This year's 10th Annual Ned Kelly awards were incorporated as part of the Melbourne Writer's Festival main programme.

Yeah - no longer part of the fringe festival :) :) :)

The Awards were held in the Festival Club Marquee at the Malthouse in South Melbourne on the 30th August.

It was a warm and balmy night......

Firstly Peter Lawrence had again done a sterling and mostly solo effort to bring the awards to fruition. This year was the first year that the awards had been officially included in the Festival programme and for the first year many of the main publishers have actually come on board with some support.

Peter deserves all our thanks and gratitude for holding this monster together and in particular this year, as he's been personally very very ill - having rarely seen Peter in the flesh (so to speak) it took me quite a while to even recognise him in the crowd. But more on his comments later on.

The night was hosted / adjudicated / wrestled into submission by the inimitable Jane Clifton (who took it upon herself to ensure that every participant's porn name (first pet / first street name) was identified and announced as each of them were called to the stage).

The evening commenced with a few words of welcome from Jane and Rob Hulls, Victorian Attorney General was called to the stage to perform the initial opening, which he did in truly hysterical fashion in the form of a noir opening chapter of life and times as a hard bitten crime crusader in the mean streets of Victorian and Australian political life. Amongst other memorable and frequently in jokes, the one that caused our table to become riotous with laughter and stared at by other participants was when he referred to one of the criminal masterminds that he fought on a daily basis as the Cadaver who ultimately skewered himself on his Amnesty Pin. Okay - we thought it was hysterial!

Then the winner of the Crime on a Postcard story competition was announced. Okay, I'd had a couple - but I can't for the life of me remember the name of the very nice lady that won the competition but have to confess to being very startled about how much you can fit on a postcard when she read out her story.

Then onto the debate - That Crime is better than Sex.

Judge Liz Gaynor started off on the Crime / affirmative side and managed to make it through most of her session without revealing too much about her husband, and fellow Judge, John Smallwood - our own latter day Ned Kelly. Liz's argument appeared to centre around sex has destroyed her girlish figure and, in her day job sitting on the County Court - she gets more laughs these days from Crime. (I'm paraphrasing :) )

Leigh Redhead then "appeared" for the Sex / negative side. And did Leigh appear. In a titchy little short / low cut black dress number that really shouldn't have been allowed on a balmy Melbourne night, Leigh proceeded to explain that most people don't write sex scenes because their own lives are pretty dull, or at least I think that's what she was saying, after she'd embroidered on a couple of things she'd written in one of her books I was having a bit of trouble concentrating.

Greg Fleet, local comic identity then continued the discussion on the affirmative side. Well at least I think he was on the affirmative side. Everybody was duly impressed with the suit and tie getup, but he did manage to mention that the only reason he was dressed up was that, for authenticities sake, he'd tried a bit of crime on the way to the venue and had arrived in a very posh car with the liberal party politician owner tied up and naked in the boot (he "borrowed" the suit as well). He then proceeded to tell some very funny stories about being in West Australia and a bunch of other stuff. As Jane commented, no idea what that was about, but boy was it funny.

And then Rhys Muldoon on the negative sex side. "She was a blonde" was the opening line of a short story about crime, sex and more sex and then a bit of sex. Verging on erotic soft porn he oozed his way through a story which had us all leaping for programs to fan ourselves and glasses to drink from. Mind you, he did nearly crack up laughing a few times when the audience collapsed in hysterics, but all in all a VERY memorable contribution.

After that, the debate was declared a draw and everyone retired for a short time to recompose themselves!

Then trivia questions - we were hopeless and even moreso, when Peter Lawrence pointed out that all the answers where printed in the Table Talk handouts on everyone's table. It was dark alright, and somebody printed the blasted notes in 6point - couldn't see a thing!

The awards:

Melanie Rooth announced Wendy James and Out of Silence as the winner of the First Crime Novel - Wendy's award was collected by her publisher. Melanie Rooth mentioned a number of the other novels in the category and had some glowing comments to make about all entries.

Rhys Muldoon announced Lachlan McCulloch and Packing Death Best True Crime novel, again mentioning all of the other contenders, but as he said (and most of us agreed) too much Kath is never enough. Lachlan was there to receive his award and even wore the big overcoat that he appears on the cover in. He was just a little emotional, and having finished that book late on Friday, I can see why - he went through Hell to nail that family (review here).

