More awards news in Aussie crime writing

InTheMorningIllBeGoneMcKintyAdrian McKinty’s IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE was announced last night as the winner of this year’s Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime novel. It is a brilliant novel about which I have previously banged on at some length so all I will say at this point is congratulations to Adrian. While I am sure it is enjoyable to win any award, I imagine it is all the sweeter when you know you have triumphed in a seriously strong field.

Head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association site to read the judges’ comments and see who won in the other categories last night, then read Adrian’s thoughts about his win. After you’ve done that make your way to your favourite purveyor of literature and snag copies of IN THE MORNING and all the other shortlisted titles to your shopping basket. It’s an excellent collection of contemporary Australian crime writing.

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

Awards news in Aussie crime writing

While I was busy being knocked flat by a killer virus (OK it didn’t actually kill me, I just wished it would for a while) in the past few weeks both our major awards for crime writing announced their shortlists and one of them has even announced its winner. So, a belated congratulations to all the nominees.

Davitt Award for best crime novel by an Australian woman

◾Honey Brown, DARK HORSE (a compelling suspense novel with a genuinely surprise ending)
◾Ilsa Evans, NEFARIOUS DOINGS (a funny light-hearted tale about the mysteries beneath the surface of small-town Australia)
◾Annie Hauxwell, A BITTER TASTE (a dark tale of desperation set amidst modern London’s underclass)
◾Katherine Howell, WEB OF DECEIT (a classic procedural which keeps a frenetic pace while managing to depict the real impact of crime on all who are touched by it)
◾Hannah Kent, BURIAL RITES (a haunting work which the author calls speculative historical biography about the last woman hanged in Iceland)
◾Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

DarkHorseBrownHoney21306_fThough I’m not quite convinced Burial Rights really belongs in the crime genre, this is an exceptionally strong field showing the depth and diversity of Aussie women’s crime writing. The winner of this award (announced last weekend) was Honey Brown’s DARK HORSE and it is a superb novel so congratulations to Ms Brown but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you rush out and procure all six novels. For pictures of the awards night and information about winners in the other categories head over to the Sisters in Crime website.

Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel by an Australian writer

The winners of the 2014 awards will be announced this coming Saturday as part of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. The shortlisted books in the best novel category are

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • Adrian McKinty, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE (a darkly funny locked-room mystery set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s troubles)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

I didn’t manage to write reviews of all this list either (note to self: must try harder) but again this is a terrific lot of books and I have no hesitation in recommending them all. For judges comments about the shortlist and information on the nominees in the other Ned Kelly Awards categories head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association website

For once I have read all the books on both the ‘best novel’ shortlists for the country’s major crime writing awards and find myself able to sincerely recommend each and every book. Yay for Aussie crime writers.

The 2011 Davitt Award Winners Are…

The Davitt Awards are sponsored by Sisters in Crime Australia and are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, FORCE AND FRAUD in 1865. Awards are given annually to crime writing by women in 4 categories:

  • the best adult novel
  • the best young fiction book
  • the best true crime
  • and the Reader’s Choice award, voted by members of Sisters in Crime.

This year’s winners were announced at the Sisters in Crime conference SheKilda on Saturday night, 8 October.

Best Adult Novel went to Katherine Howell for her novel COLD JUSTICE which tells the story of the investigation into the 19 year old murder of a teenage boy in a Sydney suburb. For more about the book you can check out my review and Kerrie‘s. We both rated this one very highly.

Best Young Fiction went to Penny Matthews for A GIRL LIKE ME. I’m afraid I don’t know much about this one as YA is not really my thing but if any of our readers have read it please do leave us some comments

Best True Crime went to Colleen Egan for her book MURDERER NO MORE about the acquittal of Andrew Mallard who had been convicted and jailed for murder on the basis of a forced confession and other dodgy evidence. Mallard spent 11 years in jail. I haven’t read the book but have watched a television documentary about this case and the work that Egan (a journalist) and others did on Mallard’s behalf and that was certainly a sobering look at what can go wrong with the justice system

The Reader’s Choice Award went to P. M. Newton for her debut novel THE OLD SCHOOL. You might remember I put a fair amount of thought into my vote (as a member of Sisters in Crime I was eligible to vote in this category) and while I didn’t select this book I am very happy that it won as it too is an excellent read. You can see my review here and take a look at Kerrie’s too. I just hope this doesn’t go to Pam’s head too much and take her focus away from the second book which some of us are waiting very impatiently for 🙂

Congratulations to all the winners. I haven’t read all the books in all the categories but from those I’ve read I can say that women’s crime writing in Australia is in fine shape and I look forward to another great year ahead.

