Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Killer Nashville Claymore Award Top 20 Finalists


The Killer Nashville 2021 Claymore Award Top 20 Finalists for best first fifty pages of an unpublished manuscript have been announced. 

Choosing Guilt by Frances Aylor

IoTa by Christopher Bates

Crooked by Mary Bush

Spooked by Dara Carr

NISEI Rookie by Ray Collins

Blackwood by Claire Dowley

Murdered and Missing by Ardis Eckel

Androcide in Paradise by James Graham

Corniced to Death by Margaret S. Hamilton

Curse of Darkness by Nicholas Knight

Stolen Diary by Kathryn Lane

Cornerstone by Grace Lawler

The Forget-Me-Knot by Richard McGonegal

Dying to Live Here by Shelley Spence

A Bad Week in Wampo by Patricia Stoltey

Zebra by Jill Wallace

Infinity is Not Forever by Michael Wheeler

Unraveling by Judy White

A Star in Her Crown by Darryl Wimberley

Mr. Perfect? By Kelly Woll

The Top 3 Winners (still being decided) will be announced at the annual Killer Nashville Awards Dinner.

Congratulations to all the nominated authors.

Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award Finalists!


The 2021 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award Finalists have been announced. The winners will be announced at the The Killer Nashville Awards Dinner that is due to take place on August 21 2021.

Best Action/ Adventure

The Medina Device by T. J. Champitto

Hot Flash Decisions by Shirley B. Garrett

Dead Men’s Silence by James Lindholm

Trojan Horse by S. Lee Manning

The Crow’s Nest by Richard Meredith

Best Comedy

Con Me Once by J. L. Delozier

Risky Whiskey by Lucy Lakestone

Once is Never Enough by Haris Orkin

Slightly Murderous Intent by Lida Sideris

Murder by Milk Bottle by Lynne Truss

Best Cozy

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde

Dead Man’s Watch by Kay DiBianca

Three Treats Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

Family Twist by Bonita Y. McCoy

Murder in First Position by Lori Robbins

Larceny at the Library by Colleen J. Shogan

Seas the Day by Maggie Toussaint

Dr. Shine Cracks the Case by Cathy Tully

Rose by Any Other Name by Becki Willis

A Sew Deadly Cruise by Lois Winston

Best Historical

Copy Boy by Shelley Blanton-Stroud

Dark Secrets of the Bayou by Kim Carter

A Child Lost by Michelle Cox

The Lost Wisdom of the Magi by Susie Helme

Death on the Homefront by Frances McNamara

Best Investigator

Narco Noir by Carmen Amato

The Last Scoop by R. G. Belsky

Within Plain Sight by Bruce Robert Coffin

The Vultures by Mark Hannon

The Garbage Man by Candace Irving

A Palette for Love and Murder by Saralyn Richard

Stardust Trail by J. R. Sanders

Facets of Death by Michael Stanley

In Twilight’s Hush by Laurie Stevens

All We Buried by Elena Taylor

Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan

Best Juvenile/YA

The Crossingway by Lynn H. Elliott

Irish Town by Matthew John Meagher

Kassy O’Roarke Treasure Hunter by Kelly Oliver

Astrobia by James C. Paavola

Someone is Burning My Lord, Kumbaaya by Fiza Pathan and Michaelangelo Zane

Best Mystery

Every Kind of Wicked by Lisa Black

Dark Secrets of the Bayou by Kim Carter

Travels of Quinn by Sasscer Hill

Three Houses on a Hill by Nicholas Holloway

Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks

Calling for the Money by Cathy Perkins

Love Power by Martha Reed

Murder, Forgotten by Deb Richardson-Moore

Code Gray by Benny Sims

Murder at Lolly Beach by Jane Suen

Best Non-Fiction

The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands by Jon Billman

The Five Core Conversations for Couples by David and Julie Bulitt

Words Whispered in Water by Sandy Rosenthal

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Jeremy and the Witches Medallion by Randy Gauthier

