13/02/2016 - 12:05pm

Sisters in Crime’s first event in Melbourne for 2016 – An Event launch with Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes for their book, Invisible Women: Powerful and Disturbing Stories of Murdered Sex Workers (Echo Publishing) – sold out in a day.

A capacity crowd – including a group of local street sex workers – packed out St Kilda Library on 11 February to hear Kylie and Ruth talk to crime author Angela Savage about why the murders of sex workers are so often meet with indifference.

Kylie Fox, Angela Savage & Ruth Wykes

Port Phillip Library Services is considering holding another event bu, in the meantime, you can hear Kylie and Ruth on RN’s Life Matters program. Click here to listen online or download to your pod:

You can also read the introduction to Invisible Women: Powerful and Disturbing Stories of Murdered Sex Workers (Echo Publishing). See attached.


09/02/2016 - 9:06pm

In case you missed Jane Cadzow's wonderful article from Good Weekend, on 16 January 2016, here it is: "Donna Leon and the madness of Venice"

Millions of readers, including our own PM, have fallen for mystery novelist Donna Leon's blockbuster Commissario Brunetti series. But it's not her proudest achievement.

Donna Leon in Venice, where her crime novels are set. Photo: Gaby Gerster/Diogenes Verlag AG Zurich

Donna Leon steps out of the busy restaurant into a damp Venetian night. A small woman with an alert, angular face, she pauses for a moment to consult the map imprinted on the mind of every long-time resident of the city. Then she sets off across the rain-slicked expanse of the campo and heads confidently into a maze of dimly lit alleys.

Leon's novels could give you the impression that Venice is a dangerous place for an evening stroll. Stabbings, stranglings, shootings, suspicious accidents ... Bodies pile up at a rate that distracts from the gorgeous scenery. (What's that in the canal? Another corpse?) In real life, as Leon is the first to point out, the crime rate is extremely low. Since settling here more than 30 years ago, the American-born writer has heard of only two assaults in the streets. "Venetians are not a violent people," she says, sounding a tiny bit disappointed in them.

Celebrity often incites special treatment, and that's bad for a girl, don'tcha think?

Leon, 73, is published in 34 languages and has millions of fans around the world – among them Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. When asked on ABC TV what he liked to read on summer holidays, Turnbull said: "My favourite books on the beach are about Venice. So either John Julius Norwich's histories or Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti detective books."

Guido Brunetti, who made his first appearance in Death at La Fenice in 1992, is a warm-hearted, world-weary, intelligent cop. His ability to crack cases often seems of secondary importance: it's his company that we readers like. And his beat.

The travel writer Jan Morris has described Venice as "half eastern, half western, half land, half sea ... somewhere between a freak and a fairytale". Its shimmering strangeness tends to overwhelm visitors ("Streets full of water. Please advise," columnist Robert Benchley famously cabled to his New York office), so it is good to have Brunetti as our guide. As he wends his way through the labyrinthine laneways, passing domed churches and crumbling palazzi, skirting the Accademia, crossing the Rialto, ducking into a neighbourhood bar for a coffee and tramezzino, we not only soak up the splendour of the ancient metropolis but learn where the locals buy their fish and dump their garbage.

Such is Brunetti's popularity that an industry has grown up around him. Visitors clutch copies of Brunetti's Venice: Walks with the City's Best-Loved Detective. They take home Brunetti's Cookbook. A German production company has made 20 Commissario Brunetti telemovies, which Leon assures me are "pretty bad". She reconsiders. "No, they're not bad. They're very, very German."

Leon receiving a German literature prize, the Corine, in Munich in 2003; her crime novels have been turned into a German television series. Photo: Snapper Media

Not that she minds much either way. She doesn't watch them – she has never owned a TV – and has no involvement in translating the novels to the screen. According to one of her friends, Toni Sepeda, Leon's attitude is cheerfully mercenary: "She goes, 'Here's the book, give me the money, thank you, goodbye.' "

Sepeda, who conducts "Brunetti's Venice" tours, has known Leon since the early 1980s, when both began working as lecturers in literature in the University of Maryland's European division. "Donna was always reading murder-mysteries," Sepeda tells me. "I was always saying, 'I don't know why you're wasting your time on those. I'm reading Tolstoy and Shakespeare and Homer.' Well, who's laughing all the way to the bank now?"

Murderers aren't the problem in Venice. Tourists are. Millions of them arrive each year, surging in eager waves into Piazza San Marco, swarming through the Doge's Palace, squeezing onto the water-buses, known as vaporetti, that ply the Grand Canal.

Leon has a long-held policy of escaping the city in the warmer months, when the crush is at its worst, but it seems to her that the tourist season is now practically year-round, and that for the dwindling number of permanent residents (58,000 at last count, down from 120,000 three decades ago), living in Venice feels increasingly like camping out in a theme park.

In A Noble Radiance, Brunetti attends a funeral mass for a young Venetian in the 16th-century San Salvatore church. Sitting in a back pew, the detective listens with grim amusement to the whispered conversations of the huddles of foreigners who have come to see Titian's Annunciation over the third altar on the right. The painting is mentioned in all the guidebooks and they are desperate to photograph it. "But during a funeral? Perhaps, if they were very, very quiet and didn't use the flash."

Like Brunetti, the otherwise good-natured Leon has slowly lost patience with the invading hordes. As her publishers prepare to celebrate this year's release of the 25th Brunetti book, she admits she finds herself spending less and less time in the city she writes about so evocatively. The night we meet for dinner, she has just come from Switzerland, where she has the use of a friend's apartment in Zurich and a house of her own in an alpine village near the Italian border. It is the time of year when she would normally be returning to Venice for the winter, but she says she isn't sure how long she will stay: "It depends how many of them are in the streets."

