It was a hometown quinella on Saturday night as Paul Cleave and Ray Berard were announced as the winners of the 2016 Ngaio Marsh Awards at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.
TRUST NO ONE (Upstart Press), a mind-bending psychological thriller about a writer with early onset Alzheimer’s who starts confessing the murders in his novels were real, earned Cleave his record third Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. The judges described it as “a stunningly audacious novel that functions as a literary hall of mirrors” – a book that “succeeds brilliantly on many different levels”.
Fellow Cantabrian Berard scooped the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel with his Rotorua-set debut thriller INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE (Mary Egan Publishing). The judges praised his tale of the aftermath of an armed robbery that interrupts a drug deal as “a lucid and potent portrait of good people and gangsters that is unmistakably Kiwi in flavour and tone... a fine story with considerable depth.”
“It was wonderful to celebrate our best modern-day Kiwi crime writers at a terrific event just a short drive from where Dame Ngaio used to write her world-renowned mysteries,” said Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “It was a tough year for our judges. We had a record number of entries, launched a new category, and ended up with eight superb finalists that illustrate how varied local crime writing can be. There was everything from a former All Black entwined in French match-fixing to a robotic private eye.”
Across the board the international judging panel was highly impressed with this year’s finalists, said Sisterson. “Every novel was a strong contender in the eyes of our judges, and we would have been happy to celebrate any of them as deserving winners. But we had to make a choice, and TRUST NO ONE and INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE edged ahead from a deep field. They’re both cracking great crime tales.”
Berard’s debut, which was a finalist for both awards, was inspired by a diary he kept during his years working as an Area Manager for the TAB across the upper North Island after he emigrated from Canada during the mid 1990s. He was mentored during his writing process by Barbara and Chris Else.
“There’s a real sense that local crime writing, #YEAHNOIR, is on the rise,” said Sisterson. “We have world-class crime writers in this country who are unafraid to provide their own unique spin on a globally popular genre. Kiwi readers have a big appetite for crime tales, and I urge them to try our own.”
The Ngaio Marsh Awards are made annually in Christchurch for the best crime, mystery, or thriller novels written by New Zealand citizens and residents. The Awards’ namesake, Dame Ngaio Marsh, was a Christchurch mystery writer and theatre director renowned worldwide as one of the four “Queens of Crime” of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. More than thirty years after her death, Dame Ngaio’s books remain beloved by many generations of readers. The Ngaio Marsh Awards were established in 2010 with the blessing of Dame Ngaio’s closest living relative, John Dacres-Manning.