McDermid Debut Award
to spotlight new generation of crime writing talent

Clare Hammond

Submissions are now open for publishers for Harrogate International Festivals’ new award, the McDermid Debut Award for new writers, offering a unique opportunity to be recognised among the best in the crime fiction genre. The Award will be presented on the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the world’s largest and most prestigious celebration of crime fiction.

Named in recognition of world-famous crime writer, Val McDermid, who co-founded the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in 2003 and whose dedication to fostering new voices in crime fiction through the New Blood panel is legendary, this new Award seeks to continue her legacy, celebrating and platforming the best debut crime writers in the UK.

Val McDermid said: ‘Curating the New Blood panel over twenty years exposed me to an extraordinary range of crime fiction I might otherwise have missed. I’m hoping that this new award will do the same for the army of avid readers out there looking for new talent.’

The McDermid Debut Award is open to full-length debut crime novels by UK and Irish authors published for the first time in hardback or paperback original between 1 May 2023 and 30 April 2024, with submissions closing on the 21st March. A shortlist of six titles, selected by an academy of established crime and thriller authors, will be announced on Thursday 13th June, with the winner determined by a judging panel of industry experts, including literary, broadcasting and media figures. All shortlisted authors will receive a full weekend pass to the Festival.

The Award will be presented at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Awards event on Thursday 18th July, the opening night of the Festival, with the winner receiving a £500 cash prize.

Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, Sharon Canavar, said: ‘We are delighted to announce this new award honouring Val McDermid, one of the icons of the genre, and we can’t wait to discover the stars of the future, be they writers of psychological thrillers or murder mysteries.’

Simon Theakston, Chairman of T&R Theakston Ltd, commented: ‘The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival has always highlighted the best in crime fiction and the new McDermid Debut Award will help readers discover the next generation of crime fiction authors. I am sure this new award will attract even more of the best of crime writing talent and I very much looking forward to welcoming them along with all our friends to this year’s Harrogate gathering.’

Submissions are also now open for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, the UK and Ireland’s most prestigious crime and thriller writing award. Previous winners include Mick Herron, Lee Child, Stef Penney, Val McDermid, Clare Mackintosh, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Steve Cavanagh and Denise Mina.


  • The McDermid Debut Award and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year are currently open for submissions. The deadline for receipt of entries is 23.59 (GMT) Thursday, 21st March.
  • The Shortlists of the McDermid Debut Award and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year will be announced on Thursday 13th June.
  • Both Awards, along with the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction will be presented at the opening night of the Festival on Thursday 18th July.

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which celebrates its 21st year in 2024, is delivered by the north of England’s leading arts Festival organisation, Harrogate International Festivals, and forms part of their diverse year-round portfolio of events, which aims to bring immersive cultural experiences to as many people as possible.

This year’s event is curated by bestselling crime writer and 2024 Festival Programming Chair Ruth Ware, with the programming committee, and Special Guests include global bestsellers and fan favourites Chris Carter, Jane Casey, Elly Griffiths, Erin Kelly, Vaseem Khan, Dorothy Koomson, Shari Lapena, Abir Mukherjee, Liz Nugent and Richard Osman.

Submissions will be made by publishers. All publishers should have received the submission criteria and forms, however, if your publisher has not received these details or would like more information, please contact us here.

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