01/09/2014 - 4:10pm

Ellie Marney, Lauren Beukes, Karen Foxlee, Felicity Pulman,

Jen Storer (l-r) & Honey Brown (front)

Burial Rites, Hannah Kent‘s multi-award winning crime novel about the last woman to be executed in Iceland, has two more prizes to its credit – the Davitts for Best Debut Novel and the Readers’ Choice Award.

Kent, who has recently shifted to Melbourne from Adelaide, was one of seven authors honoured at Sisters in Crime’s 14th Davitt Awardsfor best crime books by Australian women on Saturday (30 August) at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre. A total of 76 books was in contention.

A psychological thriller by regional Victorian writer Honey Brown (above,Warragul) took out the Davitt Award for Best Adult Novel.

Melbourne writer, Jen Storer (above), won the inaugural Davitt for Best Children’s Novel, for Truly Tan: Spooked! (Harper Collins). Another book in the series, for Truly Tan: Jinxed!, was also shortlisted.

Karen Foxlee (above right with Lauren Beukes), from Gympie Queensland, was awarded the Davitt (Best Young Adult Novel) for The Midnight Dress (UQP).

A book about sex and the AFL was a winning kick for Melbourne-based writer, Anna Krien, who won the Davitt (Best True Crime Book) for Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport (Black Inc). (Anna was unable to attend - was being held hostage by two miniature monsters, in particular a hungry newborn who won’t take the bottle.)

Two books were highly commended: Every Breath (Allen & Unwin) by regional Victorian writer Ellie Marney (above left; Guilford) and A Ring Through Time (Harper Collins) by Sydney author, Felicity Pulman.

Lauren Beukes (below left), the South African award-winning writer of crime and fiction with a speculative edge, presented the Davitts before an audience of crime writers and fans from all over Australia after a playful interrogation by Professor Sue Turnbull.

In an amusing twist, Beukes won the Be Immortalised in Fiction competition so her name will appear in Brown’s next novel. Beukes begged to be cast as a serial killer!

Professor Turnbull, also a national co-convenor of Sisters in Crime and crime reviewer for Fairfax Media, said that Sisters in Crime was overwhelmed that a record 76 crime books were in contention this year, a far cry from the seven in competition at the inaugural awards.

“When I reviewed Lauren Beukes first crime novel, The Shining Girls, I remarked on the ‘promiscuous hybridity’ of crime writing. This applies equally to Australian women’s crime writing and the books in contention this year.

“When the Davitt awards were inaugurated 14 years ago, the heroes of women’s crime books were often PIs. Now they’re as likely to be cafe owners, yarn-bombers, financial investigators or forensic physicians. Romance, as well as forensics, is in the mix. The scenes of the crime are wildly different, the plots multifarious,” she said.

“Many of us got our taste for crime from a childhood spent devouring Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, went through adolescence with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers and graduated with Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller. Meanwhile, new generation of women writers has emerged with imaginative and enthralling novels aimed at the children’s and Young Adult markets.”

Jacqui Horwood (above), who presented the judges’ report, said this year Sisters in Crime had decided to offer its first-ever Davitt for Best Children’s book

“In the past children’s books have had to compete with Young Adult books which has not been entirely equitable. And really there’s never been the number of children’s books to justify a separate award. This year was different with 13 in contention and so much quality writing in evidence.”

Burial Rights, written by Kent for a PhD in Creative Writing, already has a bevy of awards: Inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award, the Indie Awards Debut Fiction of the Year Award, the 2014 ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, the ABA Nielsen Bookdata Booksellers' Choice Award and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award People's Choice Award.

The Davitt judges declared Burial Rites “a beautifully crafted and well-paced book”. It was also voted best book by the 660 members of Sisters in Crime. Kent was unable to attend but accepted via video.

Brown, who is currently working her sixth crime novel, “just keeps getting better and better,” Horwood said.

Foxlee’s Young Adult novel,The Midnight Dress,was also selected as an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults title earlier this year. Horwood said the judges found it, “absorbing and mesmerising”.

Horwood said Jen Storer’s Truly Tan: Spooked! possessed the “perfect mix to lure young readers into the wonderful world of mysteries”. The fourth book in the series, Truly Tan: Freaked! will be released in November.

Krien’s Night Games, Horwood reported, exemplified “just how challenging and powerful good True Crime can be”.

The Davitts, handsome carved polished wooded trophies, feature the front cover of the winning book under perspex.

The awards are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.

Media comment: Professor Sue Turnbull: 0407 810 090;

Jacqui Horwood Davitt Judges’ spokesperson: 0449 703 503

Info & author interviews: Carmel Shute, National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia: 0412 569 356; cshute@internode.on.net

17/08/2014 - 2:45pm

Sisters in Crime Australia has announced its shortlist for its 14th Davitt Awards for the best crime books by Australian women.

