Review: SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, Craig Sisterson

aka The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film and TV of Australia and New Zealand Kindle Edition

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • paperback available for pre-order but publication delayed due to Covid-19 pandemic
  • File Size: 2334 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oldcastle Books (23 April 2020)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B08166XDLZ

Synopsis (Amazon)

Australian and New Zealand crime and thriller writing – collectively referred to as Southern Cross Crime – is booming globally, with antipodean authors regularly featuring on awards and bestseller lists, such as Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize winning The Luminaries and Jane Harper’s big commercial hit, The Dry, winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award.

Hailing from two sparsely populated nations on the far edge of the former Empire – neighbours that are siblings in spirit, vastly different in landscape – Australian and New Zealand crime writers offer readers a blend of exotic and familiar, seasoned by distinctive senses of place, outlook, and humour, and roots that trace to the earliest days of our genre.

Southern Cross Crime is the first comprehensive guide to modern crime writing from “Down Under”. From coastal cities to the outback, leading critic Craig Sisterson showcases key titles from over 250 storytellers, plus screen dramas ranging from Mystery Road to Top of the Lake. Fascinating insights are added through in-depth interviews with some of the prime suspects who paved the way or instigated the global boom, including Michael Robotham, Paul Cleave, Emma Viskic, Paul Thomas, Candice Fox, and Garry Disher.

My Take

This is an essential purchase for crime fiction readers especially in Australia and New Zealand, but also those world-wide who enjoy “antipodean noir”.
It is an authoritative guide to what to read. Craig has focused on the ‘modern era’ choosing the establishment of the Australian Crime Writers Association and the inaugural Ned Kelly awards in 1996 as the starting point. He has attempted to survey “more than 300 Australian and New Zealand crime writers…. and endeavoured to be as inclusive and wide ranging as possible. You will find bestsellers, award winners, hidden gems, lesser known authors, and fresh voices.

My own reading of New Zealand crime fiction has slackened in recent years, so I began with paper and pen, making note of titles to hunt down. I found that I have more or less kept up with Australian crime fiction, but also that I have missed on quite a few gems, and there was confirmation that my reading of New Zealand crime fiction hasn’t even been the tip of the iceberg. I now have a list that will keep me busy for many years.

This book is a wonderful achievement, not only giving readers tips on a wide variety of titles to look for, interviews with prominent achievers, but also, in the Appendix, arranged from most recent to first years, the Ned Kelly Award winners, the Ngaio Marsh Award winners,and the Davitt Award Winners.

My rating: 5.0

About the author
Craig Sisterson is a features writer and crime fiction expert from New Zealand who writes for newspapers and magazines in several countries. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at festivals on three continents. He’s been a judge of the McIlvanney Prize and Ned Kelly Awards, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir.

Davitt Awards 2013: record 61 books on longlist

The Sisters in Crime Australia have a record 61 Books in contention for the 13th Davitt Awards (2013) for the best crime books by Australian women.

Six Davitt Awards will be presented at a gala dinner on 31 August by leading New Zealand crime writer, Vanda Symon, at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne: Best Novel (Adult); Best Novel (Children’s and Young Adult); Best True Crime Book; Best Debut Book (any category); Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 600 members of Sisters in Crime Australia).

See more details and the longlist here.

Ned Kelly Awards: Longlists 2013

The 2013 Ned Kelly Awards longlists are now available at the newly created Australian Crime Writers Association website.

See the guidelines for the awards here.

Check the longlists for Best Fiction, First Fiction, and True Crime here.

The short list will be announced as part of the Byron Bay Writers Festival on the 2nd August.

