A former detective inspector who took up writing after retiring from Staffordshire Police is the winner of this year’s Arnold Bennett Book Prize.

John Pye, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, won the annual prize for his crime novel Where The Silent Screams Are Loudest.

The 72-year-old was presented with a cheque for £500 and a bust of Arnold Bennett at a ceremony during the Arnold Bennett Society Members’ Day.

The winning book is set is Stoke-on-Trent where he worked for much of his police career and is a self-published novel. It took the coveted international prize despite tough opposition from dozens of other entries including books published by the likes of Penguin and Jonathan Cape.

John Pye

“I’m just over the moon. I can’t believe it. It’s absolutely wonderful,” said John.

“This book was a real learning curve for me and involved a lot of research into DNA and genealogy, including receiving help from world-renowned experts. I attended many post-mortems during my career but was out of touch with how things work in modern mortuaries so was able to do a research visit to the city mortuary.”

The book has North Staffordshire references throughout, including Arnold Bennett’s books playing a key role in the plot.

“It’s a very Stoke-on-Trent book,” said John. “As a fan of Arnold Bennett myself it’s just fantastic to win this prize.”

John started writing in 2000, after his retirement from Staffordshire Police, and is already working on his next book.

The shortlist for this year’s Arnold Bennett Prize also included Only About Love by Debbi Voisey, The Leading Question by Roger Elkin and Hunt by Leona Deakin. All four writers read an extract from their work during the prize ceremony.

The international prize was established in 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arnold Bennett.

This year’s prize was for books published during 2020 or 2021, after the usually annual prize took a one-year break due to the pandemic.

The judges included lecturer Morag Jones, author and historian Fred Hughes, retired headteacher Elizabeth Leslie, retired senior librarian Philip Lees, Arnold Bennett Society trustee Erika Alcock, journalist and Made in Stoke-on-Trent coordinator Jenny Amphlett plus Arnold Bennett Society members Penny Mitchell and Pat Marshall.

Past winners include Guardian columnist Charlotte Higgins, who was born and raised in Newcastle-under-Lyme, novelist Jan Edwards, short story writer Lisa Blower and poet John Lancaster.

Visit www.arnoldbennettsociety.org.uk for further details about The Arnold Bennett Society and the Arnold Bennett Book Prize.

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