A record 101 books are in contention for Sisters in Crime Australia’s 18th Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women. This figure tops last year’s record by two. An astonishing 71 are adult crime novels and more than a third – 37 books in total – are debut offerings.
Davitt judges’ wrangler, Jacqui Horwood, said more and more women authors were getting away with murder in the most creative ways.
“Some victims get pushed into craters. Others appear washed up on the shores of lakes in country towns or fail to return from executive team-building exercises in the mountains. In one case, it’s the story of the death of a haunted town thanks to the pervasiveness of asbestos,” she said.
“And in real life, some women are professionally engaged to clean up after murders and other terrible events. Or they’re examining the role of one of the highest-ranking Catholics in the world in the child sexual abuse scandal.”
Horwood said that scenes of the crimes were equally varied.
“The scenes of the crime take us from Millionaire’s Walk in Sorrento to Melbourne’s western suburbs to the croc-infested wetlands of Far North Queensland and an artists’ residency in southern Spain. Most are set in the present while others go back to Victorian England, the international skies of the 1920s or the Australia of the 1930s. In at least one case, the line between the real and the imagined is cleverly crossed.”
Horwood said that women’s crime writing had skyrocketed over the last 18 years.
“Back in 2001 when the Davitts were launched at SheKilda, Sisters in Crime’s 10th anniversary convention, only seven books were in contention, though it’s true that non-fiction crime books weren’t then included. Nevertheless, a fifteen-fold increase in 18 years bears witness to just how women’s crime writing continues to hit – and exceed – its mark,” she said.
Australian women crime writing was winning global acclaim, Horwood said.
“Last year, Liane Moriarty, the 2015 best adult novel winner, was twice invited onto the stage by Nicole Kidman when she won major acting awards for the TV series based on Big Little Lies (Pan Macmillan Australia),” she said.
“Reese Witherspoon, who co-produced and co-starred in the series with Kidman, is filming The Dry (HarperCollins Australia), Jane Harper’s novel which won two Davitts last year (Best Adult Crime Novel and Readers’ Choice). The Dry also took out the UK Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay, which won an unprecedented three Davitts in 2106, has just been longlisted in two categories for this year’s Daggers.
“Universal Pictures has renewed its option on Anna’s Snoeskstra’s debut novel, Only Daughter. Erin Cressida-Wilson, who wrote the script for Girl on the Train, is on her final draft of the adaptation.”
Horwood said she was particularly gratified to note that four winners from Sisters in Crime’s Scarlet Stiletto short story competition had novels in contention – Ellie Marney, Lois Murphy, Anna Snoekstra and M J Tija.
“One of Sisters in Crime’s missions is to discover and nurture talent of the criminal kind. Twenty-three Scarlet Stiletto winners, including category winners, have gone on to have novels published over the last 25 years and this year’s Davitts again prove the point,” she said.
This year, for the first time, Sisters in Crime accepted self-published books.
“Seismic shifts have rocked the publishing world over the past decade. Large numbers of writers are choosing to publish their own works, either because they can’t find a trade publisher or because these days, they can release their own books for a modest cost and earn up to 70% of the sale price.
“Book publishing has also undergone a revolution, sparked by advances in internet and digital technology. This revolution is as disruptive as the Gutenberg press, flooding the world with millions of POD paperbacks and cheap e-books available from Amazon and other outlets,” Horwood said.
“Literary awards, including awards as prestigious as the Victorian and NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Commonwealth Book Prize in Australia, and the Irish National Book Prize and the UK Folio Prize overseas, now accept self-published books. Self-published books can no longer just be dismissed as vanity publishing.
Danish crime writer Sissel-Jo Gazan will present the Davitt Awards at a gala ceremony in Melbourne at 6pm on Saturday 11 August, following a discussion about her life in crime with author Leigh Redhead. Gazan will present six awards: Best Adult Crime Novel; Best Young Adult Crime Novel; Best Children’s Crime Novel; Best Non-fiction Crime Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 500 members of Sisters in Crime Australia). Bookings open on 9 July.
The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, author of Australia’s first mystery novel Force and Fraud (1865) and cost publishers nothing to enter. This year the Davitts are again sponsored by Swinburne University of Technology.