The winners will be announced at the Awards Night that will be part of the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Short Story Prizes A-Plenty

If you’re an Australian woman you have until the end of this month to enter Sisters in Crime Australia‘s Crime & Mystery Short Story Competition. In its 19th year there are two new award categories including a total of $1500 worth of prizes being sponsored by Melbourne’s famous Athenaeum Library for the best short story containing the words “body in the library”! The complete list of categories is

  • HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS 1st Prize: $1000 (plus the coveted Scarlet Stiletto trophy)
  • KILL CITY 2nd Prize: $400
  • THE CATE KENNEDY 3rd Prize: $350
  • ALLEN & UNWIN Young Writer’s Award: $500
  • ATHENAEUM LIBRARY Body in the Library Award: $1000, Runner-up: $500
  • THE KERRY GREENWOOD, Malice Domestic Award: $500
  • THE CLAN DESTINE PRESS, Cross-genre Award: $300
  • THE CATHERINE LEPPERT, Best Environmental Theme Award: $250
  • BENN’S BOOKS Best Investigative Story Award: $200 voucher
  • SCRIPTWORKS Great Film Idea Award: $200
  • PULP FICTION Funniest Crime Award: $150 voucher

Unlike other English-language markets Australia does not have a strong tradition of short story writing so it is terrific to see this competition still going strong and gaining new sponsors. For the writers among you here is the entry form which you must submit, along with your story, by 31 August 2012. For the readers you might like to check out the two collections of previous winners and entrants to the competition.

A fair dinkum month – February 2012

We reviewed five books this month

We also posted the answers to our Australia Day historical crime fiction quiz and discussed the TV adaptation of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. 

Reviews of Aussie crime fiction elsewhere on the web

Andrew at Pulp Curry reviewed Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD, COLD GROUND and proclaims it “sharp, well written, combining political analysis with a hard noir edge.”

Crime writer Angela Savage reviews Wendy James’ THE MISTAKE calling it “a compelling, gut-wrenching novel that is not easily categorised. Part family drama, part psychological thriller, it pushes the boundaries of the crime genre”. Angela talked about this book along with Peter Corris’ THE COMEBACK on Radio National last week too.

Angela also reviewed Peter Corris’ THE COMEBACK saying that “reading Cliff Hardy novels is like sitting down with a favourite uncle in a pub and getting him to tell his best stories over a few beers”.

Sarah at Crimepieces went outside her comfort zone to read Kathryn Fox’s SKIN AND BONE and enjoyed the plotting.

Jon at Bite the Book reviewed Tony Cavanaugh’s debut novel PROMISE, which he found brutal and shocking but compelling.

Shelleyrae at Book’d Out reviewed Katherine Howell’s latest novel SILENT FEAR which she found so exciting she read it in a single sitting. Meanwhile Jason Nahrung tackled Katherine’s first novel FRANTIC for the Australian Women Writer’s challenge which he found “a methodical tale, competently told, with attention to detail — leaves in drains, the smell of food — and no grandstanding.

At Petrona Maxine reviewed Y.A. Erskine’s THE BROTHERHOOD and labelled it a “a superb police-procedural with a difference”. 

Margot Kinberg added Peter Temple’s BAD DEBTS to her thoughtful In The Spotlight series and described it as “a ‘hardboiled’ novel with depth and character, Bad Debts is also a believable group of crimes with a believable set of motives in a distinct setting”.

Australian crime fiction in the news and on the web

There’s a new free cookbook based on Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman novels available for download (click on the cookbook cover to access the PDF document) (Hat tip to Janet Rudolph)

A reminder that it’s never to late to join the Australian Women Writers Challenge or the Aussie Authors Challenge (or both) to motivate your 2012 consumption of Aussie crime fiction. 

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A new small press launches 5 March

Crime Factory Publications is a new small press that will officially launch on Monday 5 March at a Melbourne event I wish I could attend myself. American author Megan Abbott will join honorary Aussie Adrian McKinty and true-blue Australian crime writers David Whish-Wilson and Leigh Redhead to officially launch the press by reading from their works. Surely the event is worth attending just to hear Megan Abbot tread from  her soon to be published novel DARE ME for the very first time in public!

When 5 March 2012, 7:00pm (readings to start around 8pm)

Where Grumpy’s Green, 125 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Enquiries to: or follow @crimefactory on twitter for any updates

Cost: Free. Though books and booze will be available for purchase 🙂

To help celebrate their launch Crime Factory Publications will also be releasing an Australian exclusive print-only edition of The First Shift short story anthology which includes stories from Ken Bruen, Rogert Smith, Dennis Tafoya and Hilary Davidson. In even more exciting news for us here at Fair Dinkum HQ an all-Aussie anthology entitled Hard Labour will be published later this year.

