In the days after the Awards Ceremony it's wonderful to watch the congratulations for much deserved winners rolling in.
The lead up is always so hectic (frantic is probably more accurate), and on the night we're all so focused on making sure that everything is where it should be, that I for one don't seem to get a chance to stop and think. Which makes a bit of congratulations watching even more enjoyable as frankly, for the week after the awards night, as the ticking off of final items is done and we slowly catch up on some sleep and all those things we should have been doing, it's rewarding to think that all the effort achieves something worthwhile.
Particularly as the committee are all volunteers, taking away from family, work, social commitments quite a lot of time and emotional energy in keeping everything (hopefully) looking like it's a sometimes-oiled machine!
Lots of things are staying with me from the night like the observations made from the stage by both our true crime winners this year, who wrote books casting critical light on attitudes to homosexuality. In the case of Murray's book The Drowned Man, historical attitudes and bigotry in the Armed Forces at the time, contrasted in his acceptance speech with his observations of a young student of his struggling with dawning awareness of the imposed complexity of his sexuality, as a result of ongoing ill-informed attitudes. McNab's book, Getting Away with Murder, explained the background to his book, and whether or not the failure to solve a series of murders in Sydney over a period of years was as a result of incompetence or still downright bigotry in the Police Force. Having both of these winners touch upon a subject that is front and centre of public discourse, for no reason other than bigotry and scare mongering, was a stark reminder of the power that good writing has to remind us of our need to be vigilant.
Then there's the impact that a career in Forensic has as Esther McKay explained, and buried in the fun of Susanna Lobez's recollections of early love, the way that things that start out simply, could end up causing ramifications for the rest of your life.
Michael Robotham joined us in Melbourne again this year, despite appearing at the BAD Crime Festival in Sydney (meaning an early departure to fly back), despite his own very busy book touring schedule, and despite important personal commitments. His efforts for ACWA in recent years have been astounding, we're so lucky that he's devoted so much of his time and energy, but next year we're definitely looking for another Chairman to free him up to get back to creating more wonderful books for us all to read. Along with his general Chairman duties, Michael also gave a fitting, moving, sometimes hilariously funny tribute to Peter Corris. As most fans will know, Peter retired from the writing life in January this year - leaving behind a legacy of Cliff Hardy, general fiction and non-fiction which is staggering. Michael's speech was fabulous - we will all miss Peter Corris.
Robert Goodman (fellow committee member, fellow reviewer and previous S.D. Harvey shortlister) pointed out in his speech the number of S.D. Harvey winners who have gone onto win Ned Kelly Awards including Zane Lovitt, Emma Viskic and many others. Louise Bassett was our very worthy winner this year, and we're all looking forward to reading her entry in Kill Your Darlings magazine when it's published.
Jane Harper's win with The Dry probably came as no surprise to most people - it's a book that's taken the publishing world by storm, marking a particularly pleasing run of Australian rural crime fiction that has been outstanding. The Dry is an excellent example of using crime to explore community and resilience - which frankly, the bush and rural settings have in spades.
The Best Crime winner this year was Adrian McKinty for the wonderfully titled Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly (reviewed here and here). Adrian's acceptance speech was an absolute cracker, but amongst everything else he made a point which is well worth repeating. As Chairman of ACWA Michael Robotham recused all his books from the awards. That means that in recent years some great crime fiction being written in Australia has been out of the running.
All in all it was a wonderful night. Thanks to our great storytellers Shane Maloney, Esther McKay, Susanna Lobez, Robert Richter QC and Emma Viskic, and generous presenters Rochelle Jackson, Emma Viskic, Robert Goodman and Andrew Nette. Thanks to all our wonderful winners Duncan McNab, Brendan James Murray, Jane Harper, Louise Bassett and Adrian McKinty for joining us. Thanks always to the hardest working committee - many of whom got themselves to Melbourne under their own cost / steam including our incomparable judging co-ordinators Fiona Hardy and Robert Goodman, venue organiser Deborah Crabtree, storyteller co-ordinator Rochelle Jackson, S.D. Harvey judge and co-ordinator Meg Vann, treasurer and S.D. Harvey judge David Whish-Wilson and of course Michael (oh and me - packer of a large box of stuff and possessor of the multi-page to-do-list).
