Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing: the shortlist is out

The shortlist for Australia’s annual crime writing gongs, The Ned Kelly Awards, was released this week.

While the big publishers usually dominate the Neddies, although this year it’s a clean sweep. Allen and Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Harper Collins and Random House share the prizes. Make of that what you will in terms of the state of local crime writing.

The Neddies have three categories: Best First Fiction, Best Fiction and True Crime.Reflecting a wider trend in publishing, this year’s shortlist for best first crime novel has a distinct dystopian/fantasy feel to it. When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett is a PI story set in a world where people have the ability to fly and genetic engineering is rampant. Kim Westward’s The Courier’s New Bicycle is the story of a bike courier who transports contraband through the alleyways of a Melbourne set in the future. Word is it’s good and at the risk of being proven wrong I suspect it may be the one to watch.

The exception is The Cartographer by Peter Twohig, set in Melbourne in 1951 and dealing with a young boy who flees into the city’s sewers after witnessing a violent crime.

Best fiction is a three-way contest between Malcolm Knox’s The Life, J.C Burke’s Pig Boy and Barry Maitland’s Chelsea Mansions. Knox’s book depicts a former world champion surfer looking back on his descent into drugs and debauchery. Pig Boy is a YA crime tale set in rural Australia. Maitland’s entry is the latest in the long running series featuring DI Kathy Kolla. I have not read it but people who have tell me it’s a surprisingly solid book given how long the series has been running.

I’m not even going to try and make a prediction on this one. Looking over the long list there’s a few surprising omissions in the best fiction category. Honey Brown’s After the Darkness, Katherine Howell’s Silent Fear and veteran Aussie crime writer Garry Disher’s Whispering Death, all did solid business and were well reviewed but all missed out.

Sometimes I think I’m the only person in Australia who does not read true crime, as it’s huge down under. Liz Porter’s Cold Case Files: Past Crimes Solved by new Forensic Science is as the title suggests, a new look famous cold cases from the US, UK and Australia. Call Me Cruel by journalist Michael Duffy is a real-life story of murder and domestic violence in New South Wales.

Sins of the Father: The Untold Story Behind Schapelle Corby purports to be the behind the scenes skinny on the Gold Coast beauty school drop out who was busted and jailed for drug running in Bali. This sounds like the most interesting of the three and media hype around Corby could help push it over the line.

The Ned Kelly Awards take place on August 29.

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