Too many, as it turns out. The next communication from Leon is an email saying she is again in Switzerland. "I sort of snapped," she says, explaining that she retreated to the mountains after realising "that the boats were always crowded, that the main streets were impassable, and that I arrived home in a bad mood after being out".

She isn't the only one at the end of her tether. "Just last week," she writes, "a friend of mine, a man of infinite calm and charity, said that he grows almost violent when he goes walking on the streets. If he sees a couple walking towards him, hand in hand, he insists on walking through them if the street is narrow. I think we are all corrupted in our characters or behaviours, like rats when there are too many of them in the cage. Luckily, I have yet to begin eating the newborn."

Leon's novels sell well in Switzerland, but she can go about her business undisturbed there. "Everyone is invisible in Switzerland," she has said. In Venice, she is regularly bailed up by people in the grip of Brunettimania, many of them from German-speaking countries ("The centre of the cult is Austria," she says). Venetians themselves leave her alone because, at her insistence, the books aren't published in Italian.

I have heard she made this decision because she was concerned her frequent references to Italy's endemic corruption could cause offence. Not true, she says. "If you read the Italian crime writers, you will see that they say far more critical things about the country." No, the real reason is that she enjoys anonymity, preferring to be known to her Venetian neighbours as the friendly American who chats to the fruit-seller rather than the famous expatriate writer. "Celebrity often incites special treatment, and that's bad for a girl, don'tcha think?"

The whole thing started as a joke. One night in 1989, Leon went to Venice's opera theatre, La Fenice, to see a friend conduct a rehearsal of Donizetti's La Favorita. Afterwards, they gossiped backstage about an internationally acclaimed but widely unbeloved conductor who had recently died. Soon the conversation turned to methods that might be used to murder a maestro in his dressing room, and it occurred to Leon that this might be a good starting point for a novel.

In Death at La Fenice, the career of a world-famous conductor with a Nazi past ends abruptly – between acts two and three of La Traviata – when he drinks a cup of coffee laced with cyanide. Leon put the manuscript in a drawer and left it there for a year. Then a friend insisted she enter it in a competition, which she won. Since the prize was a two-book publishing contract, she felt obliged to produce a second Brunetti mystery. Before she knew it, she had embarked on a third, then a fourth, though she still wrote the books for her amusement as much as anything else. (For editing the first three, she paid her university colleague, Toni Sepeda, in prosecco.)

Even now, Leon is reluctant to take her oeuvre overly seriously. Having spent the first part of her life studying and teaching the great works of English literature – the title of her doctoral dissertation was The Changing Moral Order in the Universe of Jane Austen's Novels – she sees herself as a peddler of light entertainment rather than a purveyor of deathless prose. Far from sweating over the construction of watertight plots, she makes up her stories as she goes along, never knowing when she begins what the ending will be. If there is a knock at the door, she is as interested as her readers to find out who will come through it. I tell her this is amazing to me. "It's amazing to me, too," she replies.

A large part of the appeal of Leon's books lies in the fact that her principal characters are so charming, and lead such nice lives.

In the first novel, she described Brunetti as "a surprisingly neat man, tie carefully knotted, hair shorter than was the fashion; even his ears lay close to his head, as if reluctant to call attention to themselves. His clothing marked him as Italian. The cadence of his speech announced that he was Venetian. His eyes were all policeman." Brunetti is the antithesis of the stressed-out, fast-food-eating workaholics with terrible personal lives who populate standard police-procedurals. Happily married to Paola, a professor of English literature and a brilliant cook, with whom he has two delightful teenage children, he rarely stays late at the office or – heaven forbid – arrives early. There is no need, because so much investigative work is done for him by his boss's secretary, Signorina Elettra Zorzi, a glamorous computer genius who hacks effortlessly into government files, Swiss bank accounts and so on.

Mid-morning, Brunetti might pop out for a glass of prosecco. At lunchtime, he goes home for a meal of, say, sea bass baked with fresh artichokes, lemon and rosemary. The family's apartment is at the top of five flights of stairs, with views over the Grand Canal from the terrace. Brunetti, who relaxes by reading Greek and Roman history, discovered after he and Paola bought the place that the previous owners had built it illegally, simply adding another floor to an existing building. The one blot on his happiness is the niggling fear that someone in the city administration will find out about it: "The bribes would be ruinous."

Leon has had accommodation problems of her own. For several years, she lived opposite an elderly woman whose TV blared at deafening volume all day and night, making it near-impossible for anyone in the vicinity to get to sleep. The neighbour ignored repeated requests to turn down the sound. "I could have wrung her neck," says Leon, who instead had a woman who fitted her description bashed to death with a blunt instrument in Doctored Evidence, her 13th novel.

We don't actually witness many killings in Leon's books. By the time Brunetti arrives, the yellow tape has gone up around the crime scene. "I'm as one with Aristotle on this," Leon has said. "Do the bloody deed off-stage and then have the messenger come in and describe it."

She was appalled by the savagery of the violence against women in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the global best-seller by the late Swedish journalist, Stieg Larsson. (She didn't read the next two books in the trilogy.) "Disgusting!" she says, leaning across her plate of pasta. "An absolutely disgusting book."

She doesn't like to criticise a fellow crime writer, particularly a dead one. "Poor guy. But the book is pathological. Sex is seen in that book as a weapon – only a weapon. It's all about power." She pauses. "Nobody has any fun."

The pursuit of a good time has always been high on Leon's list of priorities. Perhaps it's in her genes. Her father was "a pretty happy-go-lucky guy", she says. Her mother? "A lunatic. God, she was funny. One of the funniest people I've ever known ... I think about her very, very often. I only have good memories. I know it's very fashionable to have a tormented childhood, but I was cheated out of that."