This year a record 76 books published in 2013 compete for six Davitts – handsome carved polished wooded trophies – to be presented at a gala dinner, 7pm, Saturday 30 August by leading South African crime writer, Lauren Beukes, after an ‘interrogation’ by Professor Sue Turnbull:

Best Adult Novel; Best Novel Young Adult; Best True Crime Book; Best Debut Book (any category); Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 660 members of Sisters in Crime Australia) and, for the very first time, Best Children’s Novel.

Shortlisted are:

Best Adult Novel

  • Honey Brown, Dark Horse (Penguin Books Australia
  • Ilsa Evans, Nefarious Doings: A Nell Forrest Mystery (Momentum Press)
  • Annie Hauxwell, A Bitter Taste (Penguin Books Australia
  • Katherine Howell, Web of Deceit (Pan Macmillan Australia
  • Hannah Kent, Burial Rites (Picador Books)
  • Angela Savage, The Dying Beach (Text)

Best Young Adult Novel

  • Karen Foxlee, The Midnight Dress (UQP)
  • Simmone Howell, Girl Defective (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Kim Kane and Marion Roberts, Cry Blue Murder (UQP)
  • Ellie Marney, Every Breath (Allen & Unwin)
  • Felicity Pulman, A Ring Through Time (Harper Collins)

Best Children’s Novel

  • Ursula Dubosarsky, The Perplexing Pineapple: The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta) Book 1 (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ursula Dubosarsky, The Looming Lamplight: The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta) Book 2 (Allen & Unwin)
  • Susan Green, Verity Sparks: Lost and Found (Walker Books)
  • Jen Storer, Truly Tan: Jinxed! (Harper Collins)
  • Jen Storer, Truly Tan: Spooked! (Harper Collins)

Best True Crime Book

  • Anna Krien,Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport (Black Inc)
  • Kay Saunders, Deadly Australian Women (ABC Books)

Best Debut Book (Any category)

  • Livia Day, A Trifle Dead (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Karen Foxlee, The Midnight Dress (UQP)
  • Simmone Howell, Girl Defective (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Hannah Kent, Burial Rites (Picador Books)
  • Ellie Marney, Every Breath (Allen & Unwin)

Davitt judges’ wrangler, Tanya King-Carmichael, said that the five judges had been stunned by the number of entries in this year’s annual Davitt Awards.

“Australian women crime writers have their gumshoes (or stilettos) on and they’re marching across the literary landscape. This year, the five judges were confronted by an astonishing 76 books to get their blood pumping, including 40 adult novels with characters ranging from the psychic to the psychotic.

“Fourteen years ago, when the Davitts were established, only seven adult crime novels by Australian women were in contention. There’s been a great leap forward,” King-Carmichael said.

King-Carmichael said that for the first time Sisters in Crime was presenting an award for the Best Children’s Crime Novel.

“Previously, children’s crime novels had to compete against young adult crime novels for a joint category award. This was a bit unfair but there weren’t really enough novels written by women for the children’s market. But the spirit of Enid Blyton lives on,” she said.

“This year we were faced with a record 13 children’s crime novels, tipping the Young Adult crime novels by one. It’s hardly if the Young Adult genre is slipping. The quality of the writing for young or ‘new adults’ (as the case may be) shoots up every year. And, for the first time, an e-book has been shortlisted – Ilsa Evans, Nefarious Doings: A Nell Forrest Mystery, published by Momentum Press, Pan Macmillan Australia's new digital-only imprint.

“Australian women’s crime writing is entering an exciting new phase.”

Prior to the award presentations, Sisters in Crime convenor Professor Sue Turnbull will interrogate Lauren Beukes about her life in crime. Beukes is also a scriptwriter, documentary director and comics writer and is in Melbourne to speak at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

Turnbull, who reviewed Beuekes’s first crime novel, The Shining Girls, for Fairfax Media last year said: “By turns brilliant, brutal and riveting, in all its puzzling mystery, The Shining Girls is testimony to the promiscuous hybridity of the contemporary crime novel. Read it and wonder.”

Beukes’s latest crime novel, Broken Monsters, is just out. Her other fiction has also been highly acclaimed — Zoo City won the prestigious Arthur C Clarke Award in 2011, and Moxyland was longlisted for both the Sunday TimesLiterary Award and the M-Net Book Prize in 2009.

Turnbull is Professor is Discipline Leader: Creative Industries, University of Wollongong, a Sisters in Crime national co-convenor, and crime columnist for Fairfax Media. Her latest book is The Crime Drama (University of Edinburgh Press).

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865. The awards cost publishers nothing to enter.

“The Davitts have played a key role in getting women’s crime books better recognised – and in encouraging Australian publishers to take a punt on crime books produced by women locally, instead of just importing the latest blockbusters from overseas. It’s a gamble that has paid off,” King-Carmichael said.

