

The chairman serves for only a year and stands down at the next AGM. Ian Rankin, my supportive vice-chairman for the past 12 months, was formally elected CWA chairman to universal acclaim last Thursday. And the CWA does not contain "two uneasily co-existing parties... who indulge in sporadic warfare".

Our writing membership of about 400 (the association also encompasses publishers, booksellers, reviewers and agents) reflects every aspect of crime-writing.

Much of today's most interesting new fiction is classified crime, but individual authors can't be pigeon-holed; the stereotypical crime novel no longer exists and battle lines cannot be drawn.

The infighting that characterises many other societies is absent from the CWA. Do we release aggressive tendencies into our writing? Whatever the reason, our meetings are enjoyable social events.

The unfortunate episode involving PD James arose out of an interesting discussion on moral issues conducted in our confidential in-house magazine Red Herrings. It was distorted by the media and fanned by a few ambitious writers who recognised a useful publicity bandwagon.

The CWA welcomes all shades of crime-writing. Ian Rankin won the prestigious CWA Macallan Gold Dagger in 1997. Other recipients in the Nineties include: Barbara Vine, Colin Dexter, Minette Walters, Val McDermid, Ben Elton and James Lee Burke. Not a blue-rinse brigade.

Diverse, yes. At war, no!

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