The Chain: Top crime-writing prize for NI author Adrian McKinty who almost quit

Co Antrim author Adrian McKinty has won the UK’s most prestigious crime writing award for his page-turner ‘The Chain’, which now looks set for the big screen.

By Graeme Cousins
Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 7:15 pm
Adrian McKinty had written 12 other books before best-selling thriller 'The Chain' turned his fortunes around
Adrian McKinty had written 12 other books before best-selling thriller 'The Chain' turned his fortunes around

It marks an amazing turn around for the 50-year-old who had given up on his dream of becoming a best-selling novelist to become an Uber driver.

Adrian, who was born in Carrickfergus and is now based in the US, has been announced as the winner of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year for ‘The Chain’, a book about a sinister chain letter which draws on an experience as a schoolboy in NI.

He said: “I am gobsmacked and delighted to win this award.

Film rights to 'The Chain' were bought in a seven-figure deal

“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 12 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 – and I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere – but now look at this. It has been completely life changing.”

Before ‘The Chain’ Adrian was best known for his DS Sean Duffy series set in 1980s Northern Ireland.

He is no stranger to awards but sadly his accolades weren’t coverting into book sales and he was struggling to make ends meet and sought alternative employment.

Persuaded by fellow author Don Winslow to give it a final shot, Adrian started what would become ‘The Chain’ – a terrifying thriller that sees parents forced to kidnap children to save their own.

He previously told the News Letter how the book came about: “I remember when I was a kid chain letters scared the wits out of me.

“When I was at Victoria Primary School in Carrick my P5 teacher was this woman called Mrs Carlisle. This was in the late 70s. These chain letters had been going around for a long time. She heard about it and asked if anyone in the class had been getting chain letters and was really worried about it. Most of the class put their hand up. She said, ‘bring them all to me tomorrow’.

“The next day she set fire to all the letters. I just remember I could not believe it. I thought, ‘well, we won’t be seeing her again’.”

Over the years he said he would always check with his mum to see how Mrs Carlisle was doing, expecting news of a grisly death: “But no, she’s still alive, living in Trooperslane to this very day. My mum gave her a signed copy of the book. She knows she was the big inspiration for the book.”

‘The Chain’ has been published in 36 countries and is set for the big screen with Universal snapping up movie rights in a seven-figure deal.