Servant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton

In the Shadow of a Valiant Moon by Stu Jones & Gareth Worthington

Otaku by Chris Kluwe

Odyssey Tale by Cody Schlegel

Best Short Story/Anthology

Crossing Borders by Lisa Brackmann & Matt Coyle

Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China by P.A. De Voe

Minnesota Not So Nice: Eighteen Tales of Bad Behavior by Barbara Merritt Deese, Pat Dennis, Michael Allan Mallory, and Timya Owen

Couch Detective Book 2 by James Glass

Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies by John Langan

Best Supernatural

Slipping into Darkness by D. M. Bourgeois

Borrowings of the Shan Van Vocht by Catherine Moore

Wonderland by Zoje Stage

Sisters of the Moon by Alexandrea Weis

Borrowed Memories by Christine Mager Wevik

Inn the Spirit of Competition by Becki Willis

Best Suspense

Inherent Fate by Alicia Anthony

Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest by T.M. Brown

The Stepdaughter by Georgina Cross

Athena’s Dilemma by Donna Del Oro

A Thousand Miles from Spokane by S. D. Goldman

Ring of Conspiracy by J. Robert Kinney

Trojan Horse by S. Lee Manning

The Golden Girl by Dana Perry

Last Call by Cathi Stoler

Let the Guilty Pay by Rick Treon

Best Thriller

Collateral byBrian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson

Bakersfield Boys Club by Anne Da Vigo

Blind Edge by Candace Irving

The Venezuelan by Bill King

Fall by Leslie McCauley

Percentages of Guilt by Michael Niemann

Ripple in the Sea by Charley Pearson

Hot Ice, Cold Blood by Holly Spofford

The Divine Devils by R. Weir

Scorpion Scheme by Melissa Yi

Congratulations to all the nominated authors.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Adam Simcox - Writing Scripts or Writing Books?

This article was originally going to be called ‘How writing scripts taught me how to write a book’, but when I thought about it, I realised it hadn’t, really. The two disciplines have some transferable skills, admittedly; for instance, how strangle-tight structure needs to be. The four feature film scripts I’d written before, though, were for me to direct. They were cook books, instruction manuals for me to methodically follow. A novel has to be more evocative, a call to arms to your heart and soul, not your producer.

No, it was the other skills I picked up through my film career that really helped me shape my debut novel, The Dying Squad, a supernatural thriller about a spectral police force that solves crimes their living counterparts cannot.

First: establish a mood.

Whenever I start a film project – whether it be a feature, a music video, or a commercial – I always create a mood board. This contains dozens of different images that helps get across the tone I envisage to the artist/actors/client. With The Dying Squad, I went one further: I produced a series of trailers. Taking royalty free video and music, the promos helped me create a sense of place and tone, becoming a valuable touchstone to refer back to while writing the novel.

Second: create your soundtrack.

Music is a massively important part of my process, and that’s as true when I’m making a corporate film, as it is when I’m directing a music video. It’s saved me, time and time again when I am struggling with an edit, or a script cul-de-sac. It is a weird, freaky thing, but if I listen hard enough, the music tells me what to do; there’s no problem it can’t solve.

I recently finished writing the second Dying Squad book, and there were two key set pieces I couldn’t crack. Enter, music: I spliced together two music tracks, creating a temp track to write to. For one, I mixed ‘Force Marker’ by Brian Eno (used to brilliant effect in Michael Mann’s Heat) and ‘The Tick of the Clock’ by the Chromatics to create an epic, 23 minute score that I effectively wrote to the beat of.

Similarly, the tense finale at the end of Dying Squad book 2 had absolutely owned me – I just couldn’t get it right. I revisited Seven (a flat out masterpiece of a film, and serial killer movie Ground Zero) and a track near the end, Envy, where Mills and Somerset drive John Doe to the desert, really sparked something in me. I lived with the track for days, listening to it everywhere I went, actually forcing myself not to write, letting the ending percolate. Finally, I sat down to re-write the sequence, and mercifully cracked it. I’d streamed Envy eight hundred and three times by the time I’d finished.

(Which probably earned its composer Howard Shore around 30p.) 

Third: make your characters earn their existence.