The judging panel for 2014 comprises forensic pathologist Dr Shelley Robertson; Sun Bookshop Deb Force and Sisters in Crime national co-convenor, Jacqui Horwood and former convenors Tanya King-Carmichael and Sylvia Loader.

The previous Davitts have been presented by New Zealand crime writer Vanda Symons (2013); Swedish crime writer Asa Larsson (2012); Singapore crime writer Shamini Flint (2012), Scottish crime writer Val McDermid (2010); Justice Betty King (2010), Judge Liz Gaynor (2008); Walkley-winning investigative journalist Estelle Blackburn (2007); Karen Kissane true crime writer (2006); Debbie Killroy, Sisters Inside (2005); Karin Slaughter, US crime writer (2004); Val McDermid (2003); Sharan Burrow, ACTU President (2002) and Christine Nixon, (then) Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police (2001).

Sisters in Crime Australia was set up 23 years ago, has chapters in different states and holds regular events in Melbourne dissecting crime fiction on the page and screen. It also hosts a popular annual short-story competition, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards.

Venue: Thornbury Theatre, 859 High Street, Thornbury (wheelchair accessible)

The cost of this very special event, which includes dinner and the presentation of the 2013 Davitts Awards, is $60 (no concession). Drinks are available at bar prices.

Seats only (no dinner): $15 (no concession) Bookings close Monday 25 August. All seats are limited so book early — individually or in tables of up to 10. Men or ‘Brothers in Law’ are welcome.

Sisters in Crime members will receive 10% discount on books purchased from the Sun Bookshop stall. All books in contention will be on sale.

Media comment: Tanya King-Carmichael on 0418 574 907 email elicat@gmail.com

Click here to book.

27/07/2014 - 4:11pm

Sisters in Crime Australia and the Athenaeum Library are joining forces to present an evening of criminally good discussion with leading US crime writer, Karin Slaughter, led by true crime writer Vikki Petraitis.

The appropriately named Slaughter has sold more than 30 million copies of her Grant County and Will Trent series, and is published in 32 languages. Her latest novel, Cop Town, is her first standalone thriller, an atmospheric nail-biter about a rookie cop making her own way in the boys’ club that was the Atlanta Police Department in 1974. In 2007, she teamed up with comics publisher Oni Press to launch Slaughterhouse Graphic Novels

Slaughter, who lives in Atlanta, is also the editor of and contributor to Like A Charm, a collaboration of British and American crime fiction writers.

Petraitis, a long-term Sisters in Crime member, jumped at the chance to interrogate Slaughter.

“Slaughter is a great crime writer because she bases her crimes around characters that we have come to love and want to follow. She makes us care if Dr Sarah Linton, the county coroner, reunites with her errant husband, Chief Jeffrey Tolliver,” Petraitis said.

“And not only that, but she has developed a cast of support characters whose fortunes we eagerly await. Slaughter has branched out with the Will Trent series, always wanting to keep her writing fresh. In a clever twist, she has now blended these two series, much to the delight of her fans.”

Petraitis said that most importantly, Slaughter’s books have remained ‘readable’.

“Slaughter hasn’t gone the way of some of her compatriots where protagonists can get too big for their boots or too cranky. Slaughter tells a great story and can evoke the steamy atmosphere of small-town Georgia so well. Her latest two books have been set in the 1970s and using information from women who worked as cops at that time, she has re-created a cringe-worthy picture of women in a man’s world.

“Slaughter’s characters are flawed, but using switching points of view, she gives the reader both sides of the story. This bird’s eye view gives the reader a front-row seat to the action.,” Petraitis said.

Petraitis has been writing true crime since the early 1990s and her best-selling book about Frankston serial killer Paul Denyer widened the readership for true crime stories in Australia. A number of Vikki’s true crime stories have been made into TV episodes of Forensic Investigators and Sensing Murder. She is currently finishing a book on the Victoria Police Dog Squad and is enjoying hanging out with very clever dogs.

6 for 6.30 pm, Thursday 7 August: Comedy Club, 2nd Floor, 188 Collins Street, Melbourne (has lift). Presented with Athenaeum Library.

10% discount for members from the Sun Bookshop bookstall.

$15/$10 (members of Sisters in Crime, Writers Victoria & the Athenaeum Library/concession). Click here to book.

Tickets may also be available at the door (check websites).

Further booking details: Athenaeum Library 03 9650 3100

Info: Carmel Shute, National Co-Convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia: 0412 569 456

16/07/2014 - 3:24pm

Frock up! Sisters in Crime Australia will celebrate its 14th Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women with a gala dinner at 7pm Saturday 30 August 2014 at Melbourne's Thornbury Theatre.

Leading South African crime writer, Lauren Beukes, will present six Davitt Awards: best adult novel, best true crime book, best debut book (any category), readers' choice and for the first time, separate award for best children's novel and best young adult novel. This year a record 76 books are in contenton.

Before the award ceremony, Sisters in Crime's Professor Sue Turnbull will interrogate Lauren Beukes about her life in crime and much more. Click here to read Sue's review for Fairfax Media of The Shining Girls, Lauren's crime book with a speculative edge.

Venue: Thornbury Theatre, 859 High Street, Thornbury (wheelchair accessible)

The cost of this very special event, which includes dinner and the presentation of the 2014 Davitts Awards, is $60 (no concession). Drinks are available at bar prices. Men or brothers-in-law are welcome.

Seats only (no dinner): $15 (no concession) Bookings close Monday 25 August. All seats are limited so book early — individually or in tables of up to 10. Further information: (03) 9452 5246; 0409 431 397 or email michaelalobb@hotmail.com

To book:

Davitt Awards Dinner Tickets

Davitt Awards Dinner Table (x 10 Tickets)

Davitt Awards - Seat only


Sisters in Crime members will receive 10% discount on books purchased from the Sun Bookshop stall. All books in contention will be on sale.


Media comment: Tanya King-Carmichael on 0418 574 907 or elicat@gmail.com



14/07/2014 - 10:29pm

Two cops-turned-writers, P M Newton and Karen Davis, will join debut author Anna Jaquiery in spilling the beans about the ‘police procedural’ to Sisters in Crime convenor (and Victoria Police staffer) Jacqui Horwood at 8pm Friday 25 July at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel.

All three authors contend that women writers are transforming one of the crime genre’s most enduring and popular formats – the ‘police procedural’ where the cops investigating the crime take centre stage.

Sydney-based writer P M Newton spent 13 years in the NSW police before turning to crime (fiction). Her first novel, The Old School, won the Sisters in Crime Davitt Award (Readers’ Choice) and the Asher Literary Award. Her second, Beams Falling (Penguin Books Australia), has already gone into a reprint after coming out in February.

Newton said that as an ex-detective she’s sure readers come to her books with a certain set of expectations.

“They expect I will write with authority about police procedure but for me that is possibly the least interesting part of my police experience. Instead I want to create the sense of being a cop, and that is often ethically and morally ambiguous, usually very stressful, and for women involves simultaneously being regarded as an insider and an outsider,” Newton said.

“I try to write a book that feels emotionally true, that shows the damage violence causes, and acknowledges the lasting impact of grief. So, for example, in Beams Falling, my wounded detective is not healed in one chapter, she does not bounce back but confronts the basic question of ‘Why be a cop?’ Police procedurals can sometimes feel quite schematic, but police investigations, like life, are often messy, discursive, and futile. I aim for that kind of realism, not comfort or consolation.”

Karen Davis also switched to writing – after 20 years in the NSW police. Her first novel, Sinister Intent (Simon & Schuster), was published last year with her second, Deadly Obsession, out August. She marries the police procedural with romance: www.karenmdavis.com

“Having been a New South Wales police officer for twenty years before ever attempting to write anything besides police reports, one of the biggest challenges I found was keeping the story authentic but also interesting and believable. Not all police work is exciting. Writing about all the paperwork would put a reader to sleep in seconds,” Davis said

“But I wanted to portray what it was really like to be a cop, show what police have to deal with, give an insight into the life inside a police station. I also had to get my head around the fact what I was writing fiction – not putting a brief of evidence together that had to be factual. I had to stretch my imagination but I feared some of my real experiences would be almost too unbelievable for readers to swallow. Real life is sometimes stranger than fiction as we know.

“Wanting to have a strong romantic interest between the main characters, I became confused after a freelance editor looked at my first draft of Sinister Intent and told me that it was not conceivable that two detectives could fall in love during a homicide investigation. Though to police, this is not surprising at all. That is their bread and butter. They are working long hours together; relying on each other to possibly save the others life if those circumstances arise. Isn’t that the reason so many cops are married to each other – they understand the job like no one else can.”

Journalist-turned-writer Anna Jaquiery has set her police procedural, The Lying-Down Room (Picador), inParis. It is the first in a series to feature Paris detective Commander Serge Morel and Pan Macmillan has acquired the rights to publish the first two internationally.

“When I was researching The Lying-Down Room, the best advice I received came from a senior Parisian detective who works at the criminal brigade, which investigates serious crime. He told me not to let my quest for authenticity get in the way of the novel’s arc. According to him, if one were to accurately describe his working life or that of his colleagues, it would make for dull reading. Most of the investigators hardly leave their desks and lead routine, unadventurous lives, he told me. Be free in your writing, he said. I took his advice,” Jaquiery said.

“That isn’t to say you shouldn’t know your subject. A lot of research went into The Lying-Down Room. Research is an aspect of writing that I particularly love. I have spent hours reading up on the French criminal brigade and investigation processes, on French politics, on religion, on origami – all of these are important themes in the book.

