Allen & Unwin scooped Sisters in Crime Australia’s 10th Davitt Awards for best Australian women’s crime writing presented on Saturday night (28/10), as part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
Allen & Unwin books took out all four awards. Brisbane writer Marianne Delacourt received the Davitt (Adult Fiction) for her debut crime novel for Sharp Shooter; Justine Larbalestier won the Davitt (Children’s & Young Adult Fiction ) for Liar; Sydney journalists Candace Sutton and Ellen Connolly shared the Davitt (True Crime) for Lady Killer while prolific Melbourne author, Kerry Greenwood was awarded the Davit’s (Readers’ Choice), as voted by the 500 members of Sisters in Crime, for Forbidden Fruit.
This year 40 crime books competed for the Davitt Awards which were set up by Sisters in Crime in 2001 to celebrate the achievements of Australian women crime writers. Tartan Noir crime ‘queen’ Val McDermid presented the awards before a crowd of 140 at the Celtic Club. For the fourth year running, the awards were sponsored by the Victoria Police Museum.
Sisters in Crime spokesperson, Tanya King-Carmichael, said that the judges this year were particularly impressed by the children’s and young adult crime books:
“Not only were there a high number of children’s and young adult crime novels (10) this year, but the judges were bowled over by their high calibre. We were relieved to see more kick-ass female characters this year, and overall, the plots were tight, complex and original.
“Storylines ranged from the high-tech to the supernatural to romantic to whimsical. It’s also terrific to see the next generation of young PIs, often in teams of boys and girls,” she said.
King-Carmichael said that the once again the adult fiction was wide-ranging, with police procedurals based in Australia and the United States, medical thrillers, romance-crime novels, tales from after the apocalypse and from the future, books with supernatural flavour and of course, the ubiquitous private eye story.
“True crime as a sub-genre is even wider-ranging, and its popularity never diminishing,” she said. “There can be the tendency for some true crime to be sensational, and run the risk of potentially entering the realms of voyeurism and exploitation, or at the other end, to end up being newspaper copy. Sisters in Crime readers demand a more discerning, challenging read, and thankfully they can find it among the ten contenders for the Davitt (True Crime) award this year.”
King-Carmichael said with Sharp Shooter, the adult fiction award winner, it was hard to avoid comparisons with the Janet Evanovich series. “It even says so on the cover – but we welcome her feisty Tara Sharp and the comedy crime caper novel to Australia with open arms, especially when it is done so well. Delacourt is a refreshing new and young voice among this year’s offerings, whose aura-reading PI makes her presence felt. It was also an invigorating change to have a PI novel set in Perth, which was brought to life so strongly in Sharp Shooter,” she said.
Delacourt, who lived in Perth until she was 25, also writes the multi-award winning Parrish Plessis and Sentients of Orion speculative fiction series under the name of Marianne de Pierres. Sharp Turn, the second in the Tara Sharp series, will be out soon.
King-Carmichael praised Candace Sutton and Ellen Connolly for their well-researched account of the decade between the crime and conviction of Bruce Burrell in Lady Killer:: How Conman Bruce Burrell Kidnapped and Killed Rich Women for Their Money.
“Sutton and Connelly are enormously respectful of the victims’ families and paint a very real, poignant picture of their suffering after their loved ones disappear. The narrative provides excellent information about each of the main characters, with interesting and relevant observations
“While it is difficult to call this challenging genre ‘enjoyable’, Lady Killer is very readable and a real page-turner. The judges found it refreshing that the authors did not attempt to insert themselves into the story.”
Sutton and Connolly followed the case from the beginning. Connolly is the author of true crime thriller, The Needle in the Heart Murder (for Allen & Unwin). Connolly, previously with The Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on crime and courts, and The Sunday Telegraph, is currently a free-lance journalist writing regularly for regularly for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian (UK), and women's magazines, including marie claire and other women’s magazines.
King-Carmichael said that competition was fierce this year among the exciting and original batch of children’s and young adult novels.
“Justine Larbalestier’s Liar is aimed squarely at the older end of the market, and as such could easily be picked up and devoured by the discriminating adult reader as well,” she said.
“This is a book which may not be to the tastes of all readers, but which grabs you by the jugular from the first page and drags you headfirst into it. It is elegantly and skilfully structured, told from the point of view of an unreliable main character whose lies and truths have the reader questioning and re-questioning what they believe and what they think they believe. This is an extraordinary novel.”
Larbalestier, who divides her life between Sydney and New York, was unable to receive her award in person. She is currently in New York and sent a message saying she was overjoyed to be recognised as a crime writer as her book, while “very positively received”, has been widely been interpreted as being a different genre entirely from the one she intended it to be.
The judging panel comprised Dr Shelley Robertson (Sisters in Crime member, forensic pathologist), Rosi Tovey (former owner of Chronicles Bookshop in St Kilda), Dr Sue Turnbull (Head of Media Studies, La Trobe University, Sisters in Crime national co-convenor and Sydney Morning Herald crime columnist), Jacqui Horwood and Tanya King-Carmichael (both Sisters in Crime national co-convenors).
The awards are named after Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.