People have been kind enough to compliment the pace of The Dying Squad, and that’s a skill honed in the flames of feature film penury. The narrative films I made were self-funded (with the exception of Kid Gloves, which I was able to crowd fund), and so from the start I learned to be hyper-economical. Each scene had to be 100% justifiable, because anything I shot then cut later was the definition of dead money. Crews need to be fed and equipment needs to be paid for; when it’s your (and your credit card companies) money that’s funding it, every penny had to be justified. There’s a residue burn of that when I write a novel: does this scene deserve to exist? Is this character earning their expenses? If the answer’s no, they have to go.

Directing music videos also taught me a ton about pace. I love bringing a narrative element to them, and like any good story, you need a beginning, middle and an end. You also need to get to that end within three minutes; if you can do that, and craft each shot so that it makes you want to watch the next one, then you have got it cracked, pace wise.

Finally: edit with your head, not your heart.

There’s not much difference, nuts and bolts wise, between editing a film, and editing a book. It’s the ability to compartmentalise scenes, rip them up and restructure them, take a jack hammer to convention and reshape it into something new. To have the fearlessness to put the end at the beginning, and the beginning at the end, to kill your darlings and tune out the screams of their (Dying Squad) ghosts.

A lot of this didn’t come easily. Some of it out and out knife fought me to the death. It was those filmmaking skills that allowed me to come out the other side, though, and earn my right to fade to black.

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox (Gollancz) Out Now

Who better to solve a murder than a dead detective? When Detective Inspector Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down a notorious drug gang; instead, he discovers his own body and a spirit guide called Daisy-May. She's there to enlist him to The Dying Squad, a spectral police force who solve crimes their flesh and blood counterparts cannot. Lazarus reluctantly accepts and returns to the Lincolnshire Badlands, where he faces dangers from both the living and the dead in his quest to discover the identity of his killer - before they kill again.


Sunday, 1 August 2021

Criminal Splatterings

Fans of The Saint will be interested to know that according to Deadline.com Bridgerton start Regé-Jean Page is due to star at the helm of the re-imaging of The Saint. More information can be found here. It is due to be based in part on Leslie Charteris’ 1920s book series and subsequent 1960s UK TV series starring Roger Moore. 

Over on Crimereads.com bestselling author Darynda Jones lists her 13 must read laugh out loud mysteries. A fantastic list which can be read here. Great to see such luminaries as Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and Donald E Westlake on the list. Who would I add? Sparkle Hayter of course!

Also on Crimereads.com one of my favourite historical crime writers Lindsey Davis considers the enduring appeal of the Roman Empire as a good setting for historical mysteries. The full article can be read here. The latest book by Lindsey Davis is The Comedy of Terrors and is the ninth book in the series to feature Flavia Albia. who longstanding readers will know is the daughter of her famous character Marcus Didius Falco. 

Fans of S A Cosby will enjoy the interview with him in the Guardian. But hey, the Guardian is clearly playing catch up to those of us who having been raving about him since last year when Blacktop Wasteland was published by Headline. The Shots review of Blacktop Wasteland can be read here.

Recently the crime fiction world have been shocked by the death of Mo Hayder from Motor Neurone Disease. The Shots team play tribute to her on the blog.

If you are like me a fan of podcasts – then you will be interested to note that James Ellroy is going to host about Los Angeles crime. Of course Crimereads has the scoop.

Fans of the Grantchester which is based on the novels of James Runcie will be happy to hear that filming on season 7 has begun. More information can be found here.

There are various crime and police procedurals to look out for in the autumn due to be shown on ITV. 

The Long Call which is based on the Anne Cleeves novel of the same name and will feature Juliet Stevenson, Ben Aldridge and Martin Shaw.

Martin Clunes will reprise his role as as the former London Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton in a new season of Manhunt.

Angela Black an Hitchcockian thriller that follows one woman as she risks everything she holds dear to fight back against the man who has suppressed and tormented her for most of her adult life is due to be shown in the autumn as well.

The exact dates of transmission have yet to be announced for any of these programme.

