Savage Victory: Announcing the 18th Scarlet Stiletto Awards' Results

Melbourne author, Angela Savage, has won 1st prize in Sisters in Crime Australia’s 18th Scarlet Stiletto Awards – the first crime writer with one or more crime novels under the belt to do so in the 18 years of the short-story competition.

“It’s a turn-up for the books,” says judges’ spokesperson, Phyllis King. “The Stiletto Award has previously gone to writers who might have published lots of stories but haven’t yet managed a novel.”

Savage won the HarperCollins First Prize of $750 plus the coveted trophy, a scarlet stiletto shoe with a steel stiletto heel plunging into a perspex mount, for “The Teardrop Tattoos”, a confronting story about a woman who wreaks her revenge on a local mother she believes responsible for her having to give up her dog, a restricted breed. It’s an inadvertently topical theme. However, Savage submitted her story weeks before four-year-old Ayen Chol was tragically killed in an attack by a pit bull terrier, prompting the Victorian State Government to strengthen laws on restricted breeds.

She told a packed crowd at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel on Friday night (25/11) that Sisters in Crime had been there for her when her writing career began.

“Now Sisters in Crime has given me the opportunity to try something new. My novels are set in Thailand but this story was set in my own neighbourhood of Brunswick. I’m thrilled that this award has affirmed what for me was a change of pace – and place!”

Coincidentally, Savage wrote the introduction to Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut, a collection of 22 winning stories from the competition over the past four years, published by ClanDestine Press last month.

She was invited to write the introduction because she won 3rd prize in 1998 for a story which launched her Thailand-based series featuring ex-pat PI Jayne Keeney. She wrote, “If it hadn’t been for the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, Jayne Keeney might never have been born. [It] gave me the confidence to persevere.”

Savage, who heads up a small peak body of community development organisations in Melbourne, has published two books in the Jayne Keeney series, Behind the Night Bazaar and The Half-Child. (For Angela’s reactions to the winning the award, see her blog:

Melbourne crime writer, PD (Phillipa) Martin presented the awards, standing in TV crime scriptwriter and producer Kris Wyld who had a last-minute family medical emergency.

Sisters in Crime’s national short story competition offers $5000 in prizes this year – the largest amount ever – and attracted 127 entries. Seventeen stories by authors from all over Australia made it to the shortlist.

The Kill City 2nd prize ($400) and the new Clan Destine Press Cross-Genre Award ($300) went to book editor Liz Filleul (Mt Dandenong, Vic) for “Crime Traveller”, a witty story about a time-travelling crime writer who uses her iTravel personal time-travelling device to investigate long-gone-cold cases. Filleul won first prize in 2004, was runner-up in 2007 and has received three special commendations. Her novel To All Appearance, Dead (Bettany Press, UK), is set in the same schoolgirl fiction collecting world as her 2004 Scarlet Stiletto-winning story.

Readings Books Music Film 3rd prize($300 voucher) went to Carmela Saloman (Bellingen, NSW) for “The Barleymint Corpse”, about a murder investigation in a locked psychiatric rehabilitation centre which ends up being solved by an inmate. She is currently completing her PhD in the field of mental health.

Vicky Daddo (Hazlewood North, Vic) won the Kerry Greenwood Malice Domestic Award ($500) for “The Ugly Thing”, about a teenager whose life as an introverted loner is mirrored by her obsession with her pet axolotl.To date, her stories have appeared in Woman’s Day, That’s Life Fast Fiction, Award Winning Australian Writing 2009, 100 Stories for Queensland and other anthologies.

U3A student, Anne Cost (Paynesville, Vic), took out both Benn’s Books: Best Investigative Award ($200) and the Olvar Wood Late Starters Award, a three-month $1250 mentorship for “Out of the Dark” about an alcoholic homeless woman who believes that she has witnessed the murder of a boy in her squat and sets out to find the truth.

The Cate Kennedy Award for Best New Talent ($350) went to Marguerite Johnson (Mayfield, NSW), an academic with a passion for Greek and Latin literature for her story, “The Interview”, a modern Australian re-telling of the ancient Greek myth of Medea.

