Tuesday 30 June 2020

Doin’ It For Themselves: 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award longlist revealed

A widow on the run while living with mental illness, a teenager growing up in a rural cult, and a pre-teen girl in small-town Otago inspired by Nancy Drew to investigate the murder of her schoolteacher are among a diverse array of heroines whose stories and escapades have today been named on the longlist for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel.

In what has been a really unusual year for so many people around the world, we’re really glad to be able to once again highlight some great Kiwi storytelling,” says founder Craig Sisterson. “So many people turned to the creative sector while in lockdown – reading books and watching films and shows for entertainment, comfort, and escape. While we were saddened to have to cancel a dozen or more library events in April and May, to help keep everyone safe, we are stoked we can now celebrate some of our local authors.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards judges, spread throughout the world and in a variety of rāhui and lockdown situations, were impressed by the variety of this year’s entrants and the many new voices who had joined the ‘yeahnoir’ scene, says Sisterson. “Along with some wonderful debut authors, we’ve had a number of experienced writers from other genres – ranging from kids’ books to literary fiction to playwrighting and paranormal romance – bring their storytelling talents to the crime, thriller, and suspense realm for the first time.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards have celebrated the best New Zealand crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing since 2010. The longlist for this year’s Best Novel prize is:

SHADOW OF A DOUBT by SL Beaumont (Paperback Writers Publishing)
TRUST ME, I'M DEAD by Sherryl Clark (Verve Books)
WHATEVER IT TAKES by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
ONE SINGLE THING by Tina Clough (Lightpool Publishing)
AUE by Becky Manawatu (Makaro Press)
THE NANCYS by RWR McDonald (Allen & Unwin)
HIDE by SJ Morgan (MidnightSun Publishing)
IN THE CLEARING by JP Pomare (Hachette)
THE WILD CARD by Renee (Cuba Press)
A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE by Nalini Singh (Hachette)

The longlist is currently being considered by a judging panel of crime, thriller, and suspense writing experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The finalists for both this Best Novel category and Best First Novel will be announced later this year. The finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, as part of a special event at this year’s WORD Christchurch Festival, held from 29 October to 1 November.

An online video highlighting the  twelve longlisted books can be seen below.

Congratulations to all the nominated authors.

For more information on this year’s longlist, or the Ngaio Marsh Awards in general, please contact founder and judging convenor Craig Sisterson, craigsisterson@hotmail.com

Monday 29 June 2020

Cait Morgan ‘Comes Of Age’ by Cathy Ace

Cait Morgan was ‘born’ in a collection of twelve short stories written and self-published in 2007. She developed somewhat in a collection of four novellas self-published in 2008, and finally found her feet in her (and my) first traditionally published novel, The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, in March 2012. Since then she’s continued her globetrotting ways through seven more novels each featuring a traditional closed circle, puzzle plot mystery – very much along the lines of a contemporary Agatha Christie scenario – and has grown into her role as first a single sleuth, then a dating one, through an engagement and a wedding, followed by a honeymoon, all of which, necessarily, featured corpses. The eighth book in the series found her having to face a dangerous situation in Budapest, which left her unable to continue in her role as a professor of criminal psychology. That was published in late 2016 by the company that had published all of Cait’s novels. Then they dumped her. And me.

2017 was a challenging year: I’d had one series dropped by a publisher; I was Chair of Crime Writers of Canada with a LOT of work to do to prepare for Bouchercon in Toronto; I was offered a new contract by the publisher of my other series (The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries) that I didn’t want to sign, and was advised by my agent that I should. I fired my agent, and didn’t sign. I was right back where I’d started.
I rewrote, and re-edited, the original collection of short stories, publishing it through my newly incorporated publishing company in November 2017 (Murder Keeps No Calendar), a decade after it had first appeared. That project gave me the chance to revisit Cait’s early existence and rework her a little so that her backstory fitted better with what she’d eventually – through eight novels – become. I then repeated the process with the collection of novellas I’d published back in 2008, and they were published in 2018 (Murder Knows No Season).

Then I took a leap and published a novel of psychological suspense set in my Homeland of Wales, The Wrong Boy, which was the first ‘proper book launch’ for Four Tails Publishing Ltd. The book was well-reviewed, won a couple of awards, and made it to No. 1 on amazon in Canada, and into the top ten in four other countries. I was pleased I’d taken the chance I had.

But…Cait! When I’d given birth to her, I’d created her in my own image: at the time I was teaching marketing at university, so I gave her an academic life too; she’s Welsh, and had migrated to Canada, like me; she was – as I had been when I wrote those first short stories about her – in her late forties and keen to find her feet within a new culture. Through the novels I’d given her a good life, with a loving husband, and a fresh start. But I’d left her high and dry, with an uncertain future. I felt as though I’d abandoned her.

My latest book, The Corpse with the Crystal Skull, finds Cait in Jamaica, recuperating from her last adventure which happened about six months before the book opens. She’s also just celebrated her 50th birthday; not something she’s wild about, but something she hopes might mean she’s now ready for a different future than she’d ever imagined. This ninth book in the series shows the reader a Cait who’s more given to admitting her insecurities, and realizing she has to face them; a Cait who’s a little less judgmental of others, even as she dares to examine her own frailties, and those of her husband. I put Cait through the wringer in her eighth book, and in her ninth I’ve given her the chance to grow up. At last.

And that’s a good thing, because I’m facing a different future, too. I just turned 60, have my own company, and I chose to invest a pension lump-sum payment into buying back the rights to the Cait books, which my company now markets. The Cait Morgan Mysteries have just been optioned for a returning series of 90-minute TV movies by the wonderful UK production company Free@Last TV, which makes the hit Agatha Raisin series, and they’ve also optioned The Wrong Boy, to be broadcast as a three-part bilingual Welsh-English production. I am thrilled – for me, and for Cait.

I think Cait’s come of age. Maybe I’m getting there too!

The Corpse with the Crystal Skull (Four Tails Publishing Ltd) , June 2020 
Welsh Canadian globetrotting sleuth, and professor of criminal psychology, Cait Morgan, is supposed to be “celebrating” her fiftieth birthday in Jamaica with her ex-cop husband Bud Anderson. But when the body of the luxury estate’s owner is discovered locked inside an inaccessible tower, Cait and her fellow guests must work out who might have killed him – even if his murder seems impossible. Could the death of the man who hosted parties in the 1960s attended by Ian Fleming and Noël Coward be somehow linked to treasure the legendary Captain Henry Morgan might have buried at the estate? Or to the mission Bud and his secret service colleagues have been sent to the island to undertake?

ISBN 978-1-9992230-5-2 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-9992230-6-9 (electronic book)

Twitter: @AceCathy