“But I have reminded myself throughout that this is a work of fiction. Writing a police novel, I think, is a delicate balance between keeping it real and allowing yourself to be free in your writing. This delicate balance is what I aim for and hope I’ve achieved.”

$10 (Sisters in Crime & Writers Victoria members /concession)/$15 (non-members). Dinner upstairs from 6.30pm (no lift). Men or ‘brothers-in-law’ welcome. 10% discount for members from Sun Bookshop stall. No bookings necessary.

The Rising Sun Hotel, cnr Raglan St & Eastern Rd, South Melbourne

Info: Carmel Shute, National Co-Convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia: 0412 569 456

09/07/2014 - 5:43pm

A record $8800 is on offer this year for the 21st Sisters in Crime Australia’s short story competition, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards – up $1800 from last year. The awards are most lucrative in Australia crime writing. Stories must have a crime or mystery theme, a female protagonist and a female author.

The Harper Collins 1st Prize is $1500 with the winner also receiving the coveted trophy, a scarlet stiletto withits steel heel plunging into a perspex mount.

Pantera Press is new sponsor for second prize, now worth $1000 (up $500) while the Sun Bookshop 3rd Prize is now $500 (up $150).

New awards include a $500 award for the Best Story by an Indigenous Writer donated by Josephine Pennicott, a two-time Scarlet Stiletto Award winner; a $250 award for the Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist, named in honour of the late Liz Navratil, a member of Sisters in Crime’s Brisbane chapter; and a $500 award for Best Story with a Political Edge Award from Arena Magazine. Arena will publish the winning story in the category and runner-up.

Melbourne’s Athenaeum Library is again offering a prize of $1000 and a runner-up prize of $500 for the best short story that includes the words ‘body in the library’.

Other awards include:

·         Kerry Greenwood’sMalice Domestic Award: $750

·         the Ann Byrne Award for Best Financial Crime: $500 (up $150)

·         The Catherine Leppert Award for Best Environmental Theme:$500 ( up $150)

·         Clan Destine Press Cross-genre Award: $400 (up $50)

·         Benn’s Books Best Investigative Story Award: $200

·         ScriptWorks Great Film Idea Award: $200


National Co-convenor Carmel Shute said that Sisters in Crime was delighted with the increased prize money but, most especially, with the success of the awards in digging up so much literary criminal talent over the past two decades.

“To date, 2,538 stories have been entered with 17 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners –including category winners – going on to have novels published: Cate Kennedy, Tara Moss, 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 and Amanda Wrangles. Come September, with the publication of Sandi Wallace’s Tell Me Why, the tally will be 18,” Shute said.

“At the recent Death in July Festival of Women’s Crime Writing in Ballarat (4-5 July) it was simply inspiring to hear authors such as Angela Savage and Ellie Marney, authors of three and two crime novels respectively, pay tribute to the Scarlet Stiletto Awards for kick-starting their literary careers.

“The great variety of awards on offer should appeal to all sorts of different literary sensibilities, from the cosy to hard-boiled and speculative.”

Last year, the Awards attracted 175 entries.

Five authors have won the Scarlet Stiletto Award twice and subsequently been invited to become judges: Cate Kennedy, Christina Lee, Roxxy Bent, Janis Spehr and Josephine Pennicott. Only Cate Kennedy, however, has a matching pair of stilettos.

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

Closing date for the awards is 31 August 2014. Entry fee is $10; maximum length is 5000 words. Entry forms are available here.

The 21st Scarlet Stiletto Awards will be presented at the Thornbury Theatre Velvet Room in Melbourne, 6.30pm Friday 21 November.

Info:  Email Carmel Shute, National Co-Convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia: 0412 569 356


09/07/2014 - 4:39pm

Death in July in Ballarat on 4-5 July was a great success - pretty much full-house with first-class, often hilarious debates.

One of the many highlights was Blood on Ballarat, a serial murder mystery begun by Sisters in Crime's Leigh Redhead with nine Ballarat women writing successive chapters. It was broadcast at 6.40 am on ABC Ballarat for the forthnight leading up to the festival and then brilliantly videoed by Erin McCuskey from Yum Studio and screened at the festival. Click here to view the first episode and here to read Erin's blog .

All subsequent chapters are being withheld until the event screening on 7 August - then the rest will be uploaded.

Click here to view the photos and videos being progressively uploaded by Neville Hiatt.

Don't miss seeing the Great Crime Debate, Dames Versus Dicks, which had people rolling in the aisles.

Read on for a wonderful report by Sisters in Crime's Angela Savage who gave the keynote address at the gala opening as well as participating in two panels.

I’m still on a high following Death in July. That sounds so wrong, but it feels so right.

This inaugural festival to celebrate Australian women’s crime fiction in Ballarat, a collaboration between Sisters in Crime and Ballarat Writers was by all accounts a roaring success.