All of our thanks as always to our judging panels (3 people in each category) for their diligence, professionalism, care, attention and careful consideration of all of the entrants. Judging is not easy. It requires a huge commitment of time, and much considered thought and contemplation. None of the decisions of who is shortlisted, or who wins are taken lightly, and I can say from personal experience often involve a lot of angst. As the standard of "the product" improves every year, the task has been getting harder and more rewarding and enjoyable at the same time. Everyone involved in those early stages works like a trojan (which reminds me - we're looking for a new "book wrangler" so if you'd like to join a team of volunteers who like nothing better than a bit of a laugh and love their crime fiction - and you can accept courier deliveries / get to a post office without breaking your back, let me know).
My thanks also as always, go to my wonderful, tolerant, co-operative, talented partner in everything Adam Donnison - who takes photos, helps with the hauling of the ridiculous box, and the hours driving to and kangaroo dodging back from the night, to say nothing this year of his collaboration with local artist Bernard Abadie and Sawmiller Darryl Driscoll who in combination donated timber, designed, prototyped and built a new trophy which we all think is gorgeous and most importantly can be used to open a beer bottle without breaking it (we're looking at you here Mr McKinty).
Great night, great fun, required reading list for all as usual. Needless to say some reviews from this list have been held in abeyance because I didn't want to telegraph too much, so a bit of catching up is about to commence :)
The 2017 shortlists were:
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, Adrian McKinty (reviewed here and here) (Allen & Unwin) * Winner
Crimson Lake, Candice Fox (reviewed here and here) (Penguin Random House)
The Golden Child, Wendy James (Harper Collins)
An Isolated Incident, Emily Maguire (Pan MacMillan)
The Rules of Backyard Cricket, Jock Serong (reviewed here) (Text Publishing)
Out of the Ice, Ann Turner (reviewed here) (Simon & Schuster)
Best True Crime
Getting Away With Murder, Duncan McNab (Penguin Random House) * Joint Winner
The Drowned Man, Brendan James Murray (Bonnier Publishing) * Joint Winner
Code of Silence, Colin Dillon (Allen & Unwin)
Roger Rogerson, Duncan McNab (reviewed here) (Hachette Australia)
Denny Day, Terry Smyth (Penguin Random House)
Murder at Myall Creek, Mark Tedeschi QC (Simon & Schuster)
Best First Fiction
The Dry, Jane Harper (reviewed here and here) (Pan MacMillan) * Winner
Burn Patterns, Ron Elliott (reviewed here) (Fremantle Press)
Only Daughter, Anna Snoekstra (reviewed here and here) (Harlequin)
The Love of a Bad Man, Laura Elizabeth Woollett (reviewed here) (Scribe Publications)
Goodwood, Holly Throsby (Allen & Unwin)
Something for Nothing, Andy Muir (reviewed here) (Affirm Press)
S.D. Harvey Award
'Rules to Live By', Louise Bassett * Winner
Runner Up: 'The Ridge', Katherine Kovacic
A chance encounter in a fish-’n’-chip shop set Brendan Murray on the trail of a mystery. Had a gay man been secretly murdered on HMAS Australia during the Second World War?
The veteran he spoke to was certain. ‘I knew about it,’ he said. ‘We all did.’
But was the story true? If so, who was the dead man? And why was it so hard to find out?
The Drowned Man is a search for the answer, almost stymied by cover-up and silence. In the end, it brings us to the lies that have shrouded our understanding of war, and especially of war at sea.
As one of the survivors poignantly says, ‘I want to pass it on to the next generation. What it was like. What it was really like.’
A work of kaleidoscopic intensity by a strong new Australian voice.
From 1977 to the end of 1986, Duncan McNab was a member of the NSW Police Force. Most of his service was in criminal investigation. The many unsolved deaths and disappearances of young gay men are the crimes that continue to haunt him.
Around 80 men died or disappeared in NSW from the late 70s to early 90s during an epidemic of gay-hate crimes. The line between a vicious assault and murder is a slender one and this was a time of brutal attacks on gay men, featuring gangs of young thugs like the 'Parkside Killers' and 'Bondi Boys', who took to the growing gay rights community with fists and feet.
Even more troubling are incidents in which gay men disappeared and have never been found, or where deaths were initially dismissed by the NSW Police as either misadventure or suicide. We now know that a number of these men were hunted down by gangs and thrown over beachside cliffs near the nation’s top tourist spots.
Investigation of crimes against gay men wasn’t always high on the list of priorities for the police and over twenty years later they are still slow to come to grips with their own dismal track record. The families of the victims, and some journalists, have not given up and continue to push the NSW Police Force for more answers.
This book is the story of a unique time in our history when social change, politics, devastating disease and police culture collided, and you could get away with murder.
WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?
Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well ...
When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.
And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds are reopened. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret ... A secret Falk thought long-buried ... A secret which Luke's death starts to bring to the surface ...
Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece