Novel We Begin At The End, which was written after author Chris Whitaker was mugged and stabbed, has been named crime novel of the year.

The book is a crime thriller set in coastal California which follows a 13-year-old girl, who is a self-proclaimed outlaw, and a chief of police as they navigate the consequences of a murder 30 years ago.

Whitaker credits the story’s writing process with saving his life after he was attacked as a teenager.

His book saw off competition from five other shortlisted authors to win the 2021 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

The crime thriller fought off competition from five other shortlisted novels (Midas PR

The Last Crossing by Northern Irish author Brian McGilloway was awarded Highly Commended.

The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths, Rosamund Lupton’s Three Hours, Abir Mukherjee’s Death in the East and The Man On The Street by Trevor Wood were also nominated.

Whitaker said: “I began writing this book as a form of therapy after being mugged and stabbed.

“Without doubt this story saved my life, so to win this award feels like the most wonderful, dreamlike end to a journey that has been twenty years in the making.

“I have read the shortlisted books, so know with some certainty that I’m not a worthy winner, but I am a grateful one, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop smiling now.”

The novel saw off competition from five other crime stories (Midas PR)

Simon Theakston, Executive director of T&R Theakston, said: “The contest for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award has been fiercely fought – a reflection of the outstanding quality of all the longlisted and shortlisted crime fiction published within the last year.

“I offer Chris Whitaker my hearty congratulations for clinching the title on his first ever nomination for his powerful and insightful We Begin at the End.”

Ian Rankin OBE and Mark Billingham were also rewarded for their outstanding contribution to crime fiction for 2020 and 2021 during the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.

The Royal Scots Club Literary Lunches
Author Ian Rankin also received the Theakston Old Peculier outstanding contribution to crime Fiction Award 2021 (Jane Barlow/PA)

On receiving the award Rankin said: “It’s such a privilege and an honour to receive this award, and especially to be in Harrogate to receive it in person.

“I’ve been a published writer for over thirty years but this past year has been uniquely challenging – for writers, readers and booksellers.

“It’s heartening to see the Theakston Festival rise like a phoenix.

“Books continue to provide us with that wonderful mix of food for thought and escapism. I couldn’t be prouder to be a crime writer.”

Billingham added: “It goes without saying that – presuming it’s not some sort of administrative error – this is an enormous honour.

“I’m as gobsmacked as I am grateful to be joining a list containing the likes of Ruth Rendell, PD James and Lee Child and while there are many individuals to whom I’m hugely indebted, first and foremost I want to say ‘thank you’ to the readers.

“Without them, there’s no point to any of it.”