The Ngaio Marsh Awards, in association with the New Zealand Book Council and Christchurch City Libraries, invite booklovers to Murder in the library – A panel discussion – Ngaio Marsh Awards featuring three talented Canterbury authors. It is on at South Library, Wednesday 1 June at 6.30pm. This is a free event, but bookings are essential as places are limited. Please telephone 03 941 7923 or email LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to book a seat.
Crime writing has evolved from the puzzle-like mysteries of Agatha Christie and Christchurch’s own Ngaio Marsh to modern novels delving deeply into people and places. It is the world’s most popular form of storytelling.
2016 Ngaio Marsh Awards entrants Ray Berard, Katherine Hayton, and Deborah Rogers will discuss what drew them to crime writing, how they craft memorable characters and page-turning stories, and the impact of our New Zealand setting on tales of crime and mystery.
Congratulations to Paul Cleave who on Sunday 4 October was revealed as the winner of the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel for his book Five Minutes Alone.
Cleave beat a strong field of 4 other finalists – Barbara Ewing, Paddy Richardson, Tina Shaw, and Paul Thomas – and is a fitting winner in many ways:
- he is a Christchurch local; what could be more appropriate for a prize named after Christchurch’s own Queen of Crime?
- his books have sold over a million copies worldwide and have been translated in several languages;
- he is the first author to have won the gong twice. He first won in 2011 for his book Blood Men and has been shortlisted every year since;
- he has the perfect name for a crime writer. Proof? Check out the title of the post on the Kiwi Crime Watch blog: “Contenders get Cleave-d in historic Ngaio Marsh victory“.
Yet, interestingly, Cleave was apparently surprised to win and has been reported as having said in his acceptance speech that New Zealanders hold Kiwi writers to a higher standard than they do international authors.
As a lily-livered reader of only the coziest of mysteries (Mma Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is my Goldilocks measure), I have not been brave enough to sample any of Cleave’s nine novels. Therefore I would really love to hear your opinions. Do you think that Kiwi crime writing, and Cleave’s specifically, is on a par with the best in the field internationally? What attracts you or puts you off reading New Zealand crime novels?
Previous winners of the Ngaio Marsh Award:
The lovely criminal duo of Yrsa Sigurdardottir (go on do have a try…ỨR-suh SIG-ur-dar-daughter..easy!) and Liam McIlvanney chatted with Crime Watch blogger Craig Sisterson.
Liam McIlvanney was scheduled to appear in the 2010 Press Christchurch Writers Festival but the Darfield Earthquake put the kibosh on that. Four years later he has published the second in his Gerry Conway trilogy Where the dead men go and recently won the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.
The panel talked at length about the importance of setting in crime fiction. Liam uses Glasgow, the crime capital of Western Europe, as his backdrop and believes Scotland’s history of dour Calvinism has developed into a dark obsession with sin. Scotland’s complex relationship with England particularly prior to devolved power has also allowed crime writers to pose politicised questions about wider society without the necessity of providing answers.
Yrsa acknowledged Iceland’s unforgiving climate lends itself to the idea, if not the reality, of murder. With no real crime to speak of in the Iceland she has to work hard to make her fictional crimes seem authentic and uses social and political context “to add meat to the bone”. Yrsa also plunders Iceland’s long-standing fascination with the supernatural to great and creepy affect.
Asked about memorable early reading experiences, Yrsa admitted to being fascinated by her father’s textbook on gruesome infectious diseases. Horrific but enthralling. Liam’s rather more pedestrian fare included Ray Bradbury and Robert Louis Stevenson. Current crime reading included Sophie Hannah for Yrsa while Liam mentioned David Whish-Wilson and Peter Temple, who he credited as the best crime writer in the English language.
Both Liam and Yrsa hold down day jobs; Yrsa is an engineer working in hydro-electric generation while Liam holds the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies at Otago University, an academic occupation which could be viewed as “boring and nerdy” but which allows him time to write about evil and achieve cathartic release.
Not particularly dark or chilling but instead a rather cosy and engaging peek at the craft of crime writing.
I confess to feeling a little weary sitting in my seat at 8pm, after a full day of thought-provoking sessions at WORD Christchurch. “You’ll have to take notes for me, I’m too tired,” I said to my neighbour, slumping over my bag.
Well, if I didn’t take notes it certainly wasn’t because I fell asleep, it was because I couldn’t possibly keep up with the fast-paced repartee and banter exhibited by all the debaters. Full marks to all contestants! Some may have lost the debate, but all were surprising, hilarious, bawdy, and full of snark and self-mockery. Joe Bennett was as always an entertaining MC, despite enduring much slander from both debating teams. (Who knew our Mayor had such a raunchy sense of humour?!)