Death in July 1

Hauxwell, Meehan, Savage & Redhead talk women’s crime fiction at Death in July. Photo: Ellie Marney

We were warmly welcomed on a cold Friday night by representatives from Ballarat Writers, MADE, City of Ballarat and Sisters in Crime. Yours truly gave the keynote address, ‘Beyond Dicks versus Dames: The state of Australian women’s crime writing’, in which I suggested there is “a unifying thread – albeit gossamer thin – that runs through Australian women’s crime writing. And that thread is moxie, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘force of character, determination, or nerve’.”

I said that while some leading characters in Australian women’s crime writing have moxie, “[m]ore than the characters they create, to my mind, it’s Australian women crime writers themselves who demonstrate the moxie.” I suggested there is moxie at work in the way writers re-cast as heroes characters who traditionally appear in crime fiction as victims. There is moxie in terms of the creative choices women writers make in terms of narrative points of view. There is moxie in the work of women who do not shy away from getting dark and gritty, and who subvert the stereotypes of the genre.

You can read the whole paper by clicking on this link: Beyond Dicks versus Dames_FINAL_Angela Savage. [I will upload a link to the video when available].

Another highlight of the launch was the screening of Chapter One of Blood On Ballarat, a serial short crime fiction story that got off to a running start thanks to Leigh Redhead, with nine Ballarat authors contributing subsequent chapters. Filmed by Yum Studio, each session during the festival was bookended by further episodes. A clever concept, brilliantly executed (no pun intended). Click here to view Chapter One.

The first session Saturday morning was Gum Shoes or High Heels? a discussion of trends in women’s crime fiction with Annie Hauxwell, Maurilia Meehan and yours truly again, chaired by Leigh Redhead. The discussion touched on geography; I voiced my theory that talking about place in crime fiction is what we do to avoid talking about the crimes. I was delighted when someone in the audience later asked a question about what crimes I dealt with in my novels.

We discussed how plots have moved from obsessions with serial killers and paedophiles to cover a broader range of crimes, notably family violence. We talked about how feminist PI characters have become less ‘perfect’, both more flawed and socially connected. We noted that Australian and UK female PIs tend not to be as armed and dangerous as their counterparts in other countries. We also talked about the pros and cons of writing series, which is what publishers seem to prefer. (Maurilia admitted to having four different publishers for her body of work, due to her propensity for trying new things). We touched on whether it is the role of the writer to be socially enlightening or simply to entertain, and I complained that there’s not as much political crime fiction in Australia as I’d like.

The second panel, Get ‘Em While They’re Young brought Ellie Marney, Simmone Howell and Nansi Kunze together with Lindy Cameron to talk about YA crime fiction. I was too absorbed in the discussion to take much in the way of notes, but I do remember Nansi saying that many adults read YA fiction as a preference for the pace, plots and “less jaded characters”. Ellie added that 55% of YA fiction is bought by over 25s to read themselves. Simmone noted that young people’s almost obsessive (self-)focus and less uncluttered lives makes them attractive as characters: they can legitimately focus on a case with few distractions. Interesting discussion, too, on sex and violence in YA fiction — specifically that the bar is higher for sex than it is for violence. Publishing in the USA, as Ellie will soon do, requires what to me sounded like elaborate warnings about language and sex scenes. For the violent scenes, not so much. Go figure!

After a wonderful reading by Judith Rodriguez from her novel The Hanging of Minnie Thwaites, Vikki Petraitis chaired the panel Boffins, Ballistics and Bones with forensic pathologist Dr Shelley Robertson, Detective Superintendent Tess Walsh and award-winning true crime writer and journalist Liz Porter. This was a fascinating panel on how “the CSI effect” has distorted public opinion, and even jurors’ expectations, about the ways crimes are solved.

As a crime fiction writer who knows little about forensic science, I admit to taking some comfort from Det Supt Tess Walsh’s comment that “old fashioned detective work not forensics is what solves crimes”; in this she included team work by police and assistance by the general public. Tess also spoke of (minority) cases in which forensic evidence has been crucial, and Liz Porter noted that her true crime books on the subject concern “the one per cent of cases” where this is so. Liz also gave examples of where cases based on DNA evidence has “spectacularly failed” — notably in the Farah Jama case.

Liz had a wonderful line on the “beautiful lies” crime fiction writers tell. These include the way we play with timeframes — real-life forensic tests, when they occur, generally take weeks to produce results — and the way we grossly underestimate suspects. She spoke of cases where police have interviewed 200 “persons of interest”, whereas in fiction, especially on television, suspects tend to be kept to small, manageable numbers.

Me & Leigh channelling 1950s housewives. Photo: Deb Bodinnar

Me & Leigh channelling 1950s housewives. Photo: Deb Bodinnar

I had to leave the last session during the audience Q&A in order to frock up for the final event of the festival, The Great Crime Writing Debate: Dames vs Dicks, which saw Vikki, Leigh and I, arguing that ‘dicks’ do crime fiction better, against Robert Gott, Jarad Henry and Andrew Grimes, arguing that ‘dames’ do it better. Last time I attempted one of these comedy debates, I bombed, so I was nervous going into another one. But it turned out to be the most fun I’ve had in ages.

