Men’s jocks hold the crucial clue in the winning story for Sisters in Crime’s 29th Scarlet Stiletto Awards

“Tuesday Jocks” a short story by Paynesville (VIC) author, Fin J Ross, won the Swinburne University of Technology First Prize ($2000) and the coveted trophy, a scarlet stiletto shoe with a steel stiletto heel plunging into a mount, at Sisters in Crime’s 29th Scarlet Stiletto Awards on Saturday night (3 December).

The clue to solving the mystery of two murders in a small country town lies in one of the victims’ OCD underwear habits. Ross (left), a former journalist and cattery owner, has two published novels and several short stories published in various anthologies, along with five novels languishing in limbo on her laptop. Aside from her two Scarlet Stiletto entries this year, she’s barely written a word for 18 months, since becoming addicted to making internationally acclaimed mosaics. She has previously won several Stiletto category awards, along with third place and second place.

“I am absolutely elated to be rewarded for 11 years of entering the Scarlet Stiletto Awards. Taking home the shoe has been a dream and I don’t know when I’ll come down to earth. I am certainly motivated to start polishing up my unpublished novels and searching for a publisher,” Ross said.

Vikki Petraitis & Nicole Chamoun

Nicole Chamoun, star of Troppo, based on the book, Crimson Lake, by long-term member, Candice Fox, presented the awards at a gala dinner at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel. Chamoun first discussed her life in crime with award-winning author and podcaster, Vikki Petraitis, who hosted the event. It was the first live ceremony since 2019.

This year, 195 short stories competed for a record $12,365 in prize money and benefits. Over the lifetime of the awards, 4332 stories have been entered with 34 Scarlet Stiletto trophy and category winners going on to have books published.

Christina Lee

Emerita Professor Christina Lee, a double-shoe winner, presented the judges’ report. “As usual, the stories are set everywhere you could imagine, in country towns and big cities, in the past and the future, in the imaginations of the authors, and, of course, in libraries everywhere. This year there was a lot of world-building, both imaginary and historical, as well as a lot of sharply observed contemporary life,” she said.

Canberra pharmacist, Hayley Young, who won the shoe last year, took out the Simon & Schuster Second Prize ($1000) and HQ Fiction Award for Best Thriller ($1000) for “The Handbook of Steak Knives”, a witty story about a firm of assassins.

Nicole Chamoun & Katherine Kovacic

The Sun Bookshop & Fremantle Press Third Prize ($750) was won by Katherine Kovacic (Glen Iris, VIC) for “Life after knife” which also took out the Clan Destine Press Cross-Genre Award ($750). “Life after Knife” features a post-World War II private detective whose job is to transport souls to the afterlife, after solving the mystery of their murders.

Kovacic’s new book, Seven Sisters, will be published by HarperCollins in January. She is the author of the award-winning Alex Clayton art mystery series, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, Just Murdered, and has also delved into true crime with The Schoolgirl Strangler

Seventeen-year-old high school student, Raina Han, was awarded the Affirm Press Young Writer’s Award ($1000), for under- 19s for “Doppelganger”.

Barbara Gliddon (Melbourne AThenaeum Library, Jem Tyler -Miller & Nicole Chamoun

The Melbourne Athenaeum Body-in-the-Library Library Award ($1250) went to Jem Tyley-Miller (Bacchus Marsh, VIC) for “The Surrogate”, a dystopian story about the death of a pharmaceutical magnate in a waterlogged Melbourne threatened by rising seas. Tyley-Miller stories have been published in a number of journals and collections. In 2018, she was awarded a Wheeler Centre Hot-desk fellowship.

The Melbourne Athenaeum Body-in-the-Library Library Runner-Up Award ($750) was won by Maeve James (Bundanoon, NSW) for “Armchair Detective” where a crime enthusiast uses Google to solve a murder. James lives in the stunning Southern Highlands of NSW where she devours books in the cosy winter evenings by the fire.

Nellie Crawford, a still life artist who hails from Fremantle, WA, won the popular Kerry Greenwood Malice Domestic Award worth $750 for “A Perfect Fit”, a story about a fabulous dress, a manipulative sister, and a predatory academic who is found murdered at a night spot.  