Growing up in New Jersey, Leon was the kind of conscientious kid who finished her homework before she went out to play (as an author, she delivers manuscripts on time or even early). But as she grew older, she realised she was completely devoid of ambition. "I just wanted to have fun." After finishing university, she accompanied an old schoolfriend to Italy and found an entire nation in tune with her philosophy. "I was just blown away by it," she says. "By the food, by the coffee, by the people. By how pretty the people were. They're the most beautiful people on the planet."

She visited Venice for the first time in 1968, arriving early one winter morning after travelling by rail from Rome overnight. "I walked down the steps of the train station and the city whammed me," she remembers. "I'd seen movies, photos in my geography book, but nothing prepared me for it."

She made Venetian friends, and returned at least once a year, fitting the visits around a series of teaching jobs in far-flung posts. In Iran, she taught helicopter pilots to speak English (" 'My name is Ahmed. I am a pilot.' It was so bo-o-o-r-ing"). In Saudi Arabia, where she lectured in English literature, being female meant being treated as a second-class citizen. She hated the place. "And I hate it still," she says. "I cannot abide that everybody from the West, because they are oil-rich, sucks up to them."

By 1981, when she was almost 40, Leon was ready to settle down. Venice was where she wanted to live, and landing the position with the University of Maryland made it financially possible to do so: she taught US servicemen and women at nearby military bases until the income from her books allowed her to retire.

Over time, she has become deeply disillusioned by Italy's graft-ridden, dysfunctional political and economic systems. "Living here maddens me every day," she says.

But there are compensations, and she was reminded of them when a tram on which she was travelling in Amsterdam a few years ago stopped suddenly, throwing her onto the floor. "I stood up and looked around, and the tram was full of people who couldn't have cared less if my head had fallen off when I fell over." She knew that if it had been an Italian tram, the response would have been different.

"In Italy, there is still a strong impulse to help the person in difficulty," she says. "The farther south you go, the stronger is the impulse. So if this had happened in Naples, or Palermo, there would have been screams at the driver: 'What did you do?' There would have been a competition to help me to my feet. Somebody would have asked me if I needed a glass of water. Nineteen people would have offered me their seats to lie down on."

Even in northern Italy, she says, "I'm always struck by the warmth and humanity of the people." For instance, despite Venetians' understandably mixed feelings about tourists, most seem to do their best to be good hosts, Leon says. "They see someone hopelessly lost, looking at a map, they'll stop and say, 'Can I help you?' " She does this herself occasionally. She just wishes that "the ships from hell", as she calls the enormous passenger vessels that cruise into Venice, would stop spewing out 4000 day-trippers at a time.

In 2014, the Italian government moved to prevent the biggest of the ships from entering Venice, but the ban was lifted in early 2015. Last June, the city's mayoral election was won by Luigi Brugnaro, a businessman who is a strong supporter of the cruise industry. Leon despairs, and the World Monuments Fund has identified the city as a cultural heritage site under threat, saying that "the advent in the last decade of large-scale cruise-ship tourism is pushing Venice to an environmental tipping point and undermining the quality of life for its citizens. Such tourism has increased in the city by 400 per cent in the past five years alone, with some 20,000 visitors per day during the peak season."

Toni Sepeda tells me the cruise ship passengers who take her Brunetti tours are pleasant enough, "Well, 99 per cent of them." One of her recent groups included two spectacularly obese Americans who, when they got to the Rialto bridge, said they could not walk over it. Sepeda pointed out that they had signed up for a walking tour. "They said, 'Well, we can't do it.' I said, 'Okay, I'm going to put you right here in this nice little cafe at the foot of the Rialto on the Grand Canal, and order you some drinks.' "

The feeling that tourists are lowering the tone of the place, and trampling it to death, is not new. "Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice," the American author Henry James wrote in 1882, "there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors."

At the same time, the travellers who have flocked to the city for centuries have been a vital source of income for its residents. Jan Morris argues that since Napoleon's 1797 defeat of the once-great republic known as La Serenissima, "she has been chiefly a museum, through whose clicking turnstiles the armies of tourism endlessly pass".

The fragility of Venice has always been part of its allure. Here is a city built atop wooden posts driven into the muddy floor of a lagoon. It has been slowly sinking since records have been kept. But scientists say climate change is accelerating the pace at which the water is rising: the mean level in the lagoon is 30 centimetres above the level recorded in 1897, and there are increasing incidences of acqua alta, or "high water", when a mix of tides and winds causes flooding of shops and houses. Twelve years ago, construction began of a massive flood protection barrier – a system of hollow gates designed to swing up on hinges and create a temporary sea wall when needed.

The project is due for completion this year, but it is billions of Euro over budget and the subject of a major corruption scandal. By late 2014, there were 35 public officials and contractors under house arrest or in detention. "Like an oil slick, it spread out to the various people who were involved," Leon says. "And, as the investigation was spreading, so too were reports of various engineering problems. I don't know anybody who thinks this thing will work," she adds glumly. "This is the kind of swamp in which the city finds itself."

Music is a source of consolation to Leon. "I can't sing," she says. "And I can't read music. I just like it. Particularly baroque music. Particularly baroque vocal music." The operas of Handel are her idea of heaven. With the money earned from her books, she has supported two European opera orchestras, Il Complesso Barocco and Il Pomo d'Oro. Besides providing funds, she travels to performances, writes program notes and organises recordings. As far as she is concerned, this is her most important work. "I'm not particularly proud of the books. I'm much prouder of the music."

She continues to get a kick out of researching and writing the Brunetti stories, though. The newest one concerns bee-keepers who have hives on islands in the lagoon. "It's going very well," she tells me. "I'm writing 10 pages a day, which is a lot for a novel."

