CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2020 Shortlist – Interview with authors

In preparation for the announcement of the winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award next month, we will interview all the shortlisted authors, one each week. This week we talk to Eva Dolan, asking her about her book, Between Two Evils.

How does it feel to be on the shortlist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger?

I was very nicely surprised when the the news came. Between Two Evils, like the rest of the Zigic and Ferreira series, covers issues that are very important to me, and it’s heartening to have the recognition of such a highly esteemed judging panel.

If you could summarise ‘Between Two Evils’ in ten words, what would you say?

A detective novel about a place the law can’t reach.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first and in which ways has lock-down affected your writing process, if at all?

I’ve gone from being a gung-ho pantser to planning everything in meticulous detail and the difference has been enlightening. After the initial inspiration I spend around a month constructing an outline of one page per chapter and after that the actual writing is an absolute joy. It allows me to write very quickly and with a level of confidence that is incredibly freeing. Ironically this groundwork means the finished draft feels freer and fresher than it in earlier books because all the usual concerns about construction are gone. My latest book was written during the early days of lockdown and it provided a welcome escape from worries about shielding family members and the availability of food delivery slots. Now I’m starting to look towards writing something new it’s beginning to feel more challenging though and, like a lot of authors who write contemporary detective series, the big question is, how do I deal with the ongoing situation within a crime narrative?

Which thriller writers do you most admire?

I’m a huge fan of Mick Herron’s work. He’s critically acclaimed, admired by authors, loved by readers and is a multi-award winner, and once you read him it’s immediately obvious why. I came to his books quite late in the Jackson Lamb series and then just hoovered them up, awed by his effortless style, sly wit and the intricacy of his plotting. It’s rare to find an author who can achieve perfection but Mick Herron does it time and after time.

What makes a killer thriller?

Crime fiction prides itself on holding a mirror up to society and for me the best thrillers are the ones that expose the parts of our world that usually remain in the shadows. But right now some of the most enthralling writing about crime is coming from non fiction authors. Oliver Bullough’s Moneyland is an absolutely gripping expose of kleptocratic regimes around the world, complete with arch villains and wild extravagances, travelling from white sand beaches to crumbling former Soviet republics and into the heart of some of London’s smartest squares. It’s the stuff of high octane spy yarns except it’s true life. When the world is giving up these kinds of factual thrillers, fiction writers are going to have to go the extra mile to compete.

02 Between Two Evils

The winner of the 2020 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger will be announced on 22nd October. The other shortlisted authors are Tom Chatfield, Alex North, A. A. Dhand, Lou Berney and David Koepp. Look out for the next instalment from the shortlisted authors next week.

Photograph of Eva Dolan by Mark Vessey