If you missed the Four Critics, Four Continents live event then you can watch it again here. We discuss our favourite books of the first half of 2021 and cover such countries as Nigeria, The Deep South of America, Japan, Sweden and New Zealand. 

Fans of Matthew Quirk's political thrillers will be pleased to here that according to Deadline.com, Netflix are due to film a conspiracy thriller series that is based on The Night Agent that was published in 2019. More information can be found here.

If you missed Crime Time's books of the decade event then don't worry. You can rewatch it below. Also you can find the list of all the books discussed on the Crime Time site.

Saturday, 31 July 2021

In Memoriam - Mo Hayder


Mo Hayder - Harrogate 2004

1 January 1962 – 27 July 2021

The crime fiction world have been deeply upset to hear the news of the sad death of Mo Hayder of Motor Neurone Disease on 27 July 2021. Alison Flood's article in the Guardian can be found here. Over on social media lots of crime writers have been expressing their condolences and paying tribute to her as they remember Mo Hayder. Her debut novel Birdman (1999) took the crime fiction world by storm and was an international best-seller. 

She was certainly a firm favourite with us over on Shots since her first book Birdman was published. Ali Karim interviewed her after her second book The Treatment (2001) had been published and the interview can be read here. There is also an interview with Christine Campbell. A review of The Treatment also by Christine Campbell can be read here. The treatment was not only a Sunday Times best-seller but it was also won the 2002 WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award. Mo Hayder also wrote the screenplay for De Behandeling (2014) which was a Belgian film of an adaptation of her book The Treatment

Ali Karim also interviewed when her first standalone book (and my favourite) Tokyo (2004) was published. Tokyo was published in the US as The Devil of Nanking. It was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger

Pig Island her second standalone book was published in 2006 and was nominated for both a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. Her fifth book Ritual (2008) and third book to feature DI Jack Caffery which was the first in The Walking Man series was nominated for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. This was followed by Skin (2009) the second book in the series.  Gone (2010) the third book in the series was nominated and won an Edgar Award for Best novel. 

A review of Poppet (2013) the sixth book to feature DI Jack Caffery series can be read here.

Her third standalone Hanging Hill was published in 2011.  Wolf (2014) which was the final book to feature DI Jack Caffery was nominated in 2015 for an Edgar Award. It was also announced in March 2021 that the BBC were filming Wolf in Wales.

It was announced in March 2021 that Cornerstone imprint Century had acquired two speculative thriller novels by her under the name Theo Clare. The first in the series, The Book of Sand, is due to be published in January 2022 as a lead title for Century and its sequel, The Book of Clouds, will follow in early 2023.

The death of Mo Hayder is a blow to the crime writing community and she will be sorely missed by not only her fellow crime writers but also her fans. Our condolences to her family and her friends.

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare (Published by Century) Out January 2022

SAND. A hostile world of burning sun. Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins. In the distance a group of people - a family - walk towards us. Ahead lies shelter: a 'shuck' the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death. To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs. It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life - except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she's beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is … Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive.

Photograph ©Ayo Onatade (2004)

Friday, 30 July 2021

Sisters in Crime Australia - 201 Davitt. Awards Longlists


Adult Crime

Kristen Alexander, Riptides (Bantam Australia, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) 

Belinda Alexandra, The Mystery Woman (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

B M Allsopp, Death Beyond the Limit (Fiji Islands Mysteries #3) (Coconut Press) 

Rachel Amphlett, Her Final Hour (Detective Mark Turpin novel #2) (Saxon Publishing) 

Rachel Amphlett, None the Wiser (Detective Mark Turpin novel #1) (Saxon Publishing) 

Rachel Amphlett, Turn to Dust (Detective Kay Hunter Murder Mystery #9) (Saxon Publishing) 

Jennifer Bacia, Dark Side of the Harbour (Booktopia Editions) 

Amy Barker, Paradise Earth: A novel (Stormbird Press) Debut 

Sarah Barrie, Deadman’s Track (Calico Mountain #3) (HQ Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Australia) 

Sonya Bates, Inheritance of Secrets (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut 

Joanna Beresford, Every Year I Am Here (Atlas Productions) Debut 

Anne Buist, The Long Shadow (Text Publishing) 