Venice still seems to her an unbeatable setting for a detective series. An unbeatable setting, full-stop. She and Brunetti may both gripe about what is happening to the city, but that is only because they love it so much. "Where else in the world is everything you look at beautiful?" Leon asks.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/donna-leon-and-the-madness-of-venice-20160111-gm3ag9.html#ixzz3zfN2wCAi

17/12/2015 - 9:47pm

Liane Moriarty, who won Sisters in Crime’s 15th Davitt Award (Best Adult Novel) this year for Big Little Lies, has a new role - producer of the  series of her book which has Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon as executive producers at HBO, following a bidding war with Netflix. 

The two actors also have starring roles and apparently saw what they describe as “a twisty thriller/soap” as a potential feature film before pitching it as a TV drama. The script is by David E Kelley, whose crime credits include The Practice, Ally McBeal, and Boston Legal. Click here to read the Sisters in Crime’s review.

Kate Oliveri, from East Lismore couldn’t make it to the Scarlet Stiletto Awards on 28 November as she was organising a big event herself. It was a great shame as she took out both the Echo Publishing Second Prize ($1000) and the Queensland Chapter’s Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist ($400) for “Anna Parker: Here Comes the PI”. Kate is a public servant and now plans to write a novel about Anna Parker, who is both a wedding planner and sleuth, and just happens to have cerebral palsy.

Luckily, Joanne Shoebridge from ABC Far North Coast interviewed Kate on 2 December. The file is too big to attach but we'll try to work out a solution. Stay posted.

Candice Fox, who has won two Ned Kelly Awards and this year’s Davitt Award (Debut), spoke eloquently to Kate Evans on Radio National about Fall, the latest in her crime series. Luckily fro Sistes in Crime members in Melbourne, she’ll be speaking on a panel at 8pm, Friday 26 February at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel.

According to RN, Fox's novels are full of damaged children. So was her life. She grew up in a household that took in many foster children, some of whom had survived all sorts of trauma. What might that do to you, she wondered?

Fox took this speculation, and used it as the basis for her crime fiction. Her central character Eden was very young when her parents were murdered. She was taken in, along with her brother, by a man known as Hades, a criminal overlord of Sydney, who buries bodies at the landfill he owns, while also creating sculpture from discarded objects. What he made of the discarded children he found is part of the mystery of the series.

To listen to the interview, click here. You can listen online to mid-January or download to your pod anytime.

01/12/2015 - 5:58pm

Catch up with Michael MacKenzie's interview with Scarlet Stiletto winner T J Hamilton on Radio National's RN Afternoons on 1 December:

Crime writing continues to be a growth industry in publishing, as our appetite for fictional violence, murder and torture seems insatiable, however it's a pretty big leap from writing erotic bodice rippers to Jack the Ripper.

TJ Hamilton & Danielle Cormack

TJ Hamilton's career path into crime literature would be hard to believe if it wasn't true - ex-police officer who was dismissed for a professional breach wins her way back in on appeal, but then leaves anyway to start writing erotic fiction, finds that people keep dying in her sexy books, so tries her hand at writing crime in a short story and ends up winning the Sisters in Crime's 22nd Scarlet Stiletto National Short Story Awards on the weekend.

Listen online til 8 December or download to your pod any time.

29/11/2015 - 3:11pm

T.J. Hamiltona cop-turned-crime writer from regional Queensland, has won the Every Cloud Productions First Prize ($1500) in Sisters in Crime Australia’s 22nd Scarlet Stiletto Awards for her short story “Hard Knox” about a woman who has apparently jumped from a high-rise housing commission block in Redfern.

Hamilton also won the coveted stiletto trophy,a scarlet stiletto shoe with a steel stiletto heel plunging into a mount, plus the Benn’s Books ($200) Best Investigative Award.

Hamilton told the 110 strong crowd at a gala dinner at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre on Saturday night (28 November) that she had been fascinated with crime and crime writers for as long as she could remember, cutting her teeth on Inspector Gadget and Agatha Christie. She studied criminology and then joined the NSW police force where she served in Redfern.

These days she lives with her husband and children in Hervey Bay where she has been writing romance.

“The problem with me writing a romance is that my romance readers seems to get really upset with me, because not all of my characters survive ... but the crime always get’s solved! So I thought I would dip my toe into crime writing and found this wonderful competition to enter,” she said.

She promises it won’t be the last we hear of her protagonist, Kaylee Knox. 

Danielle Cormack, star of Wentworth,presented the awards. Prior to the award presentations, Cormack discussed her ‘life in crime’ (and much more) with author, performer and Sisters in Crime member Jane Clifton, who appeared for four years in Prisoner, the show on which Wentworth is based.

This year 191 stories competed for the Scarlet Stiletto Awards for a record $9,350 in prize money in prize money plus the coveted trophy for the overall winner. Twenty-six authors and 27 stories from across Australia were shortlisted for a total of 16 awards. Twenty shortlisted authors attended the awards ceremony.

Kate Olivieri, a public servant from East Lismore ( NSW) win both Echo Publishing Second Prize ($1000) and the Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist ($400) for “Anna Parker: Here Comes the PI”, a story about a wedding organiser and private investigator.

Another serial offender was Natalie Conyer (Mosman, NSW) who wonThe Sun Bookshop 3rd Prize ($500 for “New Start” which also took out the inaugural Harper Collins Romantic Suspense Award ($500). “New Start” is an hilarious story about border security, bureaucracy, Nigerian princes and romance. Conyer, who is doing a PhD on crime fiction, was also highly commended for “Sydney Love Story”.

The Athenaeum Library’s Body in the Library Prize ($1000) went to Jenny Spence (Balmain. NSW) for “Caught on Camera”. Spence has had numerous careers but recently has been writing fiction full-time. She published a thriller, No Safe Place, in 2013. Under the name Jennifer Walsh she has published three children’s books including The Tunnels of Tarcoola, which won a Sisters in Crime Davitt Award in 2013, followed by Crooked Leg Road.

