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Carrick author Adrian McKinty scoops literary accolade for Troubles thriller

By Colin Francis

Bestselling Northern Ireland author Adrian McKinty has won a major literary award for his latest Troubles thriller.

The Carrickfergus-born writer, who grew up in the town's Victoria Estate, picked up the prestigious 2014 Ned Kelly Award in Australia, where he now lives in Melbourne with his wife and their two daughters.

He scooped the prize for In The Morning I'll Be Gone, the latest in his Sean Kelly detective series, about a Catholic policeman serving in the RUC.

The book had already netted McKinty the best reviews of his career so far, with critics saying it placed him in the front rank of modern crime writers.

"The Ned Kelly is definitely the coolest of all the crime fiction awards and if you think about it, it's the only one that's given for an entire continent," said the delighted 46-year-old. "I mean, how badass is that?"

Damian Smyth, head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said McKinty's win was "a further step in building the Carrickfergus writer's reputation in the front rank of crime writers worldwide".

He added: "His winning novel In the Morning I'll Be Gone had already been named as one of the 10 best of 2014 by the American Library Association and his brand of contemporary hard-core crime fiction, obviously influenced by the dark moods of our own Troubles, is now being hailed internationally.

"It's not often that one can be happy to write that crime is joining golf, poetry and boxing as our cultural excellences – but this is one of them."

The triumph is the latest twist in McKinty's action-packed life, which reads like one of his own pacy plot-lines.

A former Victoria Primary and Carrick Grammar pupil, he initially studied law at Warwick University but hated the subject so much he switched to a political philosophy degree at Oxford.

While there he met and fell in love with Leah, who was from Boston, and the couple moved to New York where McKinty worked his way through a series of jobs from barman and teacher to security guard, postman and construction worker.

"I was meeting many eccentric characters and they were saying funny things, which I always wrote down," he said. "After a few years, I thought that maybe I had enough free dialogue that I could somehow spin into a book. I had a few stories and longer pieces published, but my first proper novel came in 2003 called Dead I Well May Be."

In 2008 he moved to Melbourne with Leah, by then his wife, and their daughters Arwynn now (11), and Sophie (8). Leah had been offered a job in a university there.

Since then his writing career has really taken off and in June this year the Belfast Telegraph gave away a free ebook of his novel The Cold Cold Ground.

McKinty makes a point of coming home to Northern Ireland every year to visit his widowed mum Jean, younger brother Gareth and sisters Diane and Lorna in Carrickfergus. His late father Alfie was a shipyard worker. He also has an older brother Roderick, who lives in Portsmouth.

McKinty added: "If you haven't read In The Morning I'll Be Gone, I reckon it's a pretty good place to start if you're new to me and my books.

"It's set in Northern Ireland in 1984, against the backdrop of the IRA breakout from the Maze prison, when Duffy is recruited but it isn't all depressing and everything. Parts of it are funny. And there's a locked room mystery."

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