We’ll keep you updated with relevant Crime Factory news but do head along to the launch next week if you can (or help me think of a good excuse I can give my boss for why I won’t be at work next Monday and Tuesday so I can go to Melbourne).

A strong start for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher

There are a lot of crime shows on our television screens and not quite all of them are American or English. But it is very rare for there to be an Australian-made TV drama series based on an Australian series of crime novels. So there was a bit of excitement in the air at Fair Dinkum HQ last night when the first episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, based on Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels, went to air.

Happily I was not disappointed. The show captured the spirit of the books very well, ably assisted by Essie Davis as our larger than life heroine Phryne and Ashleigh Cummings as her confidential maid Dot who are the standouts of the regular characters for me. And if this first episode is anything to go by the guest stars for the weekly episodes will be a parade of some of Australia’s best actors with Miriam Margoyles and Miranda Otto both making appearances.

But with period dramas the acting is only part of the story, the setting has to be evocative too and this one looks the goods. There’s a bit of noticeable CGI in some of the outdoor scenes (the port scene!) but the close-up building exteriors and the indoor scenes look pretty authentic and some of Melbourne’s historic buildings are used to great effect. I’m sure there are loads of people who play a role in getting the look of the show right but I’ll single out costume designer Marian Boyce. I might be biased as it’s probably my favourite era in fashion (really the only era I know anything about) but the clothes all look great, especially Phryne’s seemingly bottomless wardrobe. I wish I’d been born in an era when women wore hats on a daily basis.

As far as plots go this first episode didn’t slavishly follow the book it is based on but did have a lot to fit in with a mystery to solve and a fair amount of Phryne’s back story to squeeze into 56 minutes (in fact more back story than you get in the first book of the series). I don’t have a problem with TV shows slicing and dicing the storylines of books because timing demands it and I don’t think anything here was detrimental to the basic facts and overall feel of the Phryne Fisher stories. Writer Deb Cox has achieved the same slightly over the top feel and fun-filled dialogue as the books contain and to me that’s more important than following a plot line precisely.

Most of the reaction to the show has been positive which is encouraging to see. It did very well in the ratings (even edging out the cricket which is almost un-Australian) and having aired on a Friday night I imagine it will pick up a lot of viewers via ABC’s iView (sorry this is only available to Australian viewers, though in good news for us it looks like it will be on line for several months rather than the two weeks most shows are available). Reviews in The Australian and at Change the Channel and Film Blerg all have mostly nice things to say about the show too.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a little bit camp, delicious to look at and loads of fun. It is also a showcase of great Australian acting talent, especially of the female variety which is something of a rarity. That’s not to say the men in the show aren’t good, merely that the female characters do have the best roles. For once. It’s a show that could be enjoyed by both fans of the books and those new to the characters and I’d recommend you watch it (or if you’re overseas watch out for it as rights have been sold into several markets already).


A fair dinkum month – January 2012 (and a bit of December 2011)

Australian crime fiction in the news and on the web

I discovered that Andrew at Pulp Curry is a fellow Bryan Brown fan when Andrew re-posted this excellent review of THE EMPTY BEACH, a movie featuring the aforementioned Brown as private investigator Cliff Hardy in an adaptation of Peter Corris‘ 1983 novel of the same name. The review was written by Dave Riley who blogs about all things espionage related at Permission to Kill

Author of the Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman series Kerry Greenwood answered Booktopia’s Ten Terrifying Questions and also appeared In Conversation with fellow writer Tara Moss on 13Street TV (11 minute video).

Sulari Gentill spoke to THE AGE about her new book, about how many people you have to kill to get your crime fiction credentials and how she turned her series into a family affair by setting her books in a period on which her husband is a scholar.