The Athenaeum Library Body in the Library Award ($500 runner-up prize) went to Katie Mills (Doubleview, WA) for “To Drive Out Evil Spirits”. Mills, an academic librarian from Perth, also won The Scriptworks Great Film Idea Award ($200) for the same story.

The Kerry Greenwood Malice Domestic Award ($750) was won by Kath Harper, a retired teacher from Port Fairy (Vic) for “Hitting the Roof”, a story elderly woman who discovers her neighbour's body in her backyard and sets out to prove that this was not the accidental death that it appears.

Thirteen-year old Amanda Coleman(Glen Iris, Vic)won theAllen & Unwin Young Writer’s Award ($500), open to writers 18 or under,for “Mental Blank”, the first story she has ever entered in a competition. Her ambition is to become an author when she leaves school.

The Arena Magazine for the Best Well-loaded Political Story ($500) was awarded went to Kylie Fox(Langwarrin, Vic) for “Guilt”. Kylie is a multiple-Stiletto-offender, having picked up a third prize and couple of category awards in previous years. She is the author of a comic fantasy and her first true crime book, Invisible Women, co-authored with Ruth Wykes, will be published in January.

The Best Environmental Crime Story Award ($500) went Fin J Ross (Paynesville, Vic) for “Echo Wren”, a story about the annual slaughter of pilot whales on Faroe Islands. Ross, a journalist by profession, runs a boarding cattery, is co-author, with her sister, Lindy Cameron, of two true crime anthologies.

The Financial Crime Award ($500), has been offered by Ann Byrne for the past three years but this is the only year it has been awarded. It went to Annie Hauxwell (Castlemaine, Vic) for “Washeteria”. The author of three books in the Catherine Berlin financial crime investigator series, Hauxwell has worked as a private investigator for more than twenty years. She came second to Cate Kennedy in the very first Scarlet Stiletto Awards in 1994.

The Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross Genre Story ($400)was awarded to Brisbane State High school student, Ellen Vickerman (Corindale, Qld), for “Airborne”,

Also highly commended were:

·         Kathy Blacker (Port Lincoln, SA) for “Perils of Prudence”

·         Jude Bridge, (Kewdale, WA) for “A Perfect Nobody”. (Bridges won the 2014 Scarlet Stiletto trophy)

·         Gabrielle Carmel (Langwarrin, Vic), for “Numb”.

·         Marilyn Chalkley (Wright, ACT) for “The Coffee Cup Crime”

·         Anne Chappel (Skye, SA) for “The Perfect Knot”.

·         Emilie Collyer (West Footscray, Vic) for “Danger to Society”

·         Bridgitte Cummings (North Brighton, SA) for “Stranger in the Woods”

·         Carolyn Eldridge-Alfonzetti (North Epping, NSW) for “Case of the Decapitated Canvas”

·         Helen Goltz (Port Fairy, Vic) for “Weed”

·         Diane Hester (Port Lincoln, SA) for “The List”

·         Maggie McTiernan (Yokine, WA) for “The Roommate”

·         Richenda Rudman (Flemington, Vic) for “Nooseville

·         Yvonne Sanders (Olinda, Vic) for “Stranger”

·         Sue Williams (Ferntree Gully, Vic) for “Early Release”

·         Amanda Wrangles (Crib Point, Vic) for “Sally Hammer”

National Co-convenor and the Scarlet Stiletto Awards wrangler, Michaela Lobb, said that the judges had been blown away by the quality of this year’s stories.

“Revenge was still a perennial theme but we did see for the first time several stories set in prisons and it was obvious our current political situation regarding detention centres had touched the heart of many writers,” she said.

The judges decided not to award the Josephine Pennicott Award for the Best Story by an Indigenous Writer.

To date, 2,926 stories have been entered with20 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners –including category winners – going on to have novels published: Cate Kennedy, Tara Moss, Annie Hauxwell, Angela Savage, Josephine Pennicott, Ellie Marney, Sarah Evans, Inga Simpson, Alex Palmer, Liz Filleul, Margaret Bevege, Patricia Bernard, Bronwen Blake, Jo McGahey, Cheryl Jorgensen, Kylie Fox, Simmone Howell, Emilie Collyer, Sandi Wallace and Amanda Wrangles. Another winner, Aoife Clifford, has a book coming out next year with Simon& Schuster in both Australia and the UK which will bring the total to 21.

Three collections of winning stories have been published by Clan Destine Press: Scarlet Stiletto: TheFirst Cut, Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut and Scarlet Stiletto Short Stories: 2013 (ebook). 

Prizes kindly sponsored by Every Cloud Productions; Echo Publishing; Sun Bookshop, Athenaeum Library; Allen & Unwin; Arena Magazine; Clan Destine Press; Scriptworks; Benn’s Book Shop; Ann Byrne; Kerry Greenwood; Catherine Leppert; Josephine Pennicott; and the Queensland Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

The 23rd Scarlet Stiletto Awards close on 31 August 2016.

Attached is the running sheet for the event which has blurbs and bios of all the finalists.

Comment: Michaela Lobb, National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime: 0409 431 397 

Info: Carmel Shute, National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime: 0412 569 356

14/11/2015 - 4:46pm

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie is a new book, exploring the science behind the poisons used in the novels of Agatha Christie.

Over the course of her writing career, Christie killed-off over 300 of her characters.

Some were drowned, others were stabbed, but the vast majority were poisoned.

Arsenic, Cyanide, Hemlock and Thallium - the list of poisons runs vast and wide.

Science communicator Kathryn Harkup has been studying how Agatha Christie mixed her lethal doses.

Listen online on RN till 12 December or download to your pod anytime.