If you’re looking for something to read here’s the full list of adult novels eligible for the Davitt award this year with links to reviews here at Fair Dinkum where available

  • Sydney Bauer, Matter of Trust (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • A A Bell, Diamond Eyes (HarperCollins)
  • Honey Brown, The Good Daughter (Penguin Books Australia)
  • Miranda Darling, Troika Dolls (Allen & Unwin)
  • Marianne Delacourt, Sharp Turn (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ilsa Evans, Sticks and Stones (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Kathryn Fox, Death Mask (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Sulari Gentill, A Few Right Thinking Men (Pantera Press)
  • Leah Giarrantano, Watch the World Burn (Random House Australia)
  • H M Goltz, Mastermind (Atlas Productions)
  • Kerry Greenwood, Dead Man’s Chest (Allen & Unwin)
  • Anna Haebich, Murdering Stepmothers: The Execution of Martha Rendell (University of Western Australia Press)
  • Katherine Howell, Cold Justice (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Katherine Howell, Violent Exposure (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Wendy James, Where Have You Been? (University of Western Australia Press)
  • Maggie Joel, The Second Last Woman in England (Murdoch Books)
  • Louisa Larkin, The Genesis Flaw (Murdoch Books)
  • P D Martin, Kiss of Death (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Colleen McCullough, Naked Cruelty (HarperCollins) (well I’m half way through it)
  • P M Newton, The Old School (Penguin Books Australia)
  • Malla Nunn, Let the Dead Lie (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Leigh Redhead, Thrill City (Allen & Unwin)
  • Angela Savage, The Half-Child (Text)
  • Felicity Young, Take Out (Fremantle Press)
  • Helene Young, Border Watch (Hachette Australia)

More Award News for Aussie Crime Fiction

The Asher Literary Award is named after Mrs Helen Waltraud Rosalie Asher who came to Australia as a post-WWII German refugee from fascism. The award is won by a female author of a literary work which carries an anti-war message or theme. The 2011 winner was announced yesterday (1 September) in Melbourne and one of two joint winners this year is P.M. Newton for THE OLD SCHOOL. The other winner is Roberta Lowing for RUIN, a poetry collection exploring the tragedy of the Iraq War.  Among the many social and political themes THE OLD SCHOOL tackles with sensitivity and intelligence is the long-lasting fallout from the Vietnam War.

Fair Dinkum Crime congratulates Pam (PM) on her well deserved win.

A difficult reader’s choice

As I mentioned back in May I am a member of  Sisters in Crime Australia and am therefore eligible to vote in the Reader’s Choice category in this year’s Davitt Awards. Never one to take voting duties lightly I was a little overwhelmed by the number of eligible titles. At that time I had read only 6 and a half of the eligible adult fiction titles so how could I possibly make an informed vote? Given I had no chance of reading all the eligible titles in the time available I decided not to fret too much, though did resolve to get my hands on as many of the books in the adult fiction category as I could given the limitations of book-buying budgets and waking hours in which to read.

I have now read 12 of the 25 eligible adult fiction books and to be honest almost all of them would be deserving winners. I have chosen my favourite (by the merest of margins) but I really wouldn’t mind if any of the others that I’ve liked was to win instead. However, my vote has gone to

DEATH MASK by Kathryn Fox: Although I thought the start a bit slow this book has one of the most creative storylines I’ve encountered in ages, focusing on sexual assaults committed by sporting stars. As with all the very best crime fiction it is about much more than the crimes it depicts; examining the psychology of team sports from all angles in a thought-provoking way that is far-removed from how we normally the subject addressed in the media. I thought it topical, non-sensationalist and utterly compelling.