Here at Fair Dinkum Crime

We neglected to do a round-up for December so here are our reviews for the past two months

And in case you missed it we both listed the five Aussie crime fiction titles that most impressed us in 2011

Reviews of Aussie crime fiction elsewhere on the web

Lenny Bartulin‘s third Jack Susko novel DE LUXE was reviewed at Booklover Book Reviews where Joanne said “this story is slick and sexy – everything the very endearing protagonist Jack Susko is not”. Must drag this one from my own TBR pile very soon.

Peter Corris‘ 1998 Cliff Hardy novel THE BLACK PRINCE (number 22 in a series which is now up to 37) was reviewed at Permission to Kill and described as more accessible than the earlier novels in the series but also indicating that the series has ‘lost some of its ferocious bite’ and rough edges. Corris‘ most recent novel COMEBACK was reviewed at Book’d Out where Shelleyrae found it “an entertaining and satisfying read” and at Aust Crime Fiction where Karen, who is a long time fan of the series, thought the book continued “the fantastic resurgence in this Australian crime fiction stalwart”.

Jaye Ford‘s BEYOND FEAR was reviewed at Aust Crime Fiction where Karen found it had plot wobbles but was fast paced and might appeal to those who “are comfortable with the idea that the isolation of rural existence means that there’s just got to be a lot of nasty weirdos lurking behind the nearest gum tree”. This sentence made me laugh, not least because I, a city girl, just might occasionally be guilty of thinking that way.

Sulari Gentill‘s first novel in the Rowly Sinclair series, A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN, was reviewed at The Banana Lounge where Tseen Khoo enjoys the author’s evocation of the 1930’s Australian art scene and well-crafted characters. Meanwhile the second book in the series, A DECLINE IN PROPHETS was reviewed at Fiction by Caroline Sully where the mix of fact, fiction and wry humour was a hit. And finally Sulari’s third book in the series, MILES OFF COURSE, was reviewed at Booktopia Blog, Aust Crime Fiction and  Authoraire where the reviewer “...loved the historical charm of the setting…and respected the gentlemanly approach to the story,  not overwhelming the reader with gore or profanity, yet still providing an intelligent, twisting tale of crime and conspiracy“. Exactly!

Kerry Greenwood‘s first ever Phryne Fisher novel COCAINE BLUES was reviewed at Aust Crime Fiction. The first then books are being re-released over the next couple of months with swish new covers featuring Essie Davis as who is playing Phryne in the upcoming 13-part TV series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, to air locally on the ABC.

Adrian Hyland‘s GUNSHOT ROAD was reviewed by Sarah at Crimepieces who loved the language of the book and who picked up on the fact that all of protagonist Emily Tempest toughness couldn’t prevent her from receiving the rough treatment often handed out to women in society.

Noel Mealey‘s debut MURDER AND REDEMPTION was reviewed at Aust Crime Fiction and Karen enjoyed the central plot that focused on illegal drug trafficking in Australia’s remote and sparsely populated north-west.

Finola Moorhead‘s 1991 feminist mystery STILL MURDER set in and around Sydney and tackling some dark themes including the notion of war as a crime was reviewed most intelligently at Petrona. It’s a complex and somewhat uneven book but Maxine gets to the heart of things in her review.

Malla Nunn‘s LET THE DEAD LIE was reviewed as part of the Australian Women Writers challenge by suspense writer Helene Young, who thought the book (set in 1950’s South Africa) depicted “a seedy, segregated world where white was right and anyone else was fair game”.

Peter Temple’s TRUTH was reviewed by ex-pat Aussie Kim at Reading Matters who got to the heart of the reason why I never did publish a review of the book as if she had been inside my own head with the line “the book feels claustrophobic — and depressing. I felt heavy-hearted whenever I picked it up and I was anxious to be rid of it”

A reminder that it’s never to late to join the Australian Women Writers Challenge or the Aussie Authors Challenge (or both) to motivate your 2012 consumption of Aussie crime fiction. 