14/11/2015 - 3:20pm

Sulari Gentill was interrogated at Readings Hawthorn on 9 November by fellow author and Sister in Crime Angela Savage for a gripping and often hilarious 40 minutes about her latest book, Give the Devil His Due, the 7th Rowland Sinclair mystery. If you missed the event (and lots did), catch up with Marc McEvoy article published by Fairfax Media today.

Sulari Gentill & Angela Savage greet their fan club

For immigrants from temperate climates, the heat of their first Australian summer can feel relentless. Sulari Gentill was almost seven years old when she arrived in Melbourne in 1977 with her family, Sri Lankan immigrants who had moved first to England and then spent five years in Zambia while the embers of the White Australia policy were cooling.

Gentill remembers lying on the lawn with her two sisters outside her brick veneer house in Noble Park on hot summer nights while their father, who had brought them to Australia for a better education, told stories about the stars blinking above them.

"It was too hot in the house and my father used to describe the constellations, with Greek mythology woven in," says Gentill, a former lawyer who now writes crime novels. 

"So, right through childhood I'd look up at the stars and I'd be filled with a sense of wonder. I thought it meant I should become an astrophysicist."

That childhood dream almost became a reality. Gentill's family moved to Brisbane, settling in the riverside suburb of Yeronga, but after her schooling Gentill relocated to Canberra to study at the Australian National University. It wasn't what she expected. 

"I went off to uni to study astrophysics and to my great disappointment, they told me my beautiful constellations were just balls of gas that were defined by mathematical formulas," she says.

"After a year I moved to law simply because I was so disillusioned I had to look for a subject that had no maths in it."

Gentill's transition to law was writing's gain. While working as a corporate lawyer for water and energy companies, she discovered she had a skill in storytelling.

"Law is very much a storytelling profession. When you explain a contract to a client you often resort to story. The better you can make your story, the more likely you are to get them to agree."

About six years ago, she decided to try her hand at fiction. It was more accident than design. She had no lifelong ambition to be a writer and her first attempts were young-adult fantasy adventure stories that drew on her knowledge of the classical mythology taught to her by her father.

They were eventually published in 2011 and 2012 as a series called The Hero Trilogy.

However, Gentill's latest book, Give the Devil His Due, is her seventh novel in a historical crime fiction series set in 1930s Australia that was picked up in 2010 by independent publisher Pantera Press. The first, A Few Right Thinking Men, was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first book. A Decline in Prophets, the second, won the 2012 Davitt Award for best adult crime fiction.

Like all the books in the series, Give the Devil His Due follows the exploits of  Rowland Sinclair, a wealthy gentleman artist turned amateur sleuth who lives in a Woollahra mansion where he entertains bohemian friends including the object of his passion, sculptor Edna Higgins, and his friend Clyde Watson Jones, who is handy with his fists. Sinclair's political leanings are obvious. His greyhound is called Lenin.

In the new novel, Sinclair, a keen driver who plans to race his Mercedes at the Maroubra Speedway, is embroiled in a murder mystery after a journalist who has interviewed him turns up dead.

As in any good whodunit, there are plenty of twists and turns, including a dip into the occult.

Real-life figures also play a part: actor Errol Flynn, artist Norman Lindsay, Smith's Weekly reporter turned "Witch of Kings Cross" Rosaleen Norton, and even Arthur Stace, author of the ubiquitous "Eternity", written in chalk around the city. To add a feel for the times, each chapter opens with a real cut-out from publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald.

Like Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries, Gentill's stories are part of a growing interest in Australian historical crime fiction. Sinclair even has a touch of the eccentric chivalry found in Arthur Conan Doyle's bohemian detective Sherlock Holmes. 

Gentill decided to write stories set during the 1930s because her husband, Michael, a history and English schoolteacher who helps edit and research her work, was frustrated with reading subjects he knew little about in her fantasy stories.

"Initially it was a very pragmatic decision to make the change to set my stories in the 1930s," she says. "Michael's a boy from the country and he'd get caught every time he came up against a name like Agamemnon​ or Achilles, complaining that they would stop his enjoyment of the manuscript. So one day he says, 'For God's sake, Sulari, can't you write something with names like Peter and Paul in it?' "

Gentill breaks out laughing. "Of course I ignored him at the beginning but I realised I had fallen in love with the craft of writing, and when I write I become completely immersed in what I am doing, which is fine for me, but it's hard on your partner. So I went looking for something pragmatically, to bring Michael into my head."

As a historian, Michael's area of expertise is the extreme right-wing movement in Australia during the 1930s. Gentill read his thesis and realised it would make a fascinating backdrop for a novel.

The recurring villain in her series is the historical figure Eric Campbell, a World War I veteran turned lawyer who established the the right-wing New Guard, which was tied to the fascist movements in Germany and Italy. Other members included Captain Francis de Groot, who beat Premier Jack Lang to cutting the ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. (D.H. Lawrence's novel Kangaroo is partly about the Old Guard, the anti-communist group from which the New Guard split in 1931).

"As I dug into it, the 1930s entranced me because of its position in our history," Gentill says.

"Coming off the 1920s, Australians were angry and disillusioned, open to new ways of thinking as the old mores fell away. But the 1930s led to World War II and that intrigued me. It seemed to be a time when Australia was deciding who it was." 

Gentill says the period has parallels with Australia today, particularly after the global financial crisis. "We live in a sort of shadow of what happened in the 1930s after the Depression," she says.

The public's impotence over the treatment of asylum seekers is a case in point.

"That happens because people get distracted by just living. You see things that are wrong. You say, 'That's not right. I object to that. That's not compassionate. That's not humanitarian.' But you get  distracted by paying the electricity bill and driving the kids to school and so on."