Vikki is simply one of the funniest women I know. Leigh — who, like me, was dressed as a 1950s housewife — channelled a Southern US Bible belt belle, and read hilarious passages on sex written by male crime writers; while I put forward the scientific case for considering reading and writing to be unnatural for women. Robert argued that women do everything better than men, Jarad talked about women being better at killing by castration, and Andrew brought the house down with comments like: “Times change and the world with it, but some things remain the same. There still ain’t nothing like a dame. There are however, many things like a dick. And these can be found online and in specialist retail outlets.”

Half the fun for me was watching the audience reaction from my vantage point on stage. People were laughing with tears rolling down their faces. Priceless!

Crime Writer Sandi Wallace writes more about the Saturday afternoon sessions here.

Photos and video links to follow. Meanwhile, congratulations to everyone who made Death in July such a brilliant success, especially Jill Blee and Carmel Shute.

21/06/2014 - 5:02pm

There’s a wicked twist to the Dames versus Dicks Great Crime Writing Debate – Who does it Better, the climax of Death in July Festival of Women’s Crime Writing in Ballarat, 4-5 July. The opposing teams of crime writers will argue each other’s case.

True crime writer Vikki Petraitis, the Dames team captain, said, “Everyone knows that you have to have balls to write great crime. Women’s maternal impulses always kick in – they can’t go to the dark side.”

Crime novelist Robert Gott argues, “Dames do it better because dames haven’t got anything better to do.”

Joining the Dames side are Leigh Redhead and Angela Savage while the Dicks will be bolstered by Andrew Grimes and Jarad Henry. Dominic Brine, Breakfast presenter 107.9 FM ABC Ballarat, is charged with keeping the criminal talent in order.

Death in July, which is co-hosted by Ballarat Writers and Sisters in Crime Australia, kicks off with a gala public opening at the Museum of Australian Democracy Eureka (MADE) at 6pm Friday 4 July. Savage will give the keynote address.

"I've been grappling with whether it's possible to identify a unifying thread that runs through Australian women's crime writing given that it ranges from comic and cosy to hard-boiled and noir. Women are writing everything from police procedurals and detective novels; medical, legal and political thrillers; domestic dramas, romantic suspense, speculative fiction, young adult, kid lit, works in verse, true crime and historical crime,” Savage said.

"The heroes of Australian women's crime fiction are also incredibly diverse from police, forensic experts, autopsy surgeons, psychologists, profilers and private detectives to strippers, flappers, fashion models, high school students, yarnbombers, bakers, ambulance officers, heroin addicts, fish and chip shop owners, artists, journalists and psychics.

"That said, I have come up with a thread, albeit gossamer thin, which I believe binds Australian women's crime writing together. All will be revealed at Death In July."

Crime fans from all over Victoria will gather at MADE on the Saturday to celebrate – and dissect – women’s crime fiction with panel sessions, launches, readings and the Murder at MADE Writing competition for the best opening paragraph of a story inspired by a ‘dead’ body in the MADE foyer.

Redhead chairs the opening session entitled Gum Shoes or High Heels. "We won’t be talking about what we’d wear if we did ever want to walk all over men. Rather we’ll be celebrating the different directions female protagonists in crime fiction are taking. The eighties seemed full of well behaved, upper middle class professionals, but now it’s like anything goes. Today’s characters are allowed to be perverse, shy, violent, ugly, weak, mystical, amoral – you name it. They’re less like superheroes and more like real people."

Lindy Cameron, who heads a panel on young adult fiction, said that the growth of YA crime in Australia can only be good for the not-so-hidden agenda of Sisters in Crime: 'Get em while they're young'.

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that women who write crime grew up with the Famous Five. But it seems our next generation of crime writers will grow up with a brilliant new breed Aussie YA crime writers,” Cameron said.

Bones, Ballistics and Boffins, a session on forensics will be chaired by Petraitis who said, “Real crimes aren’t solved in an hour and real forensic analysis can’t do what TV suggests it can do. Despite this, forensics has been used in some amazing ways to lead the cops straight to the crooks. A fleck of paint, a flake of dandruff, a single strand of hair – any of which can put a killer in jail.”

Leading up to the festival is Blood on Ballarat, a serial story being written by ten prominent Ballarat women. Starting a chapter by Redhead, the story will evolve as it is passed from one woman to the next, each adding a few hundred words. It will be broadcast on 107.9 FM ABC Ballarat as part of Death in July Festival. Creative media producer Yum Studio will film the process.

