Davitt Awards 2014 shortlist

Sisters in Crime Australia yesterday announced its shortlist for its 14th Davitt Awards for the best crime books by Australian women, and I was thrilled to learn that The Dying Beach made this year’s shortlist for Best Adult Novel.

It’s the first time a novel of mine has made the Davitts shortlist and, coming on the back of the Ned Kelly Awards shortlisting, I couldn’t be more excited.

According to Sisters in Crime Australia’s announcement, this year a record 76 books published in 2013 compete for six Davitts: 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.

Kudos to the Sisters, too, for shortlisting an e-book for the first time: Ilsa Evans, Nefarious Doings: A Nell Forrest Mystery, published by Momentum Press, Pan Macmillan Australia’s new digital-only imprint.

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865. The awards will be presented at a gala dinner on Sat 30 August 2014 by South African crime writer Lauren Beukes.

As it happens, I will be interviewing Beukes, together with Australian author Terry Hayes, on the panel Licence to Thrill earlier that day as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Congratulations to all those authors shortlisted for this year’s Davitt’s — lists that include some of my favourite reads for 2013. Again, I found myself not envying the judges…

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Ned Kelly Awards 2014 shortlist

ned-kelly-awardsThe Australian Crime Writers Association announced the shortlist for the 2014 Ned Kelly Awards on Saturday evening at the Bendigo Writers Festival. I was absolutely thrilled to be on the spot when my latest novel The Dying Beach was included among the books nominated for 2014 Best Crime Novel.

This makes it 3/3 books nominated for Ned Kelly Awards for me. What a buzz!

I am also rapt to be sharing the Best Crime Novel shortlist with some of my favourite contemporary Australian authors, three of us — myself, Garry Disher and Stephen Orr — sharing a publisher in Melbourne-based Text Publishing (who also published one of the Best True Crime nominated books).

Australian Crime Writers Association chair, Michael Robotham, described this year’s shortlists as among the strongest in the 19-year history of the prizes.

‘I can’t remember a time when the competition was so fierce and the quality so high.’

I certainly don’t envy the judges’ their task – you can read their comments on the shortlisted books here.

The full list of nominees is below. Winners will be announced on 6  September at the Brisbane Writers Festival.


Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH


Candice Fox, HADES
Ellie Marney, EVERY BREATH


John Kidman & Denise Hofman, FOREVER NINE
Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff, NO MERCY


Louise Bassett, HOUSEWARMING
Darcy-Lee Tindale, THE SCARS OF NOIR
Roger Vickery, VOICES OF SOI 22
Emma Viskic, SPLINTER
Emma Viskic, WEB DESIGN


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Festival: Melbourne Writers Festival 2014

2014 MWFI am delighted to be chairing three crime panels at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festivals and, frankly, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

I get to interview David Whish-Wilson and Adrian McKinty and Welsh author John Williams all on the same panel. Then a week later, I have Terry Hayes and South African writer Lauren Beukes in the same room at the same time. And I get to facilitate a session with the awesome Ellie Marney and Lili Wilkinson as part of the schools program. Event details follow:

Strange Territory
Sat 23 August, 10.00AM–11.00AM
ACMI Cinema 1
The hidden underbelly of Cardiff, Belfast and Perth makes perfect fodder for hard-boiled crime fiction. Belfast noir novelist Adrian McKinty, Welsh writer John Williams and West Australian David Whish-Wilson discuss the questionable values of politics, police and power in the tough and gritty cities of their crime thrillers. In conversation with Angela Savage.
Bookings here.

License to Thrill
Sat 30 August, 11.30AM–12.30AM
ACMI Cinema 1
Best selling writers Lauren Beukes (The Shining Girls) and Terry Hayes (I Am Pilgrim) reveal the trade secrets of what makes the perfect thriller and how they master intrigue and suspense on the page. In conversation with Angela Savage.
Bookings here.