Gentill, who is 44, writes at an astonishing rate, completing a novel in three months. She and Michael live with their two sons, Edmund, 14, and 10-year-old Atticus (named after the protagonist in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Gentill's favourite book), on a 25-hectare property on the outskirts of Batlow, a town of 1500 in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. 

They bought the farm 16 years ago when Gentill had to commute from Tasmania, where she worked as lawyer. It meant being separated for long periods but they had a strategy for the future.

They planted oak trees, added 50 tonnes of lime to their soil and cultivated French black truffles, the culinary delicacy. After four years, the first truffles sprouted on the oak roots and they now run a successful truffery​, doing truffle runs every week during winter, sometimes in the snow by moonlight.

Gentill says that living away from city lights provides a wonderful view of the stars and, as her father did for her, she talks to her sons about the constellations.

"I thought when I told them about mythology and stars that they'd switch off, thinking, 'There goes Mum again', but they listen. When you are out in the country and you look up at the Milky Way, you feel the immensity of the universe." 

Gentill's favourite constellation is Orion. "I love it because it is so easy to pick. You look for the saucepan in the sky and sound very learned when you cry, 'Look, there's Orion'." 

Give the Devil His Due is published by Pantera Press at $29.99.

And another thing: Gentill learnt to speak English in Zambia but her parents made it her primary language only after emigrating to Australia.

Info: http://www.sularigentill.com/; https://www.panterapress.com.au/shop/category/11/sulari-gentill



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11/11/2015 - 8:45pm

A record 27 stories have made it to the ‘shotlist’ for Sisters in Crime’s 22nd Scarlet Stiletto Short Story Awards. Danielle Cormack, star of Wentworth will present the awards at a gala dinneron Saturday 28 November at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre.

The ‘shotlisted’ authors come from all over Australia and compete for a record $9,350 in prize money plus the coveted trophy, a scarlet stiletto with its steel heel plunging into a perspex mount, for the overall winner.

Michaela Lobb, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards wrangler, said that the judges had been blown away by the quality of this year’s stories.

“Traditionally most of the ‘shotlist’ are emerging writers but this year there are also 11 writers with books, nearly all crime books, under their belts. One of the authors, Annie Hauxwell, has the distinction of coming second to Cate Kennedy in the very first Scarlet Stiletto Awards, back in 1994. She has now published three books in her Catherine Berlin financial investigator series in Australia, the UK and Germany, with a fourth due out next year,” Lobb said.

“Quite a few authors are serial offenders and some authors are also ‘shotlisted’ twice. As we all know, crime runs in families and this year again we have a mother and daughter ‘shotlisted’ – Kylie Fox and her daughter Gabrielle Carmel. Last year, Kylie and another daughter, Bridie Carmel, made it to the finals.

This year for the first time Sisters in Crime is awarding a Best Financial Crime Award and a Best Romantic Suspense Award.

Book authors shortlisted include: Emilie Collyer (West Footscray, Vic); Kylie Fox (Langwarrin, Vic); Helen Goltz (Port Fairy, Vic); T.J. Hamilton (Urangan, Qld); Annie Hauxwell (Castlemaine, Vic); Diane Hester (Port Lincoln, SA); Fin J Ross (Paynesville, Vic); Yvonne Sanders (Olinda, Vic); Jenny Spence (Balmain, NSW); Sue Williams (Ferntree Gully, Vic); and Amanda Wrangles (Crib Point, Vic).

Also shortlisted are last year’s trophy winner, Judith Bridge (Kewdale, WA) plus Kathy Blacker (Port Lincoln, SA); Gabrielle Carmel (Langwarrin, Vic); Marilyn Chalkley (Wright, ACT); Ann Chappel (Skye, SA); Amanda Coleman (Glen Iris); Natalie Conyer (Mosman, NSW); Bridgite Cummings (North Brighton SA); Kath Harper (Port Fairy, Vic); Carolyn Eldridge-Alfonzetti (North Epping, NSW); Maggie McTiernan (Yokine, WA);Katie Mills (Doubleview, WA); Kate Olivieri (East Lismore, NSW); Richenda Rudman (Kensington); and Ellen Vickerman (Corindale, Qld)

At 8pm, prior to the award presentations, Danielle Cormack will discuss her ‘life in crime’ (and much more) with crime author and performer,Jane Clifton.

Lobb said that the Scarlet Stiletto Awards would also pay tribute to the Grande Dame of Crime – Agatha Christie.

“This year marks the 125th anniversary of Christie’s birth. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, she is still the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies. She also remains the most-translated individual author, having been translated into at least 103 languages (Harry Potter has only been translated into 73!),”Lobb said.

“During her writing career, Agatha turned her hand to the short story as an art form. Altogether, she wrote 154 short stories – 153 of which were published in her lifetime in 14 collections."

Every Cloud Productions, the producers of the internationally-acclaimed crime drama,Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, is for the first time offering sponsorship of the $1500 first prize.

Echo Publishing, the new adult publishing wing of The Five Mile Press, is the sponsor for 2nd prize ($1000). Long-time supporter, HarperCollins Publishing, is offering a new award for romantic suspense ($500).

Other sponsors include Sun Bookshop, Athenaeum Library; Allen & Unwin; HarperCollins Publishing; Arena Magazine; Clan Destine Press; Scriptworks; Benn’s Books; Ann Byrne; Kerry Greenwood; Catherine Leppert; Josephine Pennicott; and the Queensland Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Tickets:$65 (no concession) event and dinner. $25 (no concession) event only. Drinks available at bar prices. Men or ‘brothers in Law’ welcome

Click here to book. Bookings close Monday 23 November. All seats are limited so book early — individually or in tables of up to 10: 

Venue: Thornbury Theatre, Velvet Room, 859 High Street, Thornbury

Book stall: 10% discount for members from the Sun Bookshop stall.

