And now for something rather different here at Whispering Gums. Crime literature, as my regular readers know, is not my forte. In fact, I really only read crime if it comes my way for a specific reason – such as Peter Temple winning the Miles Franklin Award a few years ago. That doesn’t mean however that it’s not a relevant subject for Monday Musings. So today I bring you Sisters in Crime.
Sisters in Crime is an Australian organisation which aims “to celebrate women’s crime writing on the page and screen and bring a collective critical eye to the field.” Inspired by the American organisation of the same name, it was launched at the Feminist Book Festival in Melbourne in September 1991. It undertakes a range of activities supporting crime writing by women, including sponsoring two awards:
- the Scarlett Stiletto Award
- the Davitt Awards
Because this is a reader’s blog rather than a writer’s one, I thought I’d focus on this awards aspect of their work – but for the record they offer a lot to writers, including workshops, networking opportunities, and promotion.
The Scarlett Stilettos
This year, 2013, was the twentieth anniversary of the Scarlett Stilettos, an award for short stories in the crime and mystery genre. The purpose of these awards is to “support and unearth new talent”. Over the years they have done just that with some of Australia’s top female crime writers having won the award, such as Cate Kennedy and Tara Moss. The Awards have an interesting “two-strikes-and-you’re-out” rule. That is, if you win twice you can’t enter again. I like this. It feels appropriately collaborative for an organisation that calls itself “Sisters”, and it shows they’re serious about the “unearth new talent” goal. Apparently, in its twenty years, four writers, including the inaugural winner, Cate Kennedy, have won twice.
Prizes are offered in multiple categories: First, Second and Third overall-prizes, Malice Domestic, Best Investigative, Cross Genre, The Body in the Library, Best New Talent, Great Film Idea, Funniest Crime, and a Youth Award.
In 2013 there were 175 entries, and an e-book of the 2013 winning stories, Scarlet Stiletto Short Stories: 2013 has been published. It’s available from Clan Destine Press (here), Amazon, Kobo and iTunes. At $4 it is surely a great deal if you love crime and mystery.
The Davitt Awards
These awards are a little younger, with this year being the 13th time they’ve been awarded. They are named for Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who apparently wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and fraud, in 1865. She was born in England, and married her husband, Arthur Davitt, there. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, they emigrated to Australia in 1854 “to take up a joint appointment with the National Board of Education, Davitt as principal of the Model and Normal Schools and his wife as superintendent of the female pupils and trainees”.
As with the Stilettos, several prizes are awarded: Best Novel (Adult), Best Novel (Children and Young Adult), Best True Crime Book, Best Debut Book, and Reader’s Choice (voted by members). In 2013 a new award was added, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Australian crime readers would not be surprised to learn that the inaugural winner of this award was Kerry Greenwood, author of the Phryne Fisher detective novels which have been recently adapted to a popular television series. I haven’t read the novels, but I love the 1920s inspired covers (of the current editions, anyhow) and have enjoyed the television series which beautifully reproduces the era in Melbourne.
Sixty-one books were entered for this year’s awards, which is apparently a record number. The winners are listed on the Sisters in Crime website so I won’t report on them all here. I was interested though to see that a Canberran whom I haven’t heard of, Pamela Burton, won the award for Best True Crime for her book The Waterlow killings: A portrait of a family tragedy. It’s about the murder of art curator Nick Waterlow and his daughter Chloe by their son and brother Anthony, a schizophrenia sufferer, and apparently explores the limits and failures of the mental health system. It’s the sort of crime book I could imagine reading!
There are other Australian awards for crime fiction – notably the Ned Kelly Awards. In fact, Kerry Greenwood won their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. I’m thinking I might do a bit of an occasional series on Australia’s literary awards for genre writing, if only to inform myself better on our literary landscape.