SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES:
TWELTH DAVITT AWARDS’ RESULTS
Sulari Gentill from Batlow (regional NSW) won the Davitt Award (Adult Fiction) for her historical crime novel, A Decline in Prophets (Pantera Press) at Sisters in Crime Australia’s crime writing awards (1 September).
Fremantle (WA) writer Meg McKinlay took out Davitt Award (Children’s/Young Adult) for Surface Tension (Walker Books) while Melbourne journalist, Liz Porter, was awarded the Davitt Award (True Crime) for Cold Case Files: Past crimes solved by new forensic science (Pan Macmillan Australia).
The inaugural Davitt Award (Debut) went to former journalist and broadcaster, Jaye Ford (Lake Macquarie, NSW) for her psychological thriller, Beyond Fear (Random House). Forde also won the Davitt Award (Readers’ Choice) which was jointly awarded to former Tasmanian police officer Y.A. Erskine for The Brotherhood (Random House), a novel about corruption in the Tasmanian police force.
High commendations were awarded to Carolyn Morwood, Death and the Spanish Lady (Pulp Fiction Press) in the Davitt (Adult) category and Ursula Dubosarsky, The Golden Day (Allen & Unwin) in the (Children’s/Young Adult) category.
Award-winning Swedish crime writer Ǻsa Larsson presented the 12th Davitt Awards at a gala dinner of over 100 crime buffs at the Celtic Club in Melbourne where she also talked to Professor Sue Turnbull about her ‘life in crime’. Turnbull coined the term ‘Arctic Noir’ to describe Larsson’s novels which are set in the icy wilderness of northern Sweden.
Turnbull, also a national co-convenor of Sisters in Crime and the Sydney Morning Herald’s crime columnist) said that Sisters in Crime had been delighted (and amazed), to see women scooping the pools at this year’s Ned Kelly Awards (29 August).
“Four of the 6 awards on offer went to women including the Life Time Achievement Award which went to Gabrielle Lord. To cap it off, all presenters were women so it was far from the blokey affair of previous years,” she said.
“The sisters are doing it for themselves right across the crime board. This year, we’ve had the pleasure of the TV series, Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries, based on the 1920s flapper detective series by Kerry Greenwood, a founding member of Sisters in Crime.
“You open the Australian Women’s Weekly and you read a feature on Warragul member and author, Honey Brown. You open the Saturday Weekend magazine of the Herald Sun) and you read features about Sydney members Kathryn Fox and Josephine Pennicott – or Honey Brown. You walk into the airport and there is a giant illuminated poster promoting the latest novel by Cairns member Helene Young.”
Larsson delighted the audience with her ability to make jokes in her second language, English. She was so impressed by the event that she intends to set up Sisters in Crime in Sweden.
Davitt judge spokesperson Tanya King-Carmichael said that this year 49 books had competed for the Davitts, handsome carved polished wooded trophies featuring the front cover of the winning book under perspex.
“The surge in young adult and children’s crime fiction by women was particularly notable. For the first time, the number of children’s/young adult crime novels (18) nearly equalled the number of adult crime novels (22) and this is without anything in the league of Gabrielle Lord’s 11-book nomination for her Conspiracy 365 series last year,” she said.
“However, the number of true books was again fairly low with most coming from independent and small publishers, a worrying trend. They also varied significantly in quality and in subject matter.”
King-Carmichael said that A Decline in Prophets, Gentill’s second in Rowland Sinclair series, set in early 1930s, proved that “the difficult second novel can be delivered with style and aplomb”.
Gentill, a former lawyer who now grows black truffles in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, said, “To receive any literary award is gratifying, but when the award is the Davitt—for which writers would not only kill, but in fact must kill in order to be eligible—it is a truly extraordinary honour.”
Paving the Way, Gentill’s fourth book in the Rowland Sinclair series, is just out.
King-Carmichael said that the Davitt (True Crime) had never before gone to an anthology.
“The strength of Cold Case Files lies in clearly explaining how modern technology can be used to break cold cases,” she said.
Porter told the crowd, “A book like Cold Case Files is a hell of a lot of work. There were twenty cases, from all around Australia, from the UK and the US, to research. An award like this tells me that I have succeeded in entertaining a group of people whose intelligence I respect and whose interests I share. It’s a wonderful feeling,”
The Davitt judges described Meg McKinlay’s young adult novel, Surface Tension as “a stand-out, a sublimely beautiful book”.
McKinlay, a former university lecturer, was committed to appear at various WA Book Week events and was unable to accept the award in person. McKinlay send a message to say that she considered herself, as something of an ‘accidental’ crime writer, having failed to realise Surface Tension fitted the genre until it appeared on the Davitt longlist.
“My mother, who is possibly one of Australia’s most avid readers of crime fiction, could not be more delighted with this unexpected turn of events,” she said.
King-Carmichael said that Jaye Ford, the winner of two Davitts, was quickly making a name for herself in the crime genre with her spine-tingling novels featuring gutsy characters and Australian settings.
“Her first book, Beyond Fear, is the highest selling debut crime novel in Australia in 2011 and the fifth highest selling debut across all genres. It should come with the warning: Don’t Read Before Bed,” she said.
Ford’s second thriller, Scared Yet?, was released in March this year. Both novels have sold overseas and are currently being translated into eight languages. Now writing full-time, Jaye is currently working on her third thriller, called Blood Secret and is signed to write a fourth for Random House.
Joint winner of the Davitt (Readers’Choice), Y.A. Erskine, was a constable in the Tasmania Police Service for eleven years. She was active in frontline policing, served as a detective in the CIB and as an investigator in a high-profile, two-year covert task force investigating an international abalone smuggling ring.
The second in her TasPol series, The Betrayal, came out in May. Erskine, who had her first baby last month, now lives in Melbourne where she is writing the third in the series.
She praised Sisters in Crime for providing “a wonderful network of people who are always there to entertain, critique, support and mentor”.
The 550 members of Sisters in Crime vote for the Davitt (Readers’ Choice).
Northcote crime buff Allie Dawe won the Be Immortalized in Fiction competition which means her name will appear in Sulari Gentill’s next crime book.
The Davitts are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.
Media comment: Tanya King-Carmichael on 0418 574 907
Info & author interviews: Carmel Shute, National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia: 0412 569 356