Entries for 22nd Davitt Awards for women’s crime books now open

Sisters in Crime Australia’s 22nd Davitt Awards for the best crime and mystery books by Australian women from 2021 are now open. Publishers have until Friday 6 May 2022 to enter. Self-published books are eligible. Books co-authored or edited by men or including chapters by men are not.

This year the Davitts are again supported by Swinburne University of Technology.

Six Davitt Awards will be presented at a gala dinner in Melbourne, probably in late August or early September: Best Adult Novel; Best Young Adult Novel; Best Children’s Novel; Best Non-fiction Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted the 500+ members of Sisters in Crime Australia).

Award-winning crime short story writer, Philomena Horsley, is again serving as Judges’ Coordinator. She says the six judges are girding their loins.

“Nearly 160 books are already in contention, including 120 adult novels. The number – and, more importantly, the quality – confirm that we are in a golden age for Australian crime writing. It’s a far cry from the seven books nominated for the inaugural Davitt Awards back in 2000,” she said. 

“Over 60 books are debuts in the crime and mystery genre. More and more women are turning to crime which is surging in popularity on the page and screen and allows authors to explore an amazing variety of issues – the environment (Charlotte McConaghy, Once There Were Wolves), religion (Erina Redden, The Serpent’s Skin; Lisa Emanuel, The Covered Wife), and crime families (Loraine Peck, The Second Son). So many debut books are incredibly polished – for instance, Before You Knew My Name (Jacqueline Bublitz), Girl, 11 (Amy Suiter Clarke), and, I Shot the Devil (Ruth McIver), to name but a few.”

Horsley said that women taking justice into their own hands is an emerging theme, as evident by Debra Oswald’s The Family Doctor and Sarah Barrie’s Unforgiven.

“Others such as Pamela Hart (Digging up Dirt) and Kellie McCourt (Heiress on Fire), adopt a humorous approach. Non-fiction crime is particularly strong this year,” she said.

“Overall, the books, which often feature women kick-arse heroes, find a large and enthusiastic audience, particularly amongst women – and women, of course, make up the majority of book buyers and book club members. The crime books on the list are also notable for their striking evocations of place and time. They transport us from the heat of Singapore, Perth, and Cairns, and the iciness of the Australian Alps to a variety of locations in contemporary (and sometimes historic) North America, France, and the UK.”

Horsley said that women’s crime books were increasingly recognised in other awards.

Black and Blue: A memoir of racism and resilience by Veronica Gorrie won this year’s Victorian Prize for Literature as well as the Prize for Indigenous Writing. Leanne Hall has just won the 2022 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature Young Adult Award for The Gaps,she said.

“Australian women’s crime books are increasingly making it to the screen. Troppo, the eight-part TV series based on Candice Fox’s novel, Crimson Lake, is currently screening on ABC TV. The OA and Big Love writer Melanie Marnich is penning the screen adaptation for Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty whose previous two novels have been translated into television programs.”

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865. They cost publishers nothing to enter. A longlist will be published in May, a shortlist in July.

The awards are handsome carved polished wooded trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is attached.

The judging panel for 2022 comprises Philomena Horsley, winner of the 2018 Scarlet Stiletto Award and medical autopsy expert; Joy Lawn, YA expert, and reviewer; Janice Simpson, author and academic; Emily Webb, true crime author, and podcaster; Jacquie Byron, business author, and novelist, and Moraig Kisler, Sisters in Crime’s President and review editor.

The previous Davitts have been presented by Debra Oswald, Australian crime author (2021); Val McDermid, Scottish crime writer (2020, 2010, 2003); Dr Joanne Drayton, NZ crime writer (2019); Sissel-Jo Gazan, Danish crime writer (2018); Hilary Bonney, Australian crime author (2018); Liane Moriarty, Australian crime author (2016); Sophie Hannah, UK crime writer (2015); Lauren Beukes, South Africa crime writer (2014); Vanda Symon, New Zealand crime writer (2013); Åsa Larsson, Swedish crime writer (2012); Shamini Flint, Singaporean crime writer (2011); Justice Betty King (2009); Judge Liz Gaynor (2008); Estelle Blackburn, Walkley-winning investigative journalist (2007); Karen Kissane, true crime writer (2006); Debbie Killroy, Sisters Inside (2005); Karin Slaughter, US crime writer (2004); Sharan Burrow, ACTU President (2002) and Christine Nixon, (then) Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police (2001).

For details about last year’s Davitt Award winners, go to the media release https://sistersincrime.org.au/thrills-spills-sisters-in-crimes-21st-davitt-awards-winners-announced/and the YouTube video featuring Debra Oswald and Tara Mitchell https://sistersincrime.org.au/view-the-davitt-awards-video/

To enter the Davitts, publishers should contact Carmel Shute, Sisters in Crime, National Co-convenor asap on admin@sistersincrime.org.au and get books to the judges before Friday 6 May. Enquiries: 0412 569 356

Media comment: Philomena Horsley on 0417 121 771; philomenah1@aol.com More info: Carmel Shute, Secretary & National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia, on 0412 569 356; admin@sistersincrime.org.au