Geoffrey McGeachin has won the 2013 Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction for Blackwattle Creek (Penguin), the sequel to The Diggers Rest Hotel, which won the same award in 2011.
The award for Best First Fiction was won by Zane Lovitt for The Midnight Promise (Text). Lovitt previously won the Sandra D Harvey Short Story Award for a story that later became part of The Midnight Promise.
Robin de Crespigny added to the slew of non-fiction awards she has garnered for The People Smuggler with the 2013 Ned Kelly Award for True Crime.
The Sandra D Harvey Short Story Award was won by Roger Vickery for ‘Echoes from the Dolphin’.
Brisbane Writers Festival played host to the Ned Kelly Awards this year, allowing me as a guest of the festival to attend. The ceremony took place in a marquee on the Maiwar Green, nestled between the State Library of Queensland and the Gallery of Modern Art.
The hallowed setting did nothing to improve the calibre of the traditional Great Crime Debate, which was the usual slanging match, despite the best efforts of Jacqui Payne and Meg Vann to inject some intelligence into the proceedings.
Expertly adjudicated by Jane Clifton, the debate — and I use that term loosely — pitted the affirmative team of crime writer Matthew Condon, Indigenous Magistrate Payne and Queensland Writers Centre CEO Vann against the negative Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride, local paramedic turned crime writer Katherine Howell, and journalist turned screenwriter now novelist Terry Hayes as they argued the premise ‘You can’t make this stuff up’.
The affirmative team put up a strong showing, but it was a tough ask to go up against three people who make stuff up for a living. Some highlights of the debate for me:
- Matthew Condon reading transcripts of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s responses to the Fitzgerald Inquiry as proof you can’t make this stuff up
- Stuart MacBride suggesting, ‘Your country may be on the brink of electing Dobby the House Elf…’
- Katherine Howell’s disgusting, hilarious real life stories from her experience as a paramedic that could never cut it as fiction (teacup of phlegm, anyone?)
- Terry Hayes revealing that the reason there were so many car accidents in Mad Max was because his screenplay directions didn’t factor that he’d never learned to drive.
Michael Robotham kicked off the Neddies presentation ceremony by congratulating all short-listed debut authors and advising them, ‘Your mortifying moments lie ahead of you.’ He told stories of gigs where only two people turn up, ‘one of whom you know, the other who’s in a pram’. Of being on signing tables and having people hand him books written by other authors. Of having one person take his book back, admitting she’d bought it by mistake. It was good to be reminded that even an author as successful as Robotham had to start somewhere.
Robin de Crespigny thanked the Australian Crime Writers Association, which runs the awards, for their bravery in giving the True Crime Award to The People Smuggler – a book she said demonstrates ‘how criminality can be in the eyes of the beholder’. I am a huge fan of this book and was thrilled to see it win.
In accepting the Best Fiction award, Geoffrey McGeachin began by berating MC Jane Clifton ‘for not mentioning tradition of showering the winner with one hundred dollar bills’, before launching into an acceptance speech with the wit and grace I now recognise as characteristic of this talented writer.