Rae Cairns, The Good Mother (Bandrui Publishing) Debut 

B M Carroll, Who We Were (Serpents Tail, an imprint of Allen & Unwin) 

Lee Christine, Charlotte Pass (Allen & Unwin) Debut 

Phillipa Nefri Clark, Deadly Falls (Charlotte Dean Mysteries #2) (Phillipa Nefri Clark) 

Phillipa Nefri Clark, Deadly Secrets (Charlotte Dean Mysteries #3) (Phillipa Nefri Clark) 

Phillipa Nefri Clark, Last Known Contact (Phillipa Nefri Clark) 

Sherryl Clark, Dead and Gone (Judi Westerholme #2) (Verve Books) 

Sarah Clutton, The Daughter’s Promise (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK) Debut 

Muriel Cooper, Lucid (Pegasus Publishers) Debut 

Tea Cooper, The Cartographer’s Daughter (HQ Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Australia) 

Tea Cooper, The Girl in the Painting (HQ Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Australia) 

Megan Daymond, Bones of Deception (Andy Knight #2) (Fracture Publishing) 

Kaye Dobbie, The Road to Ironbark (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Ceridwen Dovey, Life After Truth ((Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) Debut 

Anna Downes, The Safe Place (Affirm Press) Debut 

Chris Elliott, Sibanda and the Death’s Head Moth (DI Jabulani Sibanda #2) (Constable, an imprint of Hachette Australia) 

Kirsty Ferguson, Never Ever Tell (Boldwood Books) 

Katherine Firkin, Sticks and Stones (Bantam, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) Debut 

Candice Fox, Gathering Dark (Penguin Random House Australia) 

Darry Fraser, Elsa Goody, Bushranger (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Darry Fraser, The Last Truehart (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Rebecca Freeborn, The Girl She Was (Pantera Press) Debut 

Poppy Gee, Vanishing Falls: A novel (Booktopia Editions) 

Sulari Gentill, A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) (Pantera Press) 

Brigid George, Tooting Moon (Dusty Kent Mystery #5) (Potoroo Publishing) 

Megan Goldin, The Night Swim (Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) 

Kerry Greenwood, Death in Daylesford (Phryne Fisher) (Allen & Unwin) 

Robin Gregory, Traffic (Sandi Kent Mystery #1) (Clan Destine Press) Debut 

Jane Harper, The Survivors (Pan Macmillan Australia) 

Sally Hepworth, The Good Sister (Pan Macmillan Australia) 

D K Hood, Her Broken Wings (Detectives Kane and Alton #8) (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK) 

D K Hood, Her Shallow Grave (Detectives Kane and Alton #9) (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK) 

D K Hood, Promises in the Dark (Detectives Kane and Alton #10) (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK) 

Shona Husk, Close to the Truth (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) Debut 

Helen Iles, Dark Secrets (Linellen Press) Debut 

Nora James, A Shot at Amore (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Alexandra Joel, The Paris Model (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut 

Mary Jones, Troubled Waters (Green Olive Press) Debut 

H R Kemp, Deadly Secrets: What unspeakable truths lurk beneath the lies? (Helmine Kemp) Debut 

Karina Kilmore, Where the Truth Lies (Simon & Schuster Australia) Debut 

Katherine Kovacic, The Shifting Landscape (Alex Clayton #3) (Echo Publishing, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK) 

L A Larkin, Prey (Olivia Wolfe #2) (Clan Destine Press) 

C A Larmer, And Then There Were 9 (The Agatha Christie Book Club #4) (Larmer Media) 

C A Larmer, Without a Word (Ghostwriter Mystery #7) (Larmer Media) 

Suzanne Leal, The Deceptions (Allen & Unwin) Debut 

Judith Lees, The Silent Syringe (Moonglow Publishing) Debut 

Carol Lefevre, Murmurations (Spinifex Press) Debut 

Leisl Leighton, Blazing Fear (CoalCliff Stud #2) (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Michele Lourie, Deceiving (Michele Lourie) 

Kirsty Manning, The Lost Jewels (Allen & Unwin) 