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 2018 comprises Age literary columnist Jane Sullivan, YA expert Danielle Binks, forensic specialist Debbie Stephen, Sisters in Crime convenors Michaela Lobb and Pauline Meaney, and former convenor, librarian Jacqui Horwood.
Sisters in Crime Australia was set up 27 years ago, has chapters in several states, and holds regular events in Melbourne dissecting crime fiction on the page and screen. It also hosts a popular annual short story competition, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards.
Voting for the Readers’ Choice Davitt Award by Sisters in Crime members closes on 9 July. Only financial members can vote: https://davitt2018readerschoiceaward.eventbrite.com
A short list will be announced in early July. See below for the long list.
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2018 Davitt Awards Long List
(Click here to download a PDF)
Adult crime novels (71)
Rachel Amphlett, Hell to Pay (Kay Hunter #4) (Saxon Publishing)
Rachel Amphlett, One to Watch (Kay Hunter #3) (Saxon Publishing)
Rachel Amphlett, Will to Live (Kay Hunter #2) (Saxon Publishing)
Cassandra Austin, All Fall Down (Hamish Hamilton) Debut
Violeta M Bagia, Ace of Hart (Hart of Darkness #1) (Solstice Publishing) Debut
Sarah Bailey, The Dark Lake (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Sarah Barrie, Promise of Hunters Ridge (Harlequin MIRA)
Carline Bouilhet, A Darker Horse (Zeus Publications) Debut
Alice Campion, The Shifting Light (Penguin Random House)
Fiona Capp, To Know My Crime (HarperCollins Australia) Debut
Carol Chandler, Black Mountain (Ginninderra Press) Debut
T M Clark, Child of Africa (Harlequin MIRA)
Alison Clifford, Bombshell (White Rose #4) (Morandoo Press)
Alison Clifford, Secrets Within (New London #2) (Morandoo Press)
Tea Cooper, The Naturalist’s Daughter (HQ Fiction) Debut
Shannon Curtis, Heart Breaker (Harlequin MIRA)
Karen Davis, Fatal Mistake (Simon & Schuster)
Marianne Delacourt, Sharp Edge (Twelfth Planet Press)
Helen Denkha, Once Upon a Lie (Zeus Publications) Debut
Hazel Edwards, Celebrant Sleuth: I do … or die (BookPOD)
C M Elliott, Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk (Jacana Media)
M T Ellis, Azrael (M T Ellis) Debut
Dawn Farnham, Finding Maria (Monsoon Books UK)
Sara Foster, The Hidden Hours (Simon & Schuster)
Candice Fox, Crimson Lake (Penguin Random House)
Sulari Gentill, A Dangerous Language (Pantera Press)
Sulari Gentill, Crossing the Lines (Pantera Press)
Anna George, The Lone Child (Penguin Random House)
Megan Goldin, The Girl from Keller’s Way (Penguin Random House) Debut
Eve Grafton, Introducing Gray & Armstrong Private Investigations (Sid Harta Publishers) Debut
Toni Grant, Serpent Song (Brolga Publishing) Debut
J M Green, Too Easy (Scribe Publications)
Jane Harper, Force of Nature (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Narrelle M Harris, Ravenfall (Clan Destine Press)
Susan Hawthorne, Dark Matters (Spinifex Press) Debut
Kathryn Heyman, Storm and Grace (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Rowena Holloway, Bad Things Happen (Fractured Press)
Amanda Howard, Shrouded Echoes (Killing Time Books)
Melissa James, Beneath the Skin (Harlequin MIRA)
Wendy James, The Golden Child (HarperCollins Australia)
Leonie Johnson, Intruder (Sid Harta Publishers) Debut
Dorothy Johnston, The Swan Island Connection (For Pity Sake Publishing)
Phyllis King, ed., Scarlet Stiletto: The ninth cut (Clan Destine Press)
Stella Kinsella, Poison Ivy: A case of the shaking martini (Lulu Press) Debut
Kylie Ladd, The Way Back (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Ali Land, Good Me, Bad Me (Penguin Random House) Debut
Lexi Landsman, The Perfect Couple (Penguin Random House) Debut