Here are the others I’ve read (in alphabetical order):
  • A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN by Sulari Gentill: A delightful historical mystery set against a fascinating backdrop of social and political turmoil in Australia in the 1930’s. A young man of a wealthy background gets help from his left-wing friends to investigate the murder of his uncle and the book has a great setting, warm-lively characters and the historical setting is interesting (my rating 3.5)
  • COLD JUSTICE by Katherine Howell: The re-opening of the investigation into the death of a teenager 19-years earlier explores the idea of people’s pasts and how they might feel differently about events they witnessed or took part in with the benefit of age and distance. It is brilliantly plotted and full of compelling characters and is the best (to date) of a terrific series (my rating 4.5)
  • DEAD MAN’S CHEST by Kerry Greenwood An intelligent cosy mystery set in 1920’s Australia this book sees private detective Phryne Fisher and her household head to the seaside for a rest. Of course they encounter some mysteries to solve including the bizarre bandit threatening the long-haired ladies of Queenscliff and the sudden disappearance of a servant couple. It’s terrific to see  the latest book in a long running series receive the attention to detail and quality story telling that the first novels received (my rating 3.5)
  • KISS OF DEATH by P.D. Martin The fifth book in this series sees ex-pat Australian FBI Profiler Sophie Anderson helping Los Angeles police with an investigation into a murder that appears to have ritualistic elements that could be associated with a religious cult. This evidence, plus one of the psychic visions that Sophie sometimes has, leads her to look into the world of self-proclaimed vampires. I liked the procedural and investigative aspects of this book but did find the supernatural elements a bit over the top (my rating 3)
  • LET THE DEAD LIE by Malla Nunn: The second book of Nunn’s set in 1950’s South Africa follows the story of Emmanuel Cooper who, under the country’s increasingly draconian apartheid laws has recently been classified non-white and so is unable to work officially for the police anymore. However while undertaking some unofficial surveillance work for his old boss he finds a young boy’s body and is compelled to investigate the case. What I enjoyed most about this book is its depiction of the impact of his changed situation on Emmanuel Cooper which felt very realistic in addition to being heart-breaking (my rating 4)
  • MATTER OF TRUST by Sydney Bauer: Boston-based lawyer David Cavanagh goes home to New Jersey to defend an old friend who is accused of murder. The novel is decently paced but has a bit too much of a tv-script sensibility for me to find 100% engaging. I’d have liked a little more depth to the characters and their motivations (my rating 2.5)
  • NAKED CRUELTY by Colleen McCullough: This is the only one that I’ve read that I would be disappointed to see win as I just don’t think it’s a great example of the crime writing craft. Set in the US in 1969 and involving the investigation of numerous crimes including a series of brutal rapes I found it historically anachronistic and pretentious (my rating 2)
  • THE HALF-CHILD by Angela Savage: (my rating 4): In the mid-90’s Jayne Keeney is an Aussie living in Thailand and working as a private detective. She is asked to investigate the apparent suicide of a young Australian volunteer some months earlier and uncovers several nasty villains in the process. It’s a terrific novel with a great sense of its setting and a very thoughtful and nuanced plot (my rating 4)
  • THE OLD SCHOOL by P.M. Newton: The first (of what I hope is many) book to feature Detective Constable Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly, the book is set in 1992 in western Sydney and involves an investigation into some bones found at a building site. Newton does many things well but, for me, it’s the time and place captured to perfection that I will long remember in this tale that tackles such big issues as the search for identity, the treatment of Australia’s indigenous people and the nature of police corruption. (my rating 4)
  • WATCH THE WORLD BURN by Leah Giarratano: A woman dies from apparent spontaneous combustion at an up scale Sydney restaurant and then other odd, possibly related, events start happening around the city. Detective Jill Jackson is meant to be studying for her Masters Degree but is drawn into the investigation for personal reasons. As always I loved the way Giarratano draws her characters in a very believable and thoughtful way and the story is one that takes several unexpected turns. (my rating 4)
  • VIOLENT EXPOSURE by Katherine Howell: Paramedics are called to a domestic disturbance at the suburban home of Suzanne and Connor Crawford one night only to have the couple explain the incident away as nothing more than a disagreement. The next evening Police and paramedics are again called to the address only this time Suzanne Crawford is dead and her husband is missing. This is a fast-paced book with credible, recognisable characters and a superbly complex plot. (my rating 4.5)
Davitt awards in the categories of best adult crime novel, best young fiction crime book and best true crime book by Australian women writers are chosen by a judging panel. The Reader’s Choice award, voted by members of Sisters in Crime, can go to any of the titles eligible for one of these three categories. All the award winners will be announced in October. For a full list of the eligible titles in all the categories you can see my earlier post on the awards.

As for which book will actually win the award I’ve no idea. I’m notoriously bad at predicting such things and am normally well out of step with the majority, whoever and wherever they may be. All I can say is good luck to all, including those I’ve not had a chance to read yet, and I feel very fortunate as a reader to have been presented with such a terrific range of crime writing by Australian women for my enjoyment and education in just one year!