Annette Marner, A New Name for the Colour Blue (Wakefield Press) Debut

Nicola Marsh, My Sister’s Husband (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK) Debut 

Donna Mazza, Fauna (Allen & Unwin) Debut 

Vanessa McCausland, The Valley of Lost Stories (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) 

Fleur McDonald, Red Dirt Country (Detective Dave Burrows) (Allen & Unwin) 

Kerry McGinnis, Croc Country (Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) 

Petronella McGovern, The Good Teacher (Allen & Unwin) 

Marie McMillan, The Lost Day: Under Newgrange (Europe Books UK) Debut 

Dervla McTiernan, The Good Turn (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) 

Kate Mildenhall, The Mother Fault (Simon & Schuster Australia) Debut 

Natasha Molt, Cutting the Cord (Impact Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Australia) Debut 

Alyssa J Montgomery, Five Dates with the Billionaire (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Kayte Nunn, The Silk House (Hachette Australia) 

Tania Park, Double Cross (Tania Park) 

Jan Pearson, Blue Dragon Spring (Celestial Symbols #4) (Proverse Hong Kong) 

J P Powell, The Brisbane Line (Brio Books) Debut 

Mirandi Riwoe, Stone Sky Gold Mountain (University of Queensland Press) 

Bronwyn Rodden, Orphan Rock (Ros Gordon Mystery #2) (Bronwyn Rodden) 

Elisabeth Rose, A Light in the Dark (Taylor’s Bend #3) (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Kimberley Starr, Torched (Pantera Press) 

Karen Lee Street, Edgar Allan Poe and the Empire of the Dead (Poe and Dupin Mystery #3) (Point Blank, an imprint of Wildside Press) 

A M Stuart, Revenge in Rubies (Harriet Gordon Mystery #2) (Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House USA) 

Alison Stuart, The Goldminer’s Sister (Maiden’s Creek #2) (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Chris Stuart, For Reasons of Their Own (Original Sin Press) Debut 

Leah Swann, Sheerwater (4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut 

Sarah Thornton, White Throat (Text Publishing) 

Sandi Wallace, Black Cloud (Gumshoe, an imprint of Next Chapter) 

Anna Willett, Dear Neighbour: No boundary to murder (Cold Peak Media) 

Anna Willett, Savage Bay Nightmare (Lucy Hush #3) (Cold Peak Media)

Belinda Williams, Don’t Let me Forget (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) 

Young Adult Crime Novels

Davina Bell, The End of the World Is Bigger than Love (Text Publishing) Debut 

Sarah Epstein, Deep Water (Allen & Unwin Children’s) 

Fiona Hardy, How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life (Affirm Press)

Hayley Lawrence, Ruby Tuesday (Penguin Random House Australia) Debut 

Ellie Marney, None Shall Sleep (Allen & Unwin Children’s) 

Fin J Ross, Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie (Clan Destine Press) 

Lisa Walker, The Girl with the Gold Bikini (Wakefield Press) Debut 

Lili Wilkinson, The Erasure Initiative (Allen & Unwin Children’s) 

Children's Crime Novels

Sandra Bennett, Fossil Frenzy (Adamson Adventures #3) (Rosella Ridge Books) Debut 

Jackie French, The Ghost of Howlers Beach (Butter O’Bryan Mysteries #1) (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut 

Jacqueline Harvey, Alice-Miranda in the Outback (Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) 

Jacqueline Harvey, Freefall (Kensy and Max #5) (Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) 

Petra James, Henrie’s Hero Hunt (Walker Books Australia) Debut 

Rebecca McRitchie, Havoc!: The untold magic of Cora Bell (Jinxed #2) (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) 

Amelia Mellor, The Grandest Bookshop in the World (Affirm Press) Debut 

Julianne Negri, The Secret Library of Hummingbird House (Affirm Press) 

Christie Nieman, Where We Begin (Pan Macmillan Australia) Debut 

Pamela Rushby, The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle (Walker Books Australia) 

Laura Sieveking, Musical Mystery (Ella at Eden #3) (Scholastic Press) Debut 

R A Spratt, Near Extinction (The Peski Kids #4) (Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) 

