This morning came news Ned Kelly’s 130 year old remains had been identified at the old Pentridge Prison site. Only hours earlier I was celebrating the Australian crime fiction awards named his honour. I felt very close to Ned. Really. Like bag of old bones myself.
I blame my posse at the Ned Kelly Awards dinner last night: my awesome partner Andrew Nette (whose take on the night is here) and fellow Melbourne Crime Factory editors Cameron Ashleigh and Liam Jose; and crime writer David Whish-Wilson, shortlisted for Best First Book for his wonderful novel Line of Sight. Add to the mix the company of my fellow Best Fiction nominee Chris Womersley, Sisters in Crime Lindy Cameron, Carmel Shute, Jacqui Horwood, Amanda Wrangles, Kylie Fox, crime writer Leigh Redhead and her lovely partner Michael and let’s just say there was a lot of love in the room.
The formal proceedings were hosted by crime writer and Über-Mistress of Ceremonies Jane Clifton. Journalist and co-author of Underbelly Andrew Rule gave the inaugural Ned Kelly Oration on ‘Sex, Death and Betrayal’ (must be the year for inaugural orations: Peter Temple did one for Miles Franklin). Rule told a story set in Carlton involving a guy called Baz, a beautiful girl from Genazzano, a loan shark and a drug deal gone wrong, which he subsequently admitted was the plot of the Merchant of Venice told Underbelly-style. His point was the timelessness of crime stories: ‘they go to the heart of what it means to be human’.
The announcement of the four award winners was bookended (pun intended) by musical performances by Acts of Violence, featuring Stephen Cummings, Robert Goodge and Bill McDonald. Stephen reminisced at one point on an early Ned Kelly Awards night when Carter Brown’s widow turned up in a red mini-dress. But that’s another story.
Congratulations to all the 2011 Ned Kelly Award winners:
Best First Fiction: Alan Carter Prime Cut Fremantle Press
S.D. Harvey Short Story Award: A.S. Patric Hemisphere Travel Guides: Las Vegas For Vegans
True Crime: Geesche Jacobson Abandoned- The Sad Death of Dianne Brimble Allen & Unwin
Best Fiction: Geoffrey McGeachin The Diggers Rest Hotel Penguin
McGeachin gave the most hilarious speech of the night, thanking his wife ‘who taught me that violence can sometimes be the answer’ and claiming to hold a world record for writer’s block. He finished by citing a treasured review of one of his earlier books, words to the effect that ‘your book gives me great hope because if a piece of shit like that can get published, anything can.’
I subsequently bought, misplaced, retrieved and starting reading The Digger’s Rest Hotel on the tram tonight and it is bloody brilliant.
I wrote earlier of how excited I was that The Half-Child was shortlisted for Best Fiction alongside McGeachin and Womersley. And at the risk of echoing what Peter Temple said in the aforementioned inaugural Miles Franklin Oration about Australians being more comfortable with failure than success, I can’t imagine having more fun than I did last night even if The Half-Child had won.
Look at the above photo, taken on the night by Lindy Cameron. Could that grin possibly be any bigger?