Christine Larmer, Evil under the Stars (Agatha Christie Book Club #3) (Larmer Media)
Rachel Leary, Bridget Crack (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Rachel Matthews, Siren (Transit Lounge) Debut
Fleur McDonald, Suddenly One Summer (Allen & Unwin)
Carolyn Morwood, Dig Two Graves (Hybrid Press)
Lois Murphy, Soon (Transit Lounge) Debut
Caroline Overington, The Lucky One (HarperCollins Australia)
Jill Paterson, Poisoned Palette (Fitzjohn Mystery #6) (J Henderson)
Jill Paterson, The Fourth String (Fitzjohn Mystery #7) (J Henderson)
Melissa Pouliot, Found (MP Media)
Sarah Schmidt, See What I Have Done (Hachette Australia) Debut
Annie Seaton, Diamond Sky (Pan Macmillan Australia)
L J Shea, The Raven’s Augury (Endeavour Media) Debut
Angela Slatter, Corpselight (Verity Fassbinder #2) (Jo Fletcher Books)
Pip Smith, Half Wild (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Anna Snoekstra, Little Secrets (Harlequin MIRA)
Lili St Germaine, Gun Shy (LSG Publishing)
K M Steele, Return to Tamarlin (Campbell St Press) Debut
Therese Sullivan, Stalker, Stalker: Know how it feels (Sid Harta Publishers) Debut
M J Tija, She Be Damned (Pantera Press) Debut
Nicole Trope, Forgotten (Allen & Unwin)
Lesley Truffle, The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte (HarperCollins Australia)
Emma Viskic, And Fire Came Down (Bonnier Publishing Australia)
Sandi Wallace, Dead Again (Atlas Productions)
Young Adult crime novels (8)
Steph Bowe, Night Swimming (Text Publishing)
Fleur Ferris, Wreck (Penguin Random House)
Ellie Marney, No Limits (Bearded Lady Press)
Sophie Masson, Jack of Spades (Eagle Books)
Eileen O’Hely, PEP Squad: Freshman year (Omitch Press)
Allison Rushby, The Fifth Room (Omnibus Books)
Vikki Wakefield, Ballad for a Mad Girl (Text Publishing) Debut
Paula Weston, The Undercurrent (Text Publishing) Debut
Children’s crime novels (14)
Melanie Alexander, Art for Art’s Sake (Lexi and Lottie #2) (Penguin Random House)
Melanie Alexander, Here Kitty, Kitty (Lexi and Lottie #1) (Penguin Random House) Debut
Janine Beacham, Rubies and Runaways (Rose Raventhorpe Investigates #2) (Hachette)
Rebecca Johnson, Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1) (Penguin Random House) Debut
Gabrielle Lord, 48 Hours: The vanishing (Scholastic Australia)
Rebecca McRitchie, Whimsy and Woe (HarperCollins Australia) Debut
Alex Miles, The Robbery Riddle, Starring Olive Black (Affirm Press)
Katrina Nannestad, The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome (HarperCollins Australia) Debut
Emily Rodda, The Shop at Hoopers Bend (HarperCollins Australia)
Allison Rushby, The Turnkey (Walker Books Australia)
R A Spratt, Bitter Enemies (Friday Barnes #7) (Penguin Random House)
R A Spratt, Danger Ahead (Friday Barnes #6) (Penguin Random House)
Jen Storer, Trapped! (Truly Tan #6) (HarperCollins Australia)
Ailsa Wild, Squishy Taylor and the Silver Suitcase (Hardie Grant Egmont)
Non-fiction crime books (8)
Carol Baxter, The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder (Allen & Unwin)
Kathryn Bonella, Operation Playboy (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Gabriella Coslovich, Whiteley on Trial (Melbourne University Press) Debut
Amanda Howard, Killer Australia: Death and destruction Down Under (Killing Time Books)
Catherine Jinks, Charlatan: The dishonest life and dishonoured loves of Thomas Guthrie Carr, Stage Mesmerist (Vintage Australia)
Sarah Krasnostein, The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster (Text Publishing)
Louise Milligan, Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell (Melbourne University Press) Debut
Hannah Robert, Baby Lost: A story of grief and hope (Melbourne University Press) Debut