A L Tait, The Fire Star (Maven & Reeve Mystery #1) (Penguin Random House Australia) Debut 

Lian Tanner, A Clue for Clara (Allen & Unwin Children’s) Debut 

Renee Treml, Sherlock Bones and the Sea-creature Feature (Allen & Unwin Children’s) 

Sue Whiting, The Book of Chance (Walker Books Australia) 

Non Fiction Booksellers

Tanya Bretherton, The Killing Streets: Uncovering Australia’s first serial murderer (Hachette Australia)

Stella Budrikis, The Edward Street Baby Farm: The murder trial that gripped a city (Fremantle Press) Debut 

Stephanie Convery, After the Count: The death of Davey Browne (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) Debut 

Melissa Davey, The Case of George Pell: Reckoning with child sexual abuse (Scribe Publications) Debut

Heidi Lemon, The First Time He Hit Her: The Shocking True Story of the Murder of Tara Costigan, The Woman Next Door (Hachette Australia) Debut 

Xanthé Mallett, Reasonable Doubt (Pan Macmillan Australia) 

Louise Milligan, Witness: An investigation into the brutal cost of seeking justice (Hachette Australia) 

Caroline Overington, Missing William Tyrrell (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) 

Monique Patterson, United in Grief: The tragic story of Stephanie Scott’s murder and the effect it had on the small town of Leeton NSW (Genius Book Company) Debut 

Suzanne Smith, The Altar Boys (ABC Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut 

Angela Williams, Snakes and Ladders: A memoir (Affirm Press) Debut 

Thursday, 29 July 2021

2021 Ned Kelly Awards shortlist


The Australian Crime Writers Association (ACWA) have announced the shortlist for the 2021 Ned Kelly Awards. 

Best Crime Fiction

Consolation by Garry Disher (Text)

Gathering Dark by Candice Fox, (Penguin)

A Testament of Character by Sulari Gentill, (Pantera)

The Survivors by Jane Harper, (Pan)

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan, (HarperCollins)

Tell Me Lies by J P Pomare, (Hachette)

When She Was Good by Michael Robotham, (Hachette)

White Throat by Sarah Thornton, (Text)

Best Debut Crime Fiction

The Good Mother by Rae Cairns, (Bandrui Publishing)

The Second Son by Lorraine Peck, (Text)

The Bluffs by Kyle Perry, (PRH)

The Night Whistler by Greg Woodlands, (Text)

Best True Crime

The Husband Poisoner by Tanya Bretherton, (Hachette)

Stalking Claremont: Inside the hunt for a serial killer by Bret Christian, (HarperCollins)

Public Enemies by Mark Dapin, (A&U)

Hazelwood by Tom Doig, (Viking)

Witness by Louise Milligan, (Hachette)

Best International Cime Fiction

The Guest List by Lucy Foley, (HarperCollins)

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman, (A&U)

Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar, (Text)

We Begin at the End by Chris Whittaker, (A&U)

Broken by Don Winslow, (HarperCollins).

Congratulations to all!

Established in 1995, the Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest, most prestigious awards honoring crime fiction and true crime writing.

For more information about the 2021 shortlists, go to the ACWA website.

Kelly Heard on Realism and Romance in a Pandemic


When people talk about the influence of COVID-19 on reading trends, the word that I always hear is comfort. Readers appear to be seeking out escapism, reaching for the dependability of formulaic genres, or rereading old favorites. Although it is too soon to know for sure, I can’t help but wonder if the pandemic will have a comparable effect on the way that we are writing. 

I’ve always attempted to keep the reins on my writing with a question: isn’t this too much? As in, too much coincidence, too much melodrama, just too much? At some point during lockdown, my drafts and characters began to answer no. The resulting books are full of foreboding, danger, and melodrama, and the settings are melancholy and wild. They are closer to psychological suspense than the women’s fiction I have usually written. As the long days of quarantine dragged into summer and then fall, I stopped asking quite so often. I have always been the type of reader who prefers to marvel at a story, rather than to outsmart it. But in making writing choices that were, to a degree, less than realistic, I couldn’t help but feel that I was breaking a rule somewhere. There is a word for that, though.

