By now everyone knows that the winners of the 2016 Ned Kelly Awards were Best: Dave Warner for Before it Breaks, Best First: Emma Viskic for Resurrection Bay, Best True: Gideon Haigh for Certain Admissions and SD Harvey Short Story: Roni O'Brien for Flesh
Brilliant results all around and ones that you can't help but heartily concur with (links above go to my reviews of all 3 of the winners) and you can read more about the winners on the ACWA website: http://www.austcrimewriters.com/ned-kelly-awards-page
I don't really do many personal type postings on this site anymore, but as this is the second year now that I've been lucky enough to be involved in the background with helping organise the night I'd really like to focus on that just a little.
Everything to do with the Neds is 100% volunteer run (as it is with the Davitts from the Sisters in Crime). At ACWA our small group is made up of authors, reviewers, bloggers, readers and fans (many of us wear more than one of those hats), and the effort that goes into the organising and running of the Neds - right from the opening of submissions, to the event night and the week of tidying up afterwards is worked in around our day jobs, families, and life in general - as it is for everyone who volunteers to support something that they really love.
And that's probably why, at ACWA, we do what we do. We all love crime fiction and true crime Australian writing and want to help see that thrive and continue. To see the night pan out the way it did, to watch so much laughter and chatting, and see the excitement in everyone as the awards were announced is such a buzz, it makes all the sore feet, list writing tired out hands, and somewhat frazzled heads worth it.
Starting with our tireless chairman and champion of the industry - Michael Robotham, every year we fire back up as soon as we can after the completion of the Neds Awards night and start to get our ducks in a line for next year. In the background Michael and and Fiona Hardy work out the composition of Judging Panels, look at the constructive feedback from the year before and tweak the judging guidance documentation and procedures we use and generally get everything dusted off in the background and ready to go for another year. Michael's obviously a working author - he has a killing schedule and the time he has devoted to ACWA in the early days of transition to this new structure has been phenomenal. To say nothing of the fact that his own work is recused from entry.
Once submissions open and books start to filter in it's really important that they go to the various judging panels as quickly as possible, and for that thankless but incredibly important task we've been lucky to have Viv Robotham's assistance. It is such a relief to know that this side of the process just happens and we've never had a problem with judges not having enough on their reading stacks to be going on with.
Which then brings me to the judges - many of whom prefer to remain anonymous. The sheer amount of pages that are read by those panels in the short amount of time provided is astronomical. In the background there are scoring sheets to be completed, conversations that are had, negotiations that are undertaken and decisions made - often easily, sometimes requiring considerable thought and discussion. We are so grateful for their time and their patience with us as we work to improve the processes and procedures and keep each year ticking along at the same time.
Which brings me again to the role of Judging Wrangler. As well as ensuring that all judges have the information they need to undertake the role, Fiona is always there to provide clarification, backup, support, and a shoulder to cry on if necessary. She's patience personified and a joy to work with. She's a proofreading wiz kid and a huge part of making the night work the way that it does. My own role involves as much support in the background as I can give her and our late night email exchanges have become something that I really look forward to ... yes we're more than a bit odd we know that (right Fenella)!
The publicists and authors who submit entries navigate their way through the maze of membership and online forms with great good grace and (particularly those that get in early and allow us to get the judges reading as soon as possible) are our all time favourite people. It's them that nominate the books into the relevant categories, and they that are providing such great support to their worthy authors.
The event itself is a bit of a monolith to get organised and in the past we've had Andrew Nette's able assistance with that, and this year Deborah Crabtree who stepped up out of nowhere and did a wonderful job. Capable, calm and great good fun to work with her efforts were hugely appreciated - it meant that those of us from far flung climes just sort of arrived and we were off.
When Michael floated the idea of the storytelling format for this year's event, not only did he approach likely participants himself, Rochelle Jackson dipped into her intriguing contact list and came up with some brilliant ideas - leading to two of the stories on the night that are going to stay with people for a long time. As always Leigh Redhead and Vikki Petratis stepped up to join in as well, and this year the wonderful Shamini Flint followed the rules set down by Michael (the only one to do so) and was hilarious, pointed and clever all at the same time.
And then there's Jane Clifton. Who just flat out knows what she's doing and has us all whipped into shape and working as a well oiled (slightly creaky) team as soon as she steps into the room. Jane knows the Neds, she knows crime fiction and she's a joy to watch up there on the stage.
In the background I'm a bit lucky with all of this. I get to mutter imprecations at the website, tweak the online systems that we use to support ourselves - from communications through to information sharing and distribution - desperately try to keep up with the social media (and fail), try to get newsletters produced on a semi-irregular basis and generally run as a bit of a wicket keeper. It's the best fun but there's no pretending that it's not bloody hard work, but I get to do it all from out the back of beyond. Couldn't, of course without the support of my wonderful partner, who, when he can join us on the night (and isn't at home chasing the multitudes of animals I've landed us with) is technical backup, photographer and camera man. We've got a video of the entire proceedings this year as he was there on the night - which once we've edited together with the sound track connection provided by the excellent sound man at the venue we'll get released. We'll do that as soon as we can but it's back to work today, and we've got some animals to sort out after our adventures in the big city. Alpacas aren't easily placated when they've had their fleece ruffled by the pigs pinching all the dinner.
Detective Daniel Clement is back in Broome, licking his wounds from a busted marriage and struggling to be impressed by his new team of small-town cops. Here, in the oasis on the edge of the desert, life is as stagnant as Clement’s latest career move. But when a body is discovered a local fishing spot, it is clearly not the result of a crocodile attack. Somewhere in Broome is a hunter of a different kind. As more bodies are found, Clement races to solve a decades-old mystery before a monster cyclone hits.
Caleb Zelic, profoundly deaf since early childhood, has always lived on the outside - watching, picking up telltale signs people hide in a smile, a cough, a kiss. When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. Caleb and his troubled friend Frankie, an ex-cop, start with one clue: Scott, the last word the murder victim texted to Caleb. But Scott is always one step ahead.
This gripping, original and fast-paced crime thriller is set between a big city and a small coastal town, Resurrection Bay, where Caleb is forced to confront painful memories. Caleb is a memorable protagonist who refuses to let his deafness limit his opportunities, or his participation in the investigation. But does his persistence border on stubbornness? And at what cost? As he delves deeper into the investigation Caleb uncovers unwelcome truths about his murdered friend – and himself.
Certain Admissions is Australian true crime at its best, and stranger than any crime fiction. It is real-life police procedural, courtroom drama, family saga, investigative journalism, social history, archival treasure hunt - a meditation, too, on how the past shapes the present, and the present the past.
On a warm evening in December 1949, two young people met by chance under the clocks at Flinders Street railway station. They decided to have a night on the town. The next morning, one of them, twenty-year-old typist Beth Williams, was found dead on Albert Park Beach. When police arrested the other, Australia was transfixed: twenty-four-year-old John Bryan Kerr was a son of the establishment, a suave and handsome commercial radio star educated at Scotch College, and Harold Holt's next-door neighbour in Toorak.
Police said he had confessed. Kerr denied it steadfastly. There were three dramatic trials attended by enormous crowds, a relentless public campaign proclaiming his innocence involving the first editorials against capital punishment in Australia. For more than a decade Kerr was a Pentridge celebrity, a poster boy for rehabilitation – a fame that burdened him the rest of his life. Then, shortly after his death, another man confessed to having murdered Williams. But could he be believed?