Arguing the moot that crime doesn’t pay were lawyer Marcus Elliott, crime novelist Paul Cleave and amateur bank robber Meg Wolitzer.
The opposition put forward the idea that crime is profitable, headed by Mayor Lianne Dalziel (which seems a little worrying for Christchurch). Even more disturbingly, she had journalist Martin van Beynen at her side, with Timaru Police Notebook fan Steve Braunias bringing up the rear. As Marcus Elliott argued, if the government and the media are in cahoots, what hope is there for democracy? Luckily reason prevailed and crime was voted to not be worth the bother. Debate attendees are doubtless spreading peace and goodwill over the city even as I type.
At the end we were privileged to hear the results of the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, winner being Otago lecturer and crime writer Liam McIlvanney for Where the Dead Men Go. A big congratulations to all the short-listed finalists, especially Liam McIlvanney, as well as a really big thank you to the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival organisers for creating such an entertaining event.
It’s 9.39pm and I have just returned from The Great New Zealand Crime Debate, which acted, as was stated tonight, as either precursor or foreplay to the presentation of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel 2012. Tonight was another one of those events that you really should have gone to. Ms Scotland and I laughed till we cried, applauded loudly at many places, were vastly entertained and occasionally startled, and on one memorable occasion somewhat shocked by the proceedings. Joycie will no doubt give a full run-down of the evening’s entertainment soon, but in the interests of getting the news out in a timely manner, I would now like to announce that the winner of the third annual Ngaio Marsh Award was Neil Cross, for his book Luther: the Calling.
Charmingly, he had made no preparations for winning, and had no speech prepared. We therefore got an off-the-cuff acceptance speech about his wife’s hate mail, the time he nearly got killed (note: the word ‘killed’ here is a substitute for another word I hesitate to use on a family-friendly blog) and eaten on the way to a literary festival, and how much in love with New Zealand he still is.
A big congratulations to all the short-listed finalists, and especially to Neil Cross, as well as a really big thank you to The Pres Christchurch Writers Festival organisers, who once again provided a fantastic evening’s entertainment. Well done all, and THANKS – we love you!
What does this mean? For Kiwi crime writing fans it means the elusive author Alix Bosco, who won last year’s Ngaio Marsh Award, will appear on stage at the 2011 awards where he/she is also a finalist with her book Slaughter Falls . Last year’s no show sparked wild conjecture as to who Alix Bosco is. Suspects include Greg McGee, Rosie Scott, television writer Maxine Fleming, and former Prime Minister Helen Clark !
Other finalists for the award for best crime, mystery, or thriller novel written by a New Zealand citizen or resident, published in New Zealand during the previous year:
As well as the Boo Radley moment in New Zealand crime publishing, the awards evening will feature international authors Tess Gerritsen and John Hart. It should be an great event in the TelstraClear Club at Hagley Park on Sunday 21 August. Get your tickets now.
Duh, not a real crime wave but oodles of mystery and thriller writers from all across the globe, here in Christchurch … yes … really … woo-hoo. I’ll be at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival to marvel at the twisted, tortured minds of these crime-peddling scribes.
The line-up includes:
Simon Kernick, specialising in high-octane thriller, his latest bestseller The last ten seconds is some crazy voodoo, believe me. I read it in only two sittings without blinking, barely breathing and compulsively turning page after page. Could be mind-control or maybe darn good writing? I need to know, and blog-readers I will find out.
Neil Cross, now living here in Godzone, this British ex-pat excels at twisty-turney, dark psychological novels. Neil’s thriller Burial is in the running for the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and he is also promoting his latest title Captured. Mr Cross is nothing if not versatile; having written an exquisite memoir Heartland, a Man Booker long-listed novel Always the sun and scriptwriting the BBC’s Spooks series. Someone told me he is funny too, so c’mon Neil make me laugh.
Liam McIlvanney holds the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies at Otago University and spends most of his time introducing youthful kiwis to the extremely dubious pleasures of Rabbie Burns, James Hogg and Sir Walter Scott. Liam is also the author of All the colours of the town, a richly textured thriller exploring the long shadow of Scots-Irish sectarianism. Ayrshire born, he is appearing in conversation with Iggy McGovern and will be chatting about something close to my own heart: the boozy, conflicted and violent Scots.