One of the UK’s most prominent writers’ societies, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) has elected Vaseem Khan as its new chair.
Vaseem Khan is the author of two award-winning crime series set in India, the Baby Ganesh Agency series, and the Malabar House historical crime novels. He is the first non-white author to chair the CWA.
The CWA, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, was founded in 1953 by the prolific author John Creasey.
Vaseem Khan was voted in as chair on 20 May at the CWA’s Annual General Meeting, taking over from publishing polymath, Maxim Jakubowski.
Vaseem Khan’s debut, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, became a top ten bestseller, and was translated into 17 languages. He was awarded the CWA Historical Dagger for Midnight at Malabar House.
Vaseem also co-hosts one of the UK’s most popular crime fiction podcasts with Abir Mukherjee, The Red Hot Chilli Writers, and created an online course Writing Crime Fiction for Curtis Brown Creative.
Vaseem Khan said: “It goes without saying that following in the footsteps of crime fiction greats such as Ian Rankin, Dick Francis, Peter James, and Lindsey Davis, is a singular honour. Crime writing has led the way in opening itself up to new voices and new stories. I’ve often joked that criminals are the most inclusive members of our societies, happily willing to murder, rob, and cheat anyone regardless of creed, colour, and background. I’d put crime writers in that same bracket – albeit only in fiction!”
The CWA’s determination to promote the genre remains central to its mission. Recent initiatives include its Debut Dagger, a competition for uncontracted writers, and National Crime Reading Month, both of which help to connect crime writers and readers, as well as supporting libraries and bookshops.
Vaseem said: “When I was published, almost a decade ago, I didn't know anyone. I was told by my agent to join the CWA and I found some friends here, and suddenly I felt less alone in an industry that can be truly frightening and confusing. If I’ve had any writing success today it’s because I’ve had the support of friends and well-wishers, especially through the difficult times. That’s what I want the CWA to be.”
He continued: “My vision for the CWA is for it to be a home for all crime writers, whether you’ve sold ten million copies or ten copies. It should be a place where writers of all backgrounds can come, and know that they will be treated with respect. Ultimately, the CWA should be about inspiring the next generation of crime writers.”
Outgoing CWA chair, Maxim Jakubowski, will formerly hand over the Creasey Bell to Vaseem Khan at the annual Dagger Awards hosted in London on 6 July, a tradition passed on from chair to chair for 70 years.
The CWA hosted its first awards ceremony in 1956; Agatha Christie was the principal guest. The oldest awards in the genre, the CWA Daggers are an annual fixture on the literary calendar, and this year the awards ceremony will be co-hosted by authors Victoria Selman and Imran Mahmood.
Maxim Jakubowski said: "After two years at the helm, I leave the CWA chair with a sense of great satisfaction, with membership at an all-time high and an organisation restructured to face a promising future and in great health. I am confident my erstwhile partner in crime Vaseem will take over the baton and continue to make the CWA even more prestigious and rewarding for our members. The Creasey Bell remains in great hands.”
The CWA board also sees new faces with co-vice chairs Sarah Ward and William Shaw, who take over from Antony Johnson, who will continue to provide support to the organisation. It also welcomes new board members, Nadine Matheson, Stella Oni and Morgen Witzel.
Vaseem said: “Our board is now the most diverse it has ever been, in terms of age, gender, and background, reflecting the incredibly broad church that crime writing now represents. My hope is that this signals just how welcoming we intend to be, to old members and new.”