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Sisters in crime tell short stories

The Australian arm of Sisters in Crime introduced the Scarlet Stiletto Awards for short stories by Australian women crime writers in 1994. By the time 2011’s awards had been announced 2181 stories had been received for consideration since the awards’ inception. Such largesse could fill several volumes of anthologies but, to date at any rate, you have to make do with two collections, both now available in eBook format from Clan Destine Press. Unlike the US and UK, the Australian crime writing scene does not have a strong tradition of short story writing so this is a rare opportunity to dip into some award-winning Australian crime writing.

Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut was first published in 2007 and contains the best 26 stories from the first 13 years of the competition. They are

  1. Dust Devils by Julie Waight
  2. Concealer by Kerry Munnery
  3. Psycho Magnet by Tara Moss
  4. Habit by Cate Kennedy
  5. Slasher’s Return by Jacqui Horwood
  6. Froth and Trouble or Sun Hill Blues by Margaret Pollock
  7. Still Life by Dianne Gray
  8. Thursday Night at the Opera by Christina Lee
  9. Birthing the Demons by Josephine Pennicott
  10. Shifty Business by Liz Cameron
  11. Pecking Order by Roxxy Bent
  12. The Bodyguard by Sarah Evans
  13. Mrs Wilcox’s Milk Saucepan by Roxxy Bent
  14. Everything $2 on This Rack by Cate Kennedy
  15. Operation Bluewater by Inga Simpson
  16. After Azaria by Ann Penhallurick
  17. Brought to Book by Liz Filleul
  18. The Supper Murder by Margaret Bevege
  19. What We Do Best by Phyl O’Regan
  20. Dead Water by Bronwyn Blake
  21. Luisa by Christina Lee
  22. Ripe Red Tomatoes by Ronda Bird
  23. Dead Woman in the Water by Janis Spehr
  24. Divine Intervention by Louise Connor
  25. Floating in a Live Circuit by Siobhan Mullany
  26. Vermin by Janis Spehr

The collection is available from Amazon (kindle) or Clan Destine Press (ePub)

Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut features the 1st Prize winners from 2007 – 2010 and a selection of category winners from the 17-year history of the Scarlet Stiletto Awards.They are

  1. Kill-Dead-Garten by Aoife Clifford
  2. Amanda by Lois Murphy
  3. Sally’s Seachange by Kristin McEvoy
  4. Cold Comfort by Sarah Evans
  5. Monitoring the Neighbours by Kirstin Watson
  6. Poppies by Kylie Fox
  7. Persia Bloom by Amanda Wrangles
  8. Kitchens Can be Dangerous by Ronda Bird
  9. The Key Suspect by Jane Blechyden
  10. Smoke by Aoife Clifford
  11. The Write Place by Liz Filleul
  12. Playing Chicken by Corinna Hente
  13. Side Window by Vikki Petraitis
  14. Bucket Time by Kerry James
  15. Undeceive by Evelyn Tsitas
  16. Fence Hanger by Linda Tubnor
  17. Plane Jane by Louise Bolland
  18. Xenos by Evelyn Tsitas
  19. Check-Out Time by Rowena Helston
  20. A Man of Fashion by Lesley Truffle
  21. Death World by Eleanor Marney
  22. Tallow by Eleanor Marney

The collection is available from Amazon (kindle) or Clan Destine Press (ePub)





A fair dinkum month – November (and some of October) 2011

Things were a bit frantic at Fair Dinkum HQ at the end of October so I neglected to do the normal monthly round-up and have included a few relevant items below.

Australian crime fiction in the news and on the web

This interview with crime (and now also fantasy) writer Tara Moss tackles a wide range of subjects including the reactions to Tara’s recent blog post which mused about gender bias in publishing, motherhood and where Tara would travel if she could access a time machine.

The Crime Fiction Lover site posted a list of top 5 debut Aussie crime writers, four of these have been reviewed at Fair Dinkum and we’d agree they’re excellent writers. Might be time for us to do some lists of our own eh?

There are two reading challenges for next year that could motivate you to read some great Aussie crime fiction. Full details of the Aussie Authors Challenge and the Australian Women Writers Challenge are available here.

