Announcing the 15th Davitt Awards’ Results for Best Crime Books

Pan Macmillan’s Sophie Anderson accepts Davitt (Best Adult Novel) for Liane Moriarty

New York Times best-seller, Big Little Lies (Pan Macmillan Australia) by Sydney writer, Liane Moriarty, has won Sisters in Crime’s Davitt Award (Best Adult Novel).

Moriarty told the packed audience at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre by video on Saturday night (29 August), “P.D James said ‘we don’t necessarily choose our genre, the genre choose us’ and that was certainly the case for me. It was a surprise to find out that my sixth novel Big Little Lies had turned out to be a crime novel…it certainly never occurred to me that I would ever write a crime novel. “

Big Little Lies, which opens with a death at the local primary school’s trivia night, has sold a million copies in the US alone. Moriaty was the first Australian author to have a novel debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Film and television rights have been acquired by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon who will both take roles in the production.

A record total of 96 books by Australian women crime writers were in contention at the Davitt Awards, now in their 15th year. Leading UK crime writer, Sophie Hannah, presented the awards at a gala dinner. Prior to the presentations, she discussed her own life in crime with Melbourne author, Angela Savage.

Compere Angela Savage & UK crime author Sophie Hannah

Ellie Marney, who lives near Castlemaine in regional Victoria, won the Davitt (Best Young Adult Novel) for Every Word, the second in her three novels in the Every series. Marney won a highly commended award in last year’s Davitts for Every Breath.

Marney paid tribute to the community of YA authors. “We encourage each other, give each other a boost when things are tough, applaud each others’ victories, and generally try to make the ‘balancing act life’ of writing an easier path to travel. I would also like to thank the Centre for Youth Literature, and the #LoveOzYA campaign, for their unwavering support,” Marney said.

The Davitt (Best Children’s Crime Novel) went to Melbourne writer and illustrator, Judith Rossell, for Withering-by-Sea(Harper Collins).

Rossell’s illustrated novel, Withering-by-Sea, has also won the 2015 Indie Book Award for Children and YA, the 2015 ABIA award for older children, and was shortlisted for the CBCA and Aurealis Awards. She teaches Writing for Children at RMIT and the Australian Writers’ Centre. She has written 11 books and illustrated about 80. Recently, her picture book, Oliver, was published by Harper Collins in New York.

Judges praised Withering-by-Sea as a great story for middle to upper primary readers and the child within us all: “It is suspenseful, fun, sensitive and filled with glorious illustrations.”

Walkely-award winning journalist, Caroline Overington,won the Davitt (Non-Fiction) forLast Woman Hanged (Harper Collins).about Louisa Collins who was executed in New South Wales in 1889.

Overington, Associate Editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly, is based in Santa Monica, California, and has written nine books as well as profiling many of the world’s most impressive women, including Hillary Clinton, Ellen de Generes, Helen Mirren, Julia Gillard and Gina Rinehart.

Overington told the crowd by video that for years she had been passionately telling Louisa’s story to anyone who will listen: she was hanged for the crime of murder despite three juries having real doubt about her guilt.

“Her lawyer was struck from the roll for fraud and incompetence. She had seven children, including a daughter who was forced at age 10 to testify against her. She became a symbol of the struggle for women’s rights, including the right to sit on juries. She was buried in an unmarked grave and I have long been able to hear her calling out for justice,” she said.

Overington’s mother, Katrin Schwab, who edited the book, accepted the trophy on her behalf.

Mum (& editor) Katrin Schwab accepting Caroline Overington’s Award from Sophie Hannah 

Brisbane-based author Christine Bongers took out the Davitt (Best Debut Book) for Intruder (Woolshed Press – a Random House imprint).

Bongers, who has written three critically acclaimed novels for young people, said that Intruder might never have been written if a prowler hadn’t broken into the bedroom of her eleven-year-old daughter six years ago.

“We were lucky, the prowler ran off when she challenged him. And our daughter is a resilient child – she recovered much faster than I did. But eventually the terrifying ‘what ifs’ that tortured the mother faded into musings that interested the writer … We were all home the night that prowler broke into our house. But what if it happened to a girl home alone? What if her mother was dead and her Dad worked nights? …So the story of Intruder began,” she said.

Sandi Wallace, who lives in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, won the Davitt (Readers’ Choice) as voted by the 660 members of Sisters in Crime, for Tell Me Why (Clan Destine Press).

Tell Me Why is Wallace’s debut novel and the first instalment in her Rural Crime Files series. The sequel Black Saturday will be released in November 2015. She has written the third book and started on the fourth.

Wallace told the audience, “It’s been a year of fantastic firsts: first book signing, crime writer panel, public book reading, launch party, radio interview, library talk, review, festival… It has been a little daunting at times, but always exciting. And I have made special friendships throughout. Nothing tops this, though!” she said.

The Davitts, handsome carved polished wooded trophies, feature the front cover of the winning book under Perspex, and a plaque.

Framed certificates featuring the covers were presented to five highly commended authors in the following categories:

Best Adult Novel: Sulari Gentill, A Murder Unmentioned (Pantera Press)

Best Young Adult Novel: Pamela Rushby, The Ratcatcher’s Daughter (HarperCollins Australia)

Best Children’s Novel: Lollie Barr, The Adventures of Stunt Boy and His Amazing Wonder Dog Blindfold (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Best Non Fiction Book: Julie Szego, The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama (Wild Dingo Press)

Best Debut Book: Candice Fox, Hades (Random House)

The awards are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865. An e-book of Force and Fraud has just been published by Clan Destine Press.

The judging panel for 2015 comprised Maggie Baron, Deborah Crabtree, Jacqui Horwood, Sylvia Loader, Michaela Lobb and Dr Shelley Robertson.

Sisters in Crime’s treasurer, Robyn Byrne, won the ‘be Immortalised in Fiction’ Competition which means her name will appear in Liane Moriarty’s next novel.

A full script of the Davitt Awards with Judges Reports and author comments included (disregard all the instructions such as Play Video or Pose for Pics etc.)

Media comment: Jacqui Horwood, Davitt Judges’ Wrangler: 0449 703 503

Author interviews: Carmel Shute, National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia: 0412 569 356