Author Lee Child wins top crime award

Lee Child Lee Child started his writing career after being fired by Granada Television

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Author Lee Child, who is behind the best-selling Jack Reacher series, has won the novel of the year award at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.

Child has sold 50 million books around the world and Tom Cruise is to play Reacher in a major Hollywood film.

Speaking after the ceremony, he hit out at "snobbery" surrounding crime novels.

"The literary writers are seeing lots of people reading us and relatively few people reading them, and they're cross about it," Child told BBC News.

Real name Jim Grant, he has written 16 books about the former military policeman who roams the US, combating crime rings and conspiracies.

The author, who started writing after being fired from his job as a presentation director at Granada Television in 1995, recently became the first British author to sell a million e-books for Amazon's Kindle reading device.

His book 61 Hours won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award on the opening night of the festival on Thursday.

It beat other shortlisted entries by Mark Billingham, SJ Bolton, Stuart MacBride, William Ryan and Andrew Taylor.

The veteran author PD James, 90, was at the event to accept an outstanding contribution accolade.

Baroness James, who wrote the Adam Dalgliesh detective novels, told the nominees: "You won't win the Booker [Prize] I'm afraid. But don't worry about that.

Tom Cruise Some fans have complained about Tom Cruise being chosen to play Jack Reacher

"But you will be bringing entertainment and relief from the problems of the world to millions of people."

Earlier this year, author Peter James, chairman of the Crime Writers' Association, said a Booker judge told him "hell would freeze over before a popular crime writer wins the Booker Prize".

Asked whether crime fiction was subjected to snobbery from the literary establishment, Lee Child said: "There definitely is. Not among the mass of the readers, obviously, because they're reading us and not them."

Child said he was "thrilled" that Tom Cruise would be taking the role of Jack Reacher in the film One Shot, which starts shooting in September.

Some fans have complained that Cruise, who is 5ft 7in (170cm) tall, is not the right person to play the 6ft 5in (195cm) Reacher.

"It's completely impossible to literally transfer the page to the screen," Child said. "Ironically, to capture the feel of a book on the screen, you have to change almost everything about it.

Start Quote

All the writers at the festival got our start because a small handful of brick-and-mortar retailers got passionate about our books”

End Quote Lee Child Author

"People think we should have had an actor that looks more like Reacher is described in the books.

"First of all there aren't any such actors, so it's much more a question of which actor has the talent and screen presence to create what Reacher does on the screen, and that really comes down to finding the actor with the most talent."

Last month, Child became the fifth author to pass a million sales in the Amazon Kindle store.

He said he did have concerns that the rise of electronic alternatives to paper books could cut off an important outlet for new authors.

"This business is absolutely populated by a whole bunch of wonderful people - booksellers, bookstore owners - who are going to suffer, and that's very sad," he said.

"These people are very passionate and they created the new authors. All the writers at the festival got our start because a small handful of brick-and-mortar retailers got passionate about our books, talked to their customers face-to-face and spread the word.

"And it is uncertain how that mechanism going to be replicated in the future."

The festival continues until Sunday and includes appearances from authors including Martina Cole, David Baldacci, Linwood Barclay and Dennis Lehane.

It is taking place at the Old Swan Hotel, where Agatha Christie was found after going missing for 11 days in 1926.

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