Paul Cleave is the winner of this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. The award was announced today in a special Christchurch Writers’ Festival event, Setting the Stage for Murder. Paul won the award for his book Blood Men. The other finalists were Alix Bosco, Neil Cross and Paddy Richardson.
The award was announced at the end of a feast of crime writers talking. First we had best selling American authors Tess Gerritsen and John Hart talking with Graham Beattie about their work.
Then the four finalists sat down with Craig Sisterson as chair to answer a few questions. I’d have to say all four seemed a little hesitant about being on stage if body language was anything to go by but as the panel discussion went on they opened up with some great observations. By the time a member of the audience asked whether they would consider including the Christchurch earthquakes in their stories they were ready to take some quite differing views. Paul Cleave was quite strong in his feeling that it would be wrong to make money by writing about such a tragedy, Greg McGee (Alix Bosco) was cautious believing there were dangers in writing about the event too soon and time need to elapse. Neil Cross was quite firm that good writing helps cultures examine their traumas. This was a view that John Hart certainly endorsed from the audience.
It was great to see four good New Zealand writers talking about issues that confront New Zealand writers – too much looking inward and an “ingrained lack of confidence” in selling on the world stage. There was a hope that there were enough good writers around and New Zealand had the chance to carve its own distinctive place in crime writing as Scandinavian crime writing had done. So come on crime writing fans – support your local team (or at least go to one game and see how they play).
It was a great event, the internationals and the locals equally interesting. I particularly liked the exact opposite views held by Gerritsen and Hart on how to get work ready for publication. It seems writing groups and getting a loved one to read your work is good for some, not so much for others.
There was some great discussion. I liked that Greg McGee talked about New Zealand writers having the courage to “mythologize our own places” for example. All six writers were such different people and it was fascinating to hear their different and common approaches to their work.
I wonder what Dame Ngaio would have made of it all. She would have had something trenchant to say I am sure.
Yes, it really was a great session – both parts of it! I took heaps of notes, and am fully planning to bore everyone rigid with another blog post over the next few days, so brace yourselves, readers … In the meantime, here’s a couple of MY standout memories: Paul Cleave saying he got into writing as a way of meeting women, and then shortly afterwards making a hilariously double-ententred comment about choosing horror and/or crime writing to scare the pants off people …; and Neil Cross wondering who on earth would have enough of a death-wish to invite Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote) or Inspector Barnaby (Midsomer Murders) to a party …
I agree it was fantastic. So far I’ve crunched out two blogs in rough form. It must have been a tremendous effort to get everything sorted out and organized in the damaged city of Christchurch. Kudos to the organizers who pulled off a top-notch event.
I’ve wondered how the earthquakes will affect Christchurch fiction. It’s a bit hard to have your characters go into the central city these days.
Yes, indeed. I just read a 2010 release set in and around Latimer Square, and I found it incredibly disorienting and quite sad. Poor authors! I can’t imagine how they will decide how to handle the whole ‘broken ChCh’ thing in the next few years.