Review: THE OLD SCHOOL by P.M. Newton

This review was originally published at Reactions to Reading in August 2010

It is 1992 and Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly is a relatively newly qualified Detective Constable in Sydney’s west. When two sets of bones are discovered in the foundations of a building being demolished Ned is drawn into the investigation both for professional and personal reasons. Determining who the people were and what happened to them unfolds within a wider context of social issues affecting the city both in the mid 1970′s, when the bodies were placed in the concrete foundations, and sixteen years later when they are discovered. The Aboriginal land rights movement, the treatment of soldiers returning from the Vietnam war, the absorption of different cultures into the sprawling city and the misappropriation of power by some within the police force are all woven into a complex but highly believable story.

Having lived on the fringes of the giant sprawl that is Sydney during the late 80’s and early 90’s the aspect of the book that stood out most strongly for me was that Newton has captured perfectly the things I loved about living there and the things that drove me away. The multitudes of cultures that rub along together, the endless traffic snarls, the dodgy politics, the chasm between haves and have-nots are all to be found in this novel. Anchoring the book to its time are major real life events including the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) inquiry into corruption in the NSW Police Force. I can honestly attest that, just as in this book, ICAC wasn’t an acronym in Sydney in 1992: it was a word that everyone knew the meaning of and everyone was talking about. Another significant event that is used to great impact in THE OLD SCHOOL is the speech given by our then Prime Minister (and written by one of Australia’s unsung political heroes) to launch the International Year for the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Born in Australia to a Vietnamese mother and an Irish-Australian father she carries not much more than her name to acknowledge the Vietnamese part of her heritage. And even there she prefers the Australian nickname that was inevitable with a surname like Kelly and an unpronounceable first name starting with N. There are reasons for Ned’s decisions and these are teased out beautifully in the story to provide depth to her character. She is surrounded by other intriguing people too. Her loving sister, her prejudiced Aunt, a range of colleagues with their own foibles and personal demons. All of these people are imperfect and often unlikable but they are all highly credible and the kind of people you want to read more about.

This book has all the ingredients of the top notch crime fiction. There are believable, interesting characters, a story that keeps readers guessing, a strong sense of its time and place and something to say about the human condition. Would police be so open to corruption if they were all paid enough to live comfortably in one of the most expensive cities to live in the world? Can we learn anything from our collective past or are we doomed to repeat the worst abuses of our fellow man over and over again? There is a slight over-reliance on coincidence and perhaps a thread or two too many woven into the plot but overall this is a highly readable and impressive debut and I look forward to reading the next installment of this series.

My rating: 4/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Publisher: Penguin [2010]
ISBN: 9780670074518
Length: 363 pages
Format: Trade Paperback

Fair Dinkum Baker’s Dozen #2: P.M. Newton

This is #2 in what we plan to make a regular feature here at Fair Dinkum Crime.
New South Wales writer P.M. Newton has agreed to respond to our version of an author interview. We’ve approached the author interview a little differently, trying to offer the authors (who we thought must get asked a few standard questions fairly frequently) the opportunity to share some of their lesser known secrets. Or not, it’s entirely up to them. We provide the authors with 13 beginnings and, like the creative geniuses they are, they turn them into sentences (or paragraphs, or full blown essays should the urge arise).

And so to P.M’s responses…

I often wonder…what happened to my personal jet pack? I was in primary school when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. We watched it in class then went out into the playground. The moon was out, we were all looking at it, and walking around in slow motion like we were up there. The future seemed very close and very modern and very certain. Seriously, Star Trek looked totally doable in my life time. Instead, we’ve ended up with science having to defend everything from climate change to evolution. I feel a little ripped off, to be honest.

Friends would describe me as… often distracted, rather than distracting.

I will never…say never. Not because I’m James Bond, but because I’ve changed directions so many times in my life that I think it’s probably unwise of me to definitively rule things in – or out. Twenty years ago, when I was in the police force, I probably would have said I’d never write a book, any book, let alone a book about crime.

My greatest fear is…all my teeth falling out. It’s my only recurring nightmare and, as I have bad teeth, it often tends to be a prescient one. 

My worst job was…running a court matter involving a young victim that, unlike a TV show but exactly like real life, ended badly with no justice, no satisfaction and no resolution.

I’m in dire need of…self-discipline.

My childhood was…happy. I was the youngest in a large family, and when I remember childhood it seems like it was always summer, I was always swimming and Christmas was always just around the corner. My father became ill with cancer when I was 12 and died when I was 14. Life divided abruptly into before and after childhood.

I wish I had… &I wish I hadn¹t… that way madness lies.

The thing I hate most about being a writer is…always wondering if the next thing I write is the one that will reveal me to be a false pretender, someone who doesn’t belong in the world of writers and writing.