Nicole Chamoun & Danielle Angeli

The Every Cloud Production’s History with Mystery Award ($750), was awarded to Danielle Angeli (Adelaide, SA) for “The Florentine”, about an informer and a suspicious death in 17th century Venice. Angeli has recently returned home after spending five years in the medieval city of Edinburgh, Scotland. Her stories have been published by MidnightSun Publishing and in other Australian journals and anthologies.

The Viliama Grakalic Best Art and Crime Story Award ($750) was won by a serial Scarlet Stiletto offender, Natalie Conyer (Mosman NSW), about a painting specialist, and the mystery of an undiscovered masterpiece that comes her way. Conyer describes herself as “an internationally renowned procrastinator”. Her first novel, Present Tense, was published in 2019 and won a Ned Kelly Award.

Nicole Chamoun, Karin Altmann (ScriptWorks) & Kimberly Riskas

The ScriptWorks Great Film Idea Award ($500) went to Kimberly Riskas (Dromana, VIC) for “The Paynes Hill Murders”, set in outback Western Australia and featuring a nurse who solves the brutal murder of the station owner. Riskas is a marine scientist, science journalist, and occasional travel writer with a life-long love of whodunits. She is writing her debut novel, a murder mystery set in Victoria.

Nicole Chamoun & Brid Cummings

Brid Cummings (Adelaide, SA) was awarded the Writers Victoria’s Crime and Punishment Award for Most Satisfying Retribution for her story, “Accession”, a dark, suspenseful tale exploring toxic family relationships and a remote cannabis operation. The prize used to be getting to sit in a cell for 3 months at Old Melbourne Gaol. Now it’s a Zoom course worth $215.

Cummings won the Glencairn Crystal short story competition (2021), achieved runner-up in the Mslexia short story competition (2021), and 3rd place in the Scarlet Stiletto short story awards in 2019. Her unpublished modern Australian gothic novel recently gained 3rd place in the Yeovil Literary Prize.

Highly commended framed certificates went to:

Kate Bevis (Brighton, VIC) for “The Ballad of Old Cottontree Road”.

Kat Clay (Newport, VIC) for “He’s a Good Man”.

Maryse Dubois (Fitzroy North, VIC) for “The Paris End”.

Jane Duran (Red Hill, ACT) for “A thousand words”.

Philomena Horsley (Northcote, VIC) for “Burn Down”.

Tegan Huntley (Perth, WA) for “Unnecessary Risks”.

Lauren Loos (East Brisbane, Qld) for story, “Cats and the Cradle”.

Kristen Mair (Kilaben Bay, NSW) for “No more tomorrows”.

Allison Mitchell (Dynnyrne, Tas) for “The way we do things here”.

Nikki McWatters (Blackheath, NSW) for “Attention to Detail”.

Kate O’Connor (Sydney, NSW) for “The Calling”.

Ann Penhallurick (Katoomba, NSW) for “Breaking the line”.

Tansy Rayner Roberts (Kingston, TAS) for “How to Poison a Box of Chocolates”.

Debbie Terranova (St Lucia South, QLD) for “Death on the Diggings”.

Go Troppo competition winners: Ani Allbutt, Jenny Pitts, and Robin Bowles

Everyone was invited to turn up in tropical attire – and nearly everyone did! Leis and tropical prints abounded.

The Go Troppo competition was won by Ani Allbutt, Jenny Pitts, and Robin Bowles. Prizes were donated by Penguin Random House and EQ Media Group.

Chamoun also launched Scarlet Stiletto: The Fourteenth Cut, a collection of winning stories from this year’s competition, edited by Phyllis King – $7.95 as an e-book from the publisher Clan Destine Press, Booktopia, Amazon, or iTunes. Thirteen earlier collections are also available:

Nicole Chamoun & Sisters in Crime’s gift bag

Sisters in Crime presented Chamoun with its signature tote bag filled with a t-shirt, mug, pen, and copies of Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut and Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut.

Prizes were kindly sponsored by Swinburne University of Technology, Simon & Schuster, the Sun Bookshop, Fremantle Press; the Melbourne Athenaeum Library, Kerry Greenwood, Every Cloud Productions; the Viliama Grakalic estate, HQ Fiction, Affirm Press, Clan Destine Press, Monash University, ScriptWorksthe Queensland Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Writers Victoria.

The 30th Scarlet Stiletto Awards close on 31 August 2023. The ceremony will be a big event!

Here is a link to the script.

Info & author interviews: Carmel Shute, Secretary, and National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime: 0412 569 356;