Plotting the Perfect Crime Novel
Mon 25 Aug, 10.00AM–11.00AM
ACMI Cinema 1
Crime fiction is about conflict, clues, red herrings and false leads. How can readers recognise crime fiction’s codes and cunning? How can writers reinvent a tradition of 150 years of mystery and intrigue? Lili Wilkinson and Ellie Marney share the secrets.
Part of the MWF Schools Program. Bookings here. [SOLD OUT]

Quick plug for my partner in life and crime fiction, Andrew Nette, who amongst other events is giving an illustrated talk on pulp fiction, a subject he is both passionate and knowledgeable about, on Saturday 30 Aug at 4.00PM at the NGV. Details here.

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Baby Gammy Case Highlights Pitfalls of Surrogacy in Thailand

The baby Gammy case, which continues to make news headlines in Australia, raises issues germane to my PhD research on commercial surrogacy between Australia and Thailand. I have turned my reflections on the case into an article published by The Wheeler Centre.

handmaids1Is commercial surrogacy a form of child trafficking? In her book Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self, Swedish feminist academic Kajsa Ekis Ekman says that it is. She has an unlikely ally in Thailand’s military junta, which moved last week to crack down on the country’s unregulated surrogacy industry, threatening to use human trafficking laws to prosecute those who make illegal use of fertility technology.

In Australia, the crackdown is bound to be associated with the now infamous case of baby Gammy, reported in the media here last week. Born to a Thai surrogate who refused to abort the foetus after tests showed he had Down Syndrome, Gammy, now seven months old, was allegedly abandoned by his Australian parents, who took home his healthy twin sister.

But the circumstances surrounding the case are far from clear cut. And it’s only the latest in a series of incidents that have raised concerns about this controversial industry…

Read the rest of the article here.


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Meet the Main Character Blog Tour

I’ve been invited by crime fiction writer and über blogger Margot Kinberg to participate in the Meet the Main Character Blog Tour. (Fans of crime fiction would be mad not to follow Margot’s blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist to marvel at and share in her encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre). Check out Margot’s blog for her interview with her main character Joel Williamsprofessor of criminal justice in the Pennsylvania (USA) college town of Tilton.

And now to continue the tour with an interview with the main character of my own crime novels…

What is your name? Are you a fictional or historical character?

I’m Jayne Keeney PI, an Australian expatriate based in Bangkok. People mistake me for my creator, Angela Savage, because we both have long, dark, curly hair. But I am entirely fictional and way more cool than Angela.

When and where is your story set?

My stories are set in the late-1990s in different parts of Thailand. My first outing, Behind the Night Bazaar, takes place in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai in 1996. The second novel, The Half-Child, is set in the seaside town of Pattaya — admittedly, a pretty seedy place — with a side trip to Thailand’s ‘wild west’, Kanchanaburi. The latter is probably best known outside Thailand as the site of the Death Railway and Bridge on the River Kwai. The latest novel, The Dying Beach, takes place in early 1997 in the southwest province of Krabi on Thailand’s Andaman coast — arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the planet.

What should we know about you?

One reviewer describes me as “an appealing character, emotional and yet capable of cold-eyed action. She smokes too much, speaks Thai fluently and likes a drink and a shag. She has a well-developed moral compass.” Another suggests I am “driven by that repressed compassion fuelling her need to see justice done.”

This pretty much sums me up.

What is the main conflict? What messes up your life?

I am impulsive — that’s how I ended up in Thailand in the first place — to the point of being reckless at times. Also stubborn and occasionally unreasonable. Fortunately, my business partner and lover, Rajiv Patel, is nothing like me. His intelligence and pragmatism are life-saving for me. Literally.

What is your personal goal?

I’m not really the planning type. I don’t set goals so much as lurch from one opportunity to the next. That said, I’m growing increasingly attached to Rajiv and I guess I’ve got to start thinking about how — and where — we can make a future together. I also need to reconcile my relationship with Australia, which despite being my country of birth, often disappoints and frustrates me.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Angela has 30,000 words of the next Jayne Keeney novel written. She actually started writing it some time ago, intending it to be the third book in the series. But on reflection, she decided it was better suited as a fourth book, and put it aside to write The Dying Beach, which was published in 2013. The working title is A Tiger’s Heart and it is set in Bangkok in 1997, with a side trip to the island of Koh Chang.

When can we expect the book to be published?

