By Dawn Ius
When asked what it would mean for The Chalk Man to win the 2019 ITW Thriller Award for Best First Novel, C. J. Tudor doesn’t hesitate to respond.
“Blimey! It would be the most amazing thing ever,” she says. “I mean, have you seen the other nominees? I’m chuffed to bits just to be considered alongside them.”
The feeling is mutual. Tudor’s book is up against four other worthy award winners, including The Terminal List by Jack Carr, Need to Know by Karen Cleveland, Caged by Ellison Cooper and Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman.
Taking home the medal would be a pinnacle in many an author’s career, but for Ellison Cooper, her desire to be honored by ITW runs deep.
“In 2010, I Googled the International Thriller Writers and daydreamed about, one day, joining the organization of writers that I love,” she says. “If you had told me then that I would not only get to join ITW and go to ThrillerFest, but that I would also be nominated for an ITW award, I would have laughed in your face.”
Cooper is far from laughing now, as she prepares to attend her first ITW conference as a nominee and sit among so many of her idols. At her side, she’d love to have Lisa Gardner, whose thrilling career mirrors the kind she’d one day like to achieve.
Of course, the “first novel” is a monumental step toward that dream, and one that nominee Jack Carr doesn’t take for granted.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be doing something I am so passionate about and have been preparing for all my life,” he says.
It’s not an exaggeration. Carr is currently working on his third novel, a book he’s been wanting to write since the sixth grade.
Karen Cleveland is also hard at work on her third book—another thriller with a protagonist that works for the CIA. That—and her new baby, also a third—should keep her distracted until July 14, when the winners of this year’s ITW Awards will be announced at the ThrillerFest banquet in New York.
“I’m so pleased that Need to Know was nominated alongside such wonderful books,” she says.
Read excerpts from the Goodreads descriptions of each nominee for this year’s Best First Novel category below.
A Navy SEAL has nothing left to live for and everything to kill for after he discovers that the American government is behind the deaths of his team in this ripped-from-the-headlines political thriller.
In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, a CIA analyst uncovers a dangerous secret that will test her loyalty to the agency—and to her family. What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?
FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair hunts for evil in the deepest recesses of the human mind. Still reeling from the death of her fiance, she wants nothing more than to focus on her research into the brains of serial killers. But when the Washington D.C. police stumble upon a gruesome murder scene involving a girl who’d been slowly starved to death while held captive in a cage, Sayer is called in to lead the investigation.
Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.
In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.