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Mystery Shetland author wins crime award

Author Ann Cleeves at Orcrime

MYSTERY surrounds the identity of a Shetland author who beat stiff competition to win Orkney’s first crime writing award.

Alex Duggan failed to reveal himself at the Orcrime festival at Orkney Library and Archives to receive his prize from award winning author of the Shetland Quartet, Ann Cleeves, for his short story The Prisoner.

The contest attracted 40 entries, half of which came from Orkney itself, with one being sent all the way from Italy.

Cleeves said: “I read them anonymously – I had no idea who the authors were or where they were from.

“The standard was incredibly high and I struggled to find the winner.

“In the end I chose The Prisoner because it was a short story pure and simple, with great clarity of writing and a good twist at the end.”

The contest was run by the library in partnership with the George Mackay Brown Fellowship.

Library assistant Stewart Bain said the other four writers on the shortlist were all present at the award ceremony, but Duggan failed to show his face.

“There is a mystery about who Alex Duggan actually is and I have a feeling from the emails that we have received from him that he is quite happy to remain a mystery,” Bain said.

“When the winners were announced we still had no idea who he was and we have only heard since then that he submitted The Prisoner under a pseudonym.”

Shetland’s literature development officer Donald Anderson said he had no idea of Duggan’s actual identity.

“I think it’s great that someone from Shetland has won this prize, and it’s even better that there’s an air of mystery about it,” he said.

“It’s probably someone we see every day in the Co-op, but it goes to show there are writers everywhere. There are certainly a lot in Shetland.”

On Friday evening Duggan contacted Shetland News saying: “I was absolutely delighted to win the first prize and was thrilled to have my work judged positively by Ann Cleeves.

“I believe the intention is to make Orcrime an annual event and so it was very exciting to win on the very first year.

“Please don’t think there is any mystery behind my using a pen name.

“I do some other writing from time to time though never usually crime fiction so I just decided for a couple of personal reasons that I would enter the competition under a pen name.

“I never expected to win but once the winners had been announced with the pen name I just decided I might as well leave it at that.”

Second prize went to Margaret Storr, from Orkney, for Mrs Frewin’s Bottom Drawer, while Jane Verburg, from Cromarty, took third prize for Widow.

The runners up from the short list were Helen Davis, from Orkney, for A Kind of Justice, and Donald McKenzie, from Inverness, for Elemental.

The winning story will be published in a future edition of Living Orkney magazine.