For further information and tickets for Death in July, go to www.ballaratwriters.com

For interviews:

Carmel Shute, Sisters in Crime national co-convenor: 0412 569 356; cshute@internode.on.net

or Sally Williams: 0419 662 890; publiclity@ballaratwriters.com

14/06/2014 - 12:20pm

Break out the champagne and beads! Thanks to the campaigns waged by Sisters in Crime and many others, the ABC has finally come to its senses and commissioned a third series of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

We're not sure why it's taken so long - the show had a superb cast, was high-rating and sold to over 120 countries. Nothing against Dr Blake or The Old School, but it did seem that the male paradigm was yet again destined to reign supreme.

We're also thrilled that Essie Davis, who presented Sisters in Crime's 20th Scarlet Stiletto Awards last November, will reprise the role of Phyrne Fisher, a part she was born to play. More than a few Sisters will also be pleased to see Nathan Page back as Inspector Jack Robinson. His big policeman boots would apparently be welcome under quite a few beds.

Congratulations to Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger from Every Cloud Productions for hanging in there. And congratulations to Kerry Greenwood, a founding member of Sisters in Crime, for writing the wonderful Phyrne Fisher series in the first place. We'll also be looking forward to more magnificent costumes from of Marion Boyce who, along with Kerry Greenwood, did Sisters in Crime the honour of presenting its 19th Scarlet Stiletto Awards.

More from Emily Blatchford, "Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries back for a third season, Inisde Film, [Fri 13/06/2014 3:51 PM]

Essie Davis will once again be stepping into the shoes of Miss Phryne Fisher as the popular ABC series has been renewed for a third season.

Set in the 1920s and based on the Kerry Greenwood’s best-selling novels, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries revolves around the life of glamorous private detective Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis).

“We’re so thrilled to be able to deliver this next series,” says co-producer Fiona Eagger. “We have such a loyal fan base that has been so persistent in their loyalty and their need for more Miss Fisher, to be able to give them a third season is a wonderful feeling. I think, for [co-producer Deb Cox] and I, [the loyal fan base] has been an incredible inspiration to keep going.”

Eagger confirmed to IF the much-loved cast would all be returning, and even hinted at some of the plot points for season three.

“We’ve got magic in the next one and we’d like to do one in the military. There’s no end to the inspiration,” she says. “You never know- there might be a wedding!”

“It’s a tough time for the ABC so we are thrilled they are able to bring us back, and to have that support from Film Victoria as well.”

First broadcast on ABC1 on 24 February 2012, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries was an immediate hit, with an average of 1.4million viewers per episode.

In 2013, Series Two maintained its popularity, with an average of 1.5 million viewers per episode, 14% of which was time-shifted viewing.

The show has also been hugely popular internationally, selling to more than 120 overseas territories, including USA, Canada, France, the UK and Asia and Latin America.

“It’s great that this very quintessential Australian character is taking the world by storm,” says Eagger. “I really do think she is a very attractive heroine. She’s the female Australian version of James Bond.”

The third series is currently being written and will start shooting in mid-October in Melbourne.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is produced by Every Cloud Productions. ABC Executive Producers, Carole Sklan and Sue Masters. Executive Producers and Producers: Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox.

Click here for Linda Holmes' blog. 


26/05/2014 - 11:02pm

Crime writing festival brings authors to Ballarat

Ballarat will be the scene of the crime in July when a formidable line-up of award-winning authors gather to celebrate Australian women’s crime writing.

Starting with a gala opening and keynote address on the evening of Friday 4 July, the Death in July festival will give fans of crime the chance to hear experts discuss writing techniques and the future of the genre.

Seasoned crime writer Angela Savage, Miles Franklin shortlistee Maurilia Meehan and forensic pathologist Dr Shelley Robertson are some of the guests to appear at Death in July, which is co-hosted by Ballarat Writers and Sisters in Crime Australia.

Organiser Jill Blee said Death in July will treat festival goers to the best in Australian women’s crime writing.

“There will be plenty of advice for budding crime writers and readers will have the opportunity to meet their favourite writers.”

Ms Blee said winter was the perfect time to hold the festival.

“Snuggling up to a good whodunit is the best way to cope with the cold outside.”

Carmel Shute, national co-convenor of Sisters in Crime, said that its 400+ Victorian members were already packing their winter woollies for the festival.

“We’re delighted to be conspiring with Ballarat Writers to bring top women’s crime writing to Ballarat.”

The festival will cap off on 5 July with a debate dubbed ‘Dames vs Dicks’, where popular crime authors will argue whether women or men are the best in the business and the audience will be the judge.

For further information and tickets for Death in July, go to www.ballaratwriters.com

Angela Savage, author: 0432 697 263; angelasavageos@gmail.com

Jill Blee, festival organiser: 0411 046 558; jillblee1@gmail.com

Carmel Shute, Sisters in Crime national co-convenor: 0412 569 356; cshute@internode.on.net

Sally Williams: 0419 662 890; publiclity@ballaratwriters.com