Former Uber Driver Wins Crime Novel Of The Year 2020

Crime writer Adrian McKinty sitting outside a house on a wooden chair, wearing plain black jumper

Uber driver turned international sensation Adrian McKinty has won crime writing’s premier award for his “life-changing” thriller The Chain.

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020 was announced last night at a virtual awards ceremony.

Belfast-born McKinty received the UK’s most prestigious crime writing accolade, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, for his best-selling thriller. In The Chain, parents are forced to abduct children to save the lives of their own.

This phenomenal success follows tough times when Adrian’s family faced eviction. He was forced to put down his pen and work as an Uber driver and bar tender to make ends meet.

Movie rights snapped up

Persuaded to give his dream one last go, Adrian began writing what would become his smash hit sensation. The Chain is now a bestseller in over 20 countries. Movie rights have been snapped up by Universal in a seven-figure deal to bring this chilling masterpiece to life on screen.

Adrian said, “I am gobsmacked and delighted to win this award.

“Two years ago, I had given up on writing altogether and was working in a bar and driving an Uber, and so to go from that to this is just amazing.

“People think that you write a book and it will be an immediate bestseller. For twelve books, my experience was quite the opposite. But then I started this one.

“It was deliberately high concept, deliberately different to everything else I had written. I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere… but now look at this. It has been completely life-changing.”

The news was revealed in a virtual awards ceremony. It would have been the opening night of Harrogate’s legendary Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Instead, the announcement of the coveted trophy has marked the launch of the HIF Weekender. Harrogate International Festival’s free virtual festival brings world-class culture to everyone. It features performances and interviews with acclaimed musicians, best-selling authors and innovative thinkers.

A UK crime fiction boom

Cover of The Chain, red background, empty child's swing in white, lettering in blackDescribed by The Cartel author Don Winslow as nothing short of Jaws for parents”, The Chain was chosen by public vote and the prize judges. It triumphed against a tremendously strong shortlist that included books from Oyinkan Braithwaite, Helen Fitzgerald, Jane Harper, Mick Herron and Abir Mukherjee.

The UK is currently experiencing a boom in crime fiction. The genre exploded in popularity during lockdown and sales are soaring since bookshops have reopened.

Adrian McKinty was nominated for the award in 2011, 2014 and 2016 for his Sean Duffy series. He receives £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery.

“Astonishing talent and tenacity”

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said, “Looking at the titles in contention for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020, it is clear to see why crime fiction remains the UK’s genre of choice.

“Adrian McKinty is a writer of astonishing talent and tenacity. We could not be more grateful that he was persuaded to give his literary career one last shot. The Chain is a truly deserving winner.

“We raise a virtual glass of Theakston Old Peculier to Adrian’s success. We hope we can do so in person before too long, and welcome everyone back to Harrogate next year for a crime-writing celebration like no other.”

The Chain is published by Orion from £2.99 for Kindle. | #TheakstonAward | @HarrogateFest | 

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Sarah Proctor

I've worked on a variety of regional newspapers and national magazines. My Weekly and Your Best Ever Christmas are fantastic, warm-hearted brands with an amazing, talented team. I'm a sub-editor and particularly love working on cookery, fiction and advice pages - I feel I should know all the secrets of eternal life, health and happiness by now, but hey, we all need that regular reminder!