Maryjean Watt then announced Peter Temple joint winner for The Broken Shore.  Peter tried his hardest to make us all believe that his win had more to do with being able to break into VicPolice's LEAP database system for juicy bribery material on the judges than the nature of the book, but even at his most self-effacing it is the book of the year and could easily have won on its own. (review here.)

Judge Liz Gaynor then announced the joint winner Chris Nyst and Crook as Rookwood.  Her summary pointed out that this book includes some of the best written courtroom scenes in the Australian genre and she's definitely right about that.

Peter Lawrence then announced and presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to John Silvester and Andrew Rule.  It's very easy to forget that the Underbelly series was the beginning of an Australian publishing phenomena - self-published / true crime. Unflattering, funny, concise and exactly what you'd give any budding gangster as a how not to manual, the Underbelly series was mostly self-published when all the publishing houses wouldn't touch them and they have gone off "like hotcakes".

A great night.


Incidentally, The Age's website has published the Top 10 books from the Readings Bookshop at the festival:

1. The Planets, Dava Sobel; 
2. India Vik, Liz Gallois; 
3. Folly and Grief, Jennifer Harrison; 
4. My Israel Question, Antony Loewenstein; 
5. Secret Asset, Stella Rimington; 
6. Last Seen in Lhasa, Claire Scobie; 
7. The Secret River, Kate Grenville; 
8. At Risk, Stella Rimington; 
9. Unintelligent Design, Robyn Williams; 
10 Open Secret, Stella Rimington.


Year of Publication

I call his name - only quietly, but he hears me as I knew he would, and wants me as he always does. And we come together - right there in the darkness. And even though there is no way to be certain of any other thing in the world, I am certain that I would risk anything to keep what is between the two of us. For love, I would risk anything, lose everything.'

Out of the Silence is a stunning debut novel about three Australian women from very different worlds: Maggie Heffernan, a spirited working-class country girl; Elizabeth Hamilton, whose own disappointment in love has served only to strengthen her humanity; and Vida Goldstein, a charismatic suffragist from Melbourne and the first woman to stand for Parliament in Australia. When Maggie's life descends into darkness after a terrible betrayal, the three women's lives collide.

Around this tragedy Wendy James has constructed a masterfully drawn and gripping fiction. Based on a true story, it unfolds at the dawn of the twentieth century against the compelling backdrop of the women's suffrage movement and a world on the brink of enormous change. The novel powerfully evokes the plight of women in the early 1900s - not least their limited options, whatever their class and education. However, at its heart this is a story of love - of love gone wrong; of its compromises and disappointments; but ultimately of its extraordinary transformative power.

Year of Publication

The Pettingill crime family was almost off limits to police. Two members had been acquitted of the murder of two young policemen, with no chance of persecution. Along comes undercover cop Lachlan McCulloch. He spent months befriending the people who had killed his comrades, knowing that they would kill him without compunction.

Year of Publication

Joe Cashin was different once. He moved easily then; was surer and less thoughtful. But there are consequences when you've come so close to dying. For Cashin, they included a posting away from the world of Homicide to the quiet place on the coast where he grew up. Now all he has to do is play the country cop and walk the dogs. And sometimes think about how he was before.

Then prominent local Charles Bourgoyne is bashed and left for dead. Everything seems to point to three boys from the nearby Aboriginal community; everyone seems to want it to. But Cashin is unconvinced.

And as tragedy unfolds relentlessly into tragedy, he finds himself holding onto something that might be better let go. Peter Temple's gift for compelling plots and evocative, compassionately drawn characters has earnt him a reputation as the grand master of Australian crime writing.

The Broken Shore is Temple's finest book yet; a novel about a place, about family, about politics and power, and the need to live decently in a world where so much is rotten. It is a work as moving as it is gripping, and one that defies the boundaries of genre.

Year of Publication

In an inner suburb of Sydney, a pensioner is bashed in his own home. An old Labor Party stalwart loses the faith and goes looking for someone to blame. And a young woman called Slick finds an unsettling connection between the death of her ex- husband and her new boss. When Gold Coast lawyer Eddie Moran comes to Sydney to look after Slick's interests after the death of her ex, he finds a simple drug overdose isn't so simple after all. It's not just the crooked cops, it's the strong whiff of a deal being done higher up and well offstage.

From sleazy Sydney backstreets to the new-money glamour of the Gold Coast, this is the world where politics and business meet, and where the consequences are far-reaching - and surprising!

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Submitted by Karen on Wed, 29/08/2007 - 07:17 pm