The Australian Chapter of the Sisters in Crime handed out the Davitt Awards for full length crime writing by Australian women on 8 October and the Scarlet Stiletto Awards for short story crime writing by Australian women were announced on 25 November.

Reviews of Aussie Crime Fiction

Lenny Bartulin‘s THE BLACK RUSSIAN was reviewed at Page Turners where Becky enjoyed what was for her a home town book (it’s set in Sydney) and the humour of the larger than life characters.

Gary Corby‘s THE IONA SANCTION was released in the US on 8 November and was favourably reviewed at Earful of Cider where Sarah picks up on the way Corby makes ancient Greek history accessible and interesting and S.Krishna’s Books where Swapna thought it lived up to the high standards of Corby’s first novel . The book is due for release in Australia on 3 January (though I just managed to buy an audio book version which makes something of a mockery of geo-restrictions).

Garry Disher‘s WHISPERING DEATH was reviewed here at Fair Dinkum by Kerrie who said the consummate plotting and storytelling skills on display make Disher the equal of any international crime writer. Kerrie and I don’t always agree but on this point we are in total harmony. The book was also reviewed at Tas Book Lover where David thought it “a wonderfully enjoyable crime fiction novel with absorbing and interesting characters“.

Y.A. Erskine‘s THE BROTHERHOOD was the subject of one of my relatively rare 5-star reviews here at Fair Dinkum. It’s an outstanding novel, especially amazing when you realise it’s by a first time author, and one of those books that I keep thinking about long after closing the back cover.

John M Green‘s BORN TO RUN was reviewed here at Fair Dinkum. It’s a political thriller set in the US and is a great romp of a tale about a woman who wants to be President.

I reviewed Kerry Greenwood‘s COOKING THE BOOKS here at Fair Dinkum. It’s an intelligent cosy mystery which takes place on the set of a new TV drama being shot in Melbourne where someone is playing practical jokes on the show’s star.

Kerrie reviewed Peter Klein‘s RING OF FIRE here at Fair Dinkum and thought the tale of a racing steward was a nicely paced novel, attempting to get past the “who” and to explore, the “why”.

Media commentator and QC Stuart Littlemore‘s foray into crime fiction, HARRY CURRY COUNSEL OF CHOICE, was reviewed at Aust Crime Fiction which saw the 5 short stories featuring a brilliant legal mind “a gently amusing little wander around in the far end of crime process”.

Barry Maitland‘s CHELSEA MANSIONS was another book I reviewed here at Fair Dinkum. It’s an above average police procedural full of characters who invite you into their lives, if only for a while, and a satisfyingly intricate plot and it brings to life a delightful-sounding area of London.

Carolyn Morwood‘s DEATH AND THE SPANISH LADY was also reviewed here at Fair Dinkum. It’s a historical fiction novel set after the end of the First World War as Spanish Flu has its grip on Melbourne but nurse Eleanor Jones gets involved in the investigation of one death that isn’t the fault of the flu.

Arthur Upfield’s 1957 novel THE BUSHMAN WHO CAME BACK was reviewed here at Fair Dinkum by guest reviewer Bill Selnes from Canada. It’s interesting to see what Bill makes of this book from another time and place. I must admit I’ve struggle to read Upfield’s books as I find them more dated than other contemporary works and I cringe sometimes at some of the thoughts expressed. But Bill’s thoughtful review does make me think I should re-visit this author who is a big part of Australia’s crime fiction heritage.

I reviewed Nicole Watson‘s debut novel THE BOUNDARY here at Fair Dinkum and thought it a fine addition to the growing library of contemporary Australian crime fiction which examines our society intelligently and realistically while telling a ripping yarn.

Hopefully you can all find something full of Aussie goodness amongst all of that.If I missed your review of an Aussie crime fiction novel or some news you’d like us to know drop us a line at fairdinkum crime [at] gmail [dot] com.

In Decorating news we had a bit of a redesign here at Fair Dinkum. For those who read these posts via email or RSS do drop by and check out our nice new header, designed by the lovely and talented Katie at KD Designs.