The Pulp Fiction Award for the Funniest Crime Story($150 voucher) went to Sarah Evans (Bridgetown, WA) for “Cock-a-hoop”. Sarah also took out this award last year and this takes her awards in the competition to date to 5.

Last year, her daughter, Mary Evans, 17, was highly commended in the Allen & Unwin Young Writers’ Award ($400) for writers 18 and this year was co-winner, for “Stage Fright”. Caulfield Grammar student, Sarah  Robinson-Hatch (East Brighton, Vic), who turned 13 the week of the awards, shared the award for her story “Revenge is never the answer”.

The Scriptworks Great Film Idea Award($200) went to Fiona Drury (St Kilda, Vic) for “The Detail”, a story about a woman who decides to investigate her husband’s apparent suicide. It’s a case of persistence paying off since Drury has entered the awards pretty much every year since their inception.

Another published novelist is take out an award was Kim Westwood (O’Connor, ACT) who won the one-off Judges’ Award ($250, donated by Catherine Leppert) for “Trouble in Nine Acts”. Set in some of Kim’s favourite places in Melbourne's CBD, it features a failed sleuth and trouble magnet. Kim was the recipient of a Varuna Writers’ House Retreat Fellowship for her first novel, The Daughters of Moab (2008). Her second novel, The Courier’s New Bicycle (2011), has been described by Australian Bookseller+Publisher magazine as “a disturbingly credible and darkly noir post-cyberpunk tale”.

Highly commended were:

  • Creative consultant Amanda Carmen-Cromer (Taroona, Tas) for “Death is Served: a murder in four courses”. Amanda has just finished her first crime novel, set in Tamania;
  • Painter and writer, Marian Cox (Parap, NT) for “A Good Sunday Roast”;
  • Retiree Suzanne Gaskell (Footscray, Vic) for “Adonis’ Fortune”;
  • Kerry James(Wendouree, Vic) for “Queue Jumping”. Kerry has won numerous awards in Sydney-based Queen of Crime and the Scarlet Stiletto competitions and is completing a mentorship with Olvar Wood which she won as the Late Starters Award in 2009 and 2010;
  • Free-lance writer Robin Story (Maroochydore, Qld) for “Sleuthing for Beginners”;
  • Scarlet Stiletto 2009 winner, Amanda Wrangles (Crib Point, Vic) for “The Old Lady Who Smoked Cigars”.

Judges spokesperson, Phyllis King, said that, as usual, the judges identified certain themes in the stories.

“Several story titles this year included numbers while other involved protagonists who sussed out criminals and then benefited from the crime themselves. There was one theme, however, which was seriously disturbing and which the judges found unacceptable. That was the gratuitous killing of animals – particularly cats. We ask that authors stick to killing humans in future – the judges love animals.”

So far, 15 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners (including category winners) have gone on to have books published – Cate Kennedy, Angela Savage, Josephine Pennicott, Sara Evans, Inga Simpson, Alex Palmer, Liz Filleul, Margaret Bevege, Patricia Bernard, Bronwen Blake, Jo McGahey, Cheryl Jorgensen, Kylie Fox, Amanda Wrangles and Tara Moss.

In the first part of the ceremony author and Sisters in Crime convenor, Lindy Cameron, interrogated four previous Scarlet Stiletto Award winners about the art of writing a criminally good short story: Eleanor Marney (2010); Amanda Wrangles (2009); Evelyn Tsitis (2008) and Liz Filleul (2004). All four are mothers and like writing short stories as they can fit it into their hectic schedules.

Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut, a collection of 26 winning stories from the first 13 years of the competition was published by ClanDestine Press together with the volume of more recent stories for SheKilda 2011: Australian Women Crime Writers’ Convention (7-9 October), Sisters in Crime’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

The 19th Scarlet Stiletto Awards close on August 31, 2012. The entry fee is $10. Entry forms will be available next year by writing to Sisters in Crime, GPO Box 5319, Melbourne 3001 or via our website (sign up for the newsletter to receive notification when it has been published!)

Print quality photos can be emailed on request:

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