30 years of mystery, murder and malice

Sisters in Crime is marking the 30th anniversary of its Scarlet Stiletto Awards short story competition with a gala dinner, Saturday 25 November, 6 for 6.30 pm. at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel.

Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox, the creators of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and much more, will present the awards after discussing their lives in crime with host Senior Professor Sue Turnbull, crime fiction scholar, reviewer, and Sisters in Crime Ambassador.

This year, 250 short stories are competing for 15 awards, with a record $12,720 prize pool. Twenty-five stories by 25 authors have been shortlisted. Each author will receive a framed certificate and the winner of the 1st Prize will also take home ‘The Shoe’– a scarlet stiletto trophy with its steel heel plunged into a perspex mount. (Click here for details of the shortlist and prizes.)

“Go wild in scarlet and pearls, the traditional 30th-anniversary gift,” says Turnbull.

“Like many of Sisters in Crime’s best ideas, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards sprang from a well-lubricated meeting in St Kilda in 1994 when the convenors – including me – debated how we could unearth the female criminal talent that we were convinced was loitering with intent.

“When it came to the name, the ‘scarlet stiletto’ was the stand-out choice, a feminist play on the traditions of the genre (think silver dagger…). We love the way that the stiletto is both a weapon and a shoe worn by women. And, of course, the colour scarlet has a special association.

“And we were right – talent is loitering everywhere, sometimes in the most unlikely places! The winners have variously been librarians, editors, teachers, union officials, journalists, public servants, psychologists, investigators, hairdressers, exercise instructors, medical autopsy specialists, doctors, pharmacists, cattery managers. mothers, retirees, and, very occasionally, full-time writers.”

Amazingly, five women have won the First Prize (and trophy) twice – and they were then invited to become judges.

“The awards,” Turnbull said, “have springboarded the literary careers of many writers. To date, 4,332 stories have been entered with 34 winners–including category winners – going on to have novels published. These include Cate Kennedy, Tara Moss, Angela Savage, Aoife Clifford, Ellie Marney, and Anna Snoekstra.”

Winning the Scarlet Stiletto helped Josephine Pennicott gain attention from a major publishing company, which led to her securing a literary agent. Since then, she has had five books published both in Australia and internationally. Her mystery novel Poet’s Cottage was a Spiegel bestseller in Germany.

Former police officer, TJ Hamilton, says that winning the shoe in 2015 was “a huge turning point” in her career. In the eight years since, she has worked in various script departments across a wide variety of Australian dramas and is now in LA working on two crime shows.

In 2009, Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox founded Every Cloud Productions and quickly cemented the company’s reputation for high-quality and popular TV drama. This included co-creating, producing and executive producing three seasons of the runaway international success, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which has sold to more than 170 territories around the world. Deb is also a renowned scriptwriter.

Other Every Cloud Productions that have explored crime in its many dimensions include Newton’s Law, Eden, the ratings hit Seachange Reimagined, and the movie Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears.

At the end of the ceremony, Cate Kennedy will launch Scarlet Stiletto: The Fifteenth Cut, an-ebook of winning 2023 stories, along with a paperback of the winning stories over the past 30 years, The Scarlet Stiletto: 30 Years of Mystery, Murder and Malice.

Cate won the first two Scarlet Stiletto Awards in 1994 and 1995 (after which she was invited to become a judge). Cate rapidly became one of Australia’s most admired and awarded short-story writers. She’s also written and published a novel, a travel memoir, and three collections of poetry. Cate works as a writing teacher and fiction advisor on the faculty of Pacific University’s Creative Writing program in Oregon, finally completed her PhD in 2021, and is now trying to clear the decks to finish writing another book.

Men or ‘brothers-in-law’ welcome.

A $1000 gift voucher from Piccoli Portraits will be auctioned.

Booked out as of 17 November.

More info on the ceremony here. More background on the awards here.

Sun Bookshop stall: Sisters in Crime members receive a 10% discount

Media comment: Senior Professor Sue Turnbull: 0407 810 090; sturnbul@uow.edu.au

More information: Carmel Shute, Secretary & National Co-convenor, admin@sistersincrime.org.au; 0412 569 356