Well you might ask! Angela is working on an altogether different novel about commercial surrogacy between Australia and Thailand, part of her PhD in Creative Writing, which doesn’t involve me at all. Clearly, I’m not good enough for her now that she’s aspiring to become Doctor Savage. All the same, I know she can’t resist me — or Rajiv. She’ll need a break from her PhD novel at some point and we’ll be waiting patiently when she does.

Thanks Jayne. And now it’s my turn to pass the baton to other writers and ask them to introduce their main characters using the questions above. I’m tagging:

Felicity Young’s Dr Dody McCleland

Sulari Gentill’s Roland Sinclair

PM Newton’s Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly

– all awesome characters you’ll want to get to know.



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Video: Dicks vs Dames

Ballarat Writers Inc has released the video of the great debate, Dicks vs Dames, held at the Death in July Festival in collaboration with Sisters in Crime Australia. Arguing that men write better crime fiction than women are Vikki Petraitis, Leigh Redhead and yours truly. Arguing that dames do it better are Robert Gott, Andrew Grimes and Jarad Henry.

Dames Angela Savage, Leigh Redhead & Vikki Petraitis (Photo: Neville Hiatt)

Dames Angela Savage, Leigh Redhead & Vikki Petraitis (Photo: Neville Hiatt)


Dicks: Robert Gott, Andrew Grimes, Jarad Henry (Photo: Neville Hiatt)

This is hilarious viewing. The audience laughter is real, and adjudicator Dominic Brine barely keeps it together.

So set aside an hour, pour yourself a cup of tea or glass of wine, click the link here and enjoy!

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Review: Life or Death

isbn9780751552898Michael Robotham’s new novel, Life or Death, opens with a letter addressed to the reader, introducing the book as ‘a story that I’ve nurtured and turned over in my mind for more than twenty years — ever since I read a newspaper account of a man who had served a long prison sentence, but escaped the say before he was due to be released. Why? I asked myself.’

Robotham says it took him years to imagine an answer, ‘and even longer before I felt I had the skills to tell the story properly'; it is ten years since his first novel was published.

This background serves to explain why, Robotham writes, ‘I’m so excited about Life or Death…it’s the book I was meant to write’ (emphasis in original).

It’s a risky gambit, building up the reader’s expectations like this, and some may be inclined to approach Life or Death with a you’re-gonna-have-to-work-hard-to-impress-me attitude as a result. But as a writer, I’m encouraged by Robotham’s admission that this book he was meant to write was a long time coming, and that he had to hone his skills as a writer before he could do it justice.

As it is, Life or Death delivers on all Robotham’s promises, and I defy anyone reading this book to remain unmoved for long. A love story, crime thriller and morality tale rolled into one, Life or Death combines skilful plotting and unrelenting suspense, with characters real enough to make you cry. Really. In public.

Audie Palmer has spent a decade in prison for the armed robbery of an armoured vehicle in which four people died, including two gang members. Hospitalised with a gunshot wound to the head, Audie survived against the odds. But the seven million dollars stolen in the robbery was never recovered and a result, for ten years, Audie has been threatened and assaulted by fellow inmates, prison guards and criminal gangs, all wanting to know where the money is. When Audie escapes from prison the day before he is due to be released, everyone assumes he’s gone after the money. But the reason why he runs turns out to be far more complex, to do with a promise he made more than a decade earlier.

Audie is a wonderful creation. On the one hand, intriguing and charismatic — ‘like Yoda, Buddha and the Gladiator all rolled into one’, as his prison buddy Moss Webster puts it — on the other, it is Audie’s humanity that gives the novel its emotional punch.

The pace is unrelenting, the twists unpredictable. But what really made this book outstanding for me is the way it wraps a big picture morality tale about corruption, retribution and justice around a moving love story — actually, more than one love story, if you count the friendship between Audie and Moss.

Both epic and intimate, I was reminded of the novels of Dennis Lehane. And I could imagine Clint Eastwood directing the film version of Life or Death – ideally with Ryan Gosling playing Audie.

This is deeply satisfying crime fiction from a writer at the top of his game. But be warned: the ending may well make you cry, too.

Life or Death by Michael Robotham (2014), published by Hachette Australia, is released today.

I’ll be talking with Michael about Life or Death at the Bendigo Writers Festival at midday on 10 August 2014. See here for details.


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