In The Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye argues that the present definition of novel is too broad. His theory of genre lays out, instead, four intertwined forms of book-length fiction, of which the novel is only one. Frye is long out of fashion when it comes to literary criticism, but his basic argument with our overuse of the term novel rings true, possibly even more today than when he wrote it in 1957. To illustrate his concept, I have written a brief summary of each of Frye’s four genres, along with an example from current crime and psychological suspense books.

The first two, and most common, are novel and romance (in this instance, romance as a form of prose fiction is distinct from the genre of romance novels). A novel is set within society, with pacing and plot dependent on causality—you could say, plot-driven. By contrast, a romance is more likely character-driven, set “in vacuo,” often in vast and wild natural landscapes, its stylized characters giving the form a “glow of subjective intensity.” Frye compares Jane Austen (novels) to Emily Bronte (romance) by way of example. In terms of psychological suspense, I would compare something like Minka Kent’s The Watcher Girl (a novel: plot-driven, a layered protagonist situated in contemporary culture: in the suburbs, on the internet) to Eliza Maxwell’s The Unremembered Girl (a romance: a breathtaking drama of a crime mystery, set out in the marsh, where the alligator, Old Brutal, lurks). Though these books achieve different goals, neither is less suspenseful or thrilling than the other. Where a novel deals with society, a romance deals with individuality, its natural landscape yielding to what Frye calls the “nihilistic and untamable.” I can’t help but think, when you see a thriller with a two-star review that says that it was too much about character rather than plot, that was very likely more romance than novel—not that either category has more claim to psychological suspense than the other. 

Frye’s third genre, the confession, is most closely linked to memoir. Frye’s prototypical confessions are those of St. Augustine and Rousseau. It would be unusual to find a contemporary book that is purely confession, which is as concerned with intellectual subject matter as with narrative. One is Travis Besecker’s Lost in Infinity, psychological suspense written as fictional memoir, which jumps from apparent tortured autobiography to thriller with ease. And the anatomy, the fourth genre, includes books that are part narrative, part catalogue of ideas, usually satirical. Think: Alice in Wonderland, The Circle, The Master and Margarita. Fight Club, satirizing toxic masculinity and consumer culture, shares some tendencies with this genre. Do these distinctions matter? Probably more to writers than to readers, but Frye would have answered that we ought to judge a writer in terms of the conventions they chose.

In terms of my own writing, the reminder that fiction deserves for us to judge it in terms of its own intent was enlightening. Suddenly, I wasn’t writing a dreamy, insufficiently realistic novel. I had a different goal all along, and I shouldn’t have needed a theorist to tell me so, either. Part of me is dying to ask everyone else out there: how has the pandemic changed your relationship to your writing? My anecdotal evidence, as a writer who spends a lot of time talking to other writers, suggests that many of us are experiencing a different relationship to realism than we used to—no need to wonder why. They always say it with a kind of guilt. But I think that is fine, if it’s validation that you need, not that you should need it. Occasional escape can be a form of sustenance or medicine. Romance as a form has never been a refusal of reality; it exists within reality, as a complement to it. As for me, for the foreseeable future, I will be sitting at the “nihilistic and untamable” table.

 Woman in the Water by Kelly Heard (Bookoutre) Out Now

I know my sister didn’t die by accident. Does someone know our secret? I swore I’d never go home to Brightwater. It would be safer for everyone if I stayed away. But now my sister is dead, and I am driving down the familiar highway, watching the sunlight glimmer off the lake, with the memory of her green eyes like a knife in my heart. I know Holly didn’t slip and drown out by the old boardwalk, surrounded by trees and dark water. She would never have gone there, if she had a choice. Her little girls need me now. I couldn’t save Holly, but I must protect them. Because if whoever killed Holly knows what we did all those years ago, out on the water, then I need to find them before they come after me. But how can I, when there are still so many things I don’t know about what really happened that night?

More information about the author can be found on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @kheardbooks.