The last book I read was…I usually have a few on the go, overlapping. So, The Legacy, by Kristen Tranter, which made me take a good long look at myself in regards to the way it dissects friendships, Bodywork by Sara Paretsky, an American crime writer with a social conscience and a sharp political stance. Right now, I’m about halfway through River of Gods by Ian McDonald, which is going to be turned into a movie, and will be amazing. Sci-fi, set in India, that is believable and mind blowing all at once.

The next book I’ll write is…the third in my crime series set in 1990s Sydney, featuring Detective Nhu, “Ned” Kelly. I’m inspired by the way The Wire used the serial element of storytelling to really unpick the fabric of a society. That is what I hope to do with with these books. Things changed in this country during that decade, a crime series is a great way to unravel just what and how.

Being an Australian author means… many different things to many different writers. To me, at this moment, it means using what I know and feel about my place – Sydney and its suburbs, New South Wales and its regions, this country, its people, its cops and its dark and wild places – and telling stories about what happened to us as a people during a decade where a lot of things changed, not necessarily for the better.

Thanks to P.M. (Pam) for agreeing to play along with our new feature and for revealing so much of herself.
See our review of  THE OLD SCHOOL

P.M. Newton joined the New South Wales police force in 1982 and over the next thirteen years worked in Drug Enforcement, Sexual Assault, and Major Crime. When she had eventually had enough of meeting people for the first time on the worst day of their lives, she resigned from the Job, went to Mali and wrote about music, then to India and taught English to Tibetan monks. She now lives in Sydney.
The Old School is her first novel. The second is with her publisher – Penguin – while the third is slowly leaking from her head into a small notebook.

The Concrete Midden: P.M. Newton’s blog

P.M. Newton will be appearing with James Bradley and Kirsten Tranter in “When Genres Attack” at Shearers Bookshop on Friday 13th May at 7:30pm
Teaching “Perfect Crime” at the NSW Writers Centre Saturday 4th June
She has an alarming schedule of events and appearances listed on her blog, including Sydney Writers’ Festival.

The Fair Dinkum Baker’s Dozen has been launched especially to celebrate Australian Authors Month which is a cross-genre celebration of Australian writing. In addition to sharing reviews, author interviews, competitions and anything else relating to the writing and reading of works by Aussie authors the month is focussed on raising awareness of the Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP). The ILP is a charity with the aim of raising literacy levels among Indigenous Australians in rural and remote communities and it works in partnership with the Australian Book Industry and the Fred Hollows Foundation.


publ. Penguin Group Australia 28 June 2010
ISBN 978-0-670-7451-8
363 pages
copy supplied by the publishers.

Publisher’s blurb:

Sydney, 1992. Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly is a young detective making her way in what was, until recently, the best police force money could buy. Now ICAC has the infamous Roger Rogerson in the spotlight, and the old ways are out. Ned’s sex and background still make her an outsider in the force, but Sydney is changing, expanding, modernising, and so is the Job.

When two bodies are found in the foundations of an old building in Sydney’s west, Ned is drawn into the city’s past: old rivalries, old secrets and old wrongs. As she works to discover who the bones belong to – and who dumped them there – she begins to uncover secrets that threaten to expose not only the rotten core of the police force, but also the dark mysteries of her own family.

Bill Clinton has just become the US President, and Detective Ned Kelly has just failed Undercover Training Course #32 at the Goulburn Police Academy. It is a commonly held opinion that Kelly was always going to fail, set up as a lesson to other would-bes. Kelly is based at Bankstown Police Station, has been a detective for two years, and good at her job.The discovery of old bones in an excavation, and their subsequent identification, unravels elements of Kelly’s past and threatens to destroy the memories that she and her sister have of their dead parents. Just as Kelly is really the new kid on the block, many of the other detectives have been around for decades, cadets and even higher when she was just starting school. Some are brushed with corruption, some are just plain tough.

THE OLD SCHOOL is strongly rooted in local Sydney history: the Royal Commission into corruption in the New South Wales police force, and political pillars from the late 70s: Aboriginal land rights and the wounds of the Vietnam War.  P.M. Newton does an excellent job of weaving a story around these elements. The characters she creates are strong, credible, and well fleshed out. I’m immensely impressed with this book. It has an historical authenticity about it, but achieves a clever balance with the crime fiction.

My rating: 4.6

P.M. Newton is a Sydney based crime writer. THE OLD SCHOOL is her debut novel, and is promised as the first in a series, all featuring Detective Kelly, and set in recent Sydney history.
P.M. Newton’s blog