Media comment: Michaela LobbNational Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime: 0409 431 397.

Additional information: Carmel Shute, National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime: 0412 569 356.

25/10/2015 - 6:17pm

Recently launched, ‘Provocare’ is a multimedia verse thriller created by Sisters in Crime member, Meg Vann, writer; Mez Breeze, interaction designer; and Donna Hancox, research lead for Creative Industries at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). It is the first work to be commissioned and produced for ‘Queensland Writers on the International Stage’, an Arts Queensland funded programme created by QUT and The Writing Platform.

Provocare‘ is based on ‘Provocation‘, a short story by Meg Vann, that has been adapted and made into a multimedia verse thriller by the writer working in collaboration with Mez Breeze and Donna Hancox. The work explores themes of female agency and violence against women at a time in Australia when sixty-three women have been murdered by their intimate partners or ex-partners in 2015 alone.

Readers can explore both works online. ‘Provocare’ is available here, and ‘Provocation’ is available here. Writer, Meg Vann, has also shared her experience of collaborating to create digital work of fiction in this article on this site.

Provocare Screenshot

Said writer, Meg Vann:

“Like most women, I live with the effects of violence. Memories of abuse, and ongoing vigilance against harm creates core beliefs and behaviours that often cast women as having victim mentalities. But I believe it makes us survivors. Dedicated to a young woman who lost her life to a stalker, ‘Provocare’ explores this premise: the main character is a survivor of anorexia nervosa. She develops dysfunctional habits that, while self-harming in relation to her illness, are adapted to become tools in her battle for survival against the pernicious and unrecognised violence of a workplace stalker. Surveillance is also a theme in ‘Provocare’ as I am increasingly concerned about the misuse of surveillance technology – designed to improve public safety – in the abuse of women. Providing digital collaboration opportunities, and welcoming all-women teams, is vital in voicing women’s lived experiences, and challenging the predatory viewpoints so dominant in normative cultural narratives”

Interaction designer, Mez Breeze, commented:

“At a time when violence against women is at such catastrophic levels, working with this all-gal ‘Provocare’ team on the first commissioned production for ‘Queensland Writers on the International Stage’ has been a thoroughly rewarding experience. It’s been a privilege to have been invited to design and develop this collaborative digital fiction project with the potential to critically reflect upon such crucial social issues. With Donna at the Project Management helm, Meg the consummate wordsmith, and with the support of The Writing Platform, this has been one of the most successful international teams with which I’ve had the pleasure of working.”

About Queensland Writing on the International Stage

‘Queensland Digital Writing on the international stage: QUT and The Writing Platform’ is an Arts Queensland-funded programme which supports collaborations between writers and interactive designers to develop works for exhibition on The Writing Platform.

The second work created for ‘Queensland Writers on the International Stage’ will be an audio adaptation of the short story ‘Crawl Space’ by Krissy Kneen which will launch later this year.

Said Donna Hancox, research lead for Creative Industries at QUT:

“This project, which is focused on bringing together writers and designers to re-imagine how stories can be crafted and shared, is a really important way of increasing knowledge and skills around digital writing.  The future of writing is collaborative, and the creative works created through this project showcase the benefits of collaboration. The ongoing partnership between Queensland University of Technology, The Writing Platform and Arts Queensland is crucial in delivering information about new forms of writing to writers at all stages of their careers.”

Joanna Ellis, co-founder of The Writing Platform, commented:

“We are delighted to be working with our long-term partners, Queensland University of Technology, to create this opportunity for Queensland-based writers and interaction designers. As well as providing opportunities for the artists directly involved we are able to share their experience of creating digital stories, and of the collaborative process itself, with our wider community of writers and technologists.”  

If you would like to find out more about ‘Provocare’ – including speaking to the artists involved – or ‘Queensland Writers on the International Stage’, please contact:

Joanna Ellis: joanna[at]theliteraryplatform[dot]com

About The Writing Platform:

The Writing Platform is a website and commissioning program dedicated to providing inspiration and information for writers and creative technologists on new forms of storytelling. It was launched in 2012 by The Literary Platform and writer, Kate Pullinger, and operates in partnership with Bath Spa University and Queensland University of Technology.


25/10/2015 - 6:06pm

The Lost Swimmer, the debut novel by Sisters in Crime member, Ann Turner, has been optioned by Film Art Media Pty Ltd to be made into a film.

Sue Maslin, the producer of the adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s, The Dressmaker , starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Liam Hemsworth, will produce, and Ann Turner will write the screenplay and co-produce.

Ann (pictured above, speaking at Sisters in Crime in June) and Sue have previously worked together on Irresistible starring Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill and Emily Blunt – where Sue was executive producer and Ann was writer/director.

Sue’s other credits include the AACTA award-winning Japanese Story with Toni Colette. Ann feels it’s a real coup to have Sue come on board, as she is such a talented and highly experienced producer. The Dressmaker, which has sold internationally, starts screening in Australia on 29 October, and the UK in 20 November. 

Footnote from Carmel Shute: I had the privilege of attending a friends' and family launch of The Dressmaker on 24 October and can't recommend it highly enough.  I laughed (a lot) and cried (a bit). I attended with two other women who grew up in the counrty and we all thought The Dressmaker nailed it on all fronts. There is also a mystery - at the age of 10, did Tilly (the Kate Winslet character) murder a local boy or not?

The Sunday Age review on 25 October - by a male reviewer, i should add - just didn't get it, in my view and it's worth a lot more than three stars.

Amongst its many outstanding features are the costumes by Marion Boyce, also the costume designer of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. In 2012, Marion Boyce co-presented Sisters in Crime's Scarlet Stiletto Awards together with author Kerry Greenwood. Their discussion, prior to the awards' presentation, was on the power of costumes to inform character (and the action) as well as delight the viewers.