Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The state of Kiwi crime: the Ngaio Marsh Award on Radio New Zealand

Following the announcement of Liam McIlvanney as the winner of the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, Liam and I (in my role as Judging Convenor) were interviewed by Lynn Freeman, live on Radio New Zealand, on Sunday afternoon. After 10 minutes of non-stop laughter and banter before we went live, both Liam and I managed to come across as quite serious and professional, at least for a while.

We canvassed several interesting things in the interview, including the state of New Zealand crime writing, what makes a crime novel a crime novel, recognition for New Zealand writers, New Zealand reader preferences and buying habits, and much more. You can listen to the broadcast here:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Otago Professor becomes New Zealand’s King of Crime

An exceptional thriller entwined with national and workplace politics, sectarian warfare, and the changing face and influence of the newspaper industry has won University of Otago Professor of Scottish Studies Liam McIlvanney the prestigious Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

Dunedin-based McIlvanney (pictured) was announced as the winner, for his “fascinating, brilliant, and challenging” novel WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO, before a packed house at the conclusion of the lively Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival on Saturday 30 August. “In a year where we had our strongest, deepest, and most diverse long list ever, and four truly fantastic finalists, WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO got the nod for its terrific, page-turning storytelling powered by superb prose, fascinating characters, and an evocative sense of place,” said Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “It’s the kind of book that lingers in your mind beyond the final page.”

In WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO, Glasgow stands on the precipice: of the Commonwealth Games, a national vote on Scottish independence, and an explosive rekindling of a brutal gangland war. Gerry Conway is a jaded, jobbing journo, the golden child fallen, clinging to the coat-tails of his former protégé, Martin Moir. When Moir’s body is discovered as a big story breaks, Conway steps into his shoes; a very dangerous place, as gangsters, politicians, and other predators swirl around.

The judging panel, consisting of crime fiction experts from New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, called WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO “a thought-provoking novel with very real characters and a fascinating, complex plot”. McIlvanney puts a lot into this book: the state of the news media, what it takes to be a good reporter, politics, family life, and even a New Zealand connection, said one judge. “Excellent writing makes it all fit together very nicely indeed.” Conway was described by the judges as “an unlikely hero perhaps, as the mainstream media around the world are going down the gurgler… he keeps digging away like a real reporter should, even when his bosses are less than supportive.”

The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, established in 2010, is named for Dame Ngaio Marsh, who is renowned worldwide as one of the four Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Dame Ngaio published 32 novels featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn between 1934 and her death in 1982. With sales in the millions, and her books still in print to this day, Dame Ngaio is one of New Zealand’s most successful authors in history. Dame Ngaio’s closest living relative, John Dacres-Manning, gave his blessing for the New Zealand crime writing award to be named in her honour, saying that “I know that Dame Ngaio would be so proud… to know that her name is associated with the award”.

In addition to the award itself, McIlvanney wins a set of Dame Ngaio’s novels, courtesy of HarperCollins, and a cheque for $1,000 from the Christchurch Writers’ Festival Trust.

For more information, please contact:
Craig Sisterson: craigsisterson@hotmail.com

Friday, August 29, 2014

9mm: An interview with Ann Cleeves

As we roll through August, the 9mm series is well and truly humming again after a long hiatus. It's an absolute pleasure to bring you these regular (now back to weekly, again) interviews with some of the world's very best crime writers.

Today it's my privilege to share with you my recent interview with British crime writer Ann Cleeves, who is the Programme Director for the 2015 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Cleeves is famous for several series of crime tales, including her George and Molly series (which began with her debut A BIRD IN THE HAND in 1986), the Inspector Ramsay series, the Vera Stanhope series, and the Shetland Islands series.

Twenty years after her debut, Cleeves won the 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the richest crime writing prize in the world, for RAVEN BLACK, the first in her Jimmy Perez/Shetland Island series. That series has been adapted for the television series Shetland, and the Vera Stanhope series has also been adapted for screen.

Cleeves' books have been translated into 20 languages, received strong reviews worldwide, and been shortlisted for several crime writing awards in Britain and abroad. She was inducted into the Crime Thriller Hall of Fame in 2012, and last month was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sunderland "in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a crime writer".

But for now, Ann Cleeves becomes the 80th crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
This is really difficult and like being asked to choose a very best friend, but today I'll go with Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski. The books are well-written and thought-provoking and it was great to have a strong central female character.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
I was an Enid Blyton child - she gave me my first taste of crime fiction. I remember going to my local library and the librarian pulled The Island of Adventure from behind the counter like a magician with a rabbit from a hat.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
A Bird in the Hand was my first published novel and the first piece of writing I ever completed. Other than that I kept a diary. And when I was working on Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in the UK, I wrote lots of letters.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I enjoy travelling and spending time in Shetland. But I have six grandchildren now so there's not much spare time...

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
I live in Whitley Bay, on England's north east coast.  It's a slightly faded sea-side town now, but I love being an easy walk to the beach. On New Year's Day there's an annual swim in the sea. Completely crazy because the water's freezing but great fun.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Brenda Blethyn, who plays VERA in the ITV adaptation of my books. She doesn't look like me but she's become a friend and I think she'd do me proud.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
Raven Black, the first Shetland novel changed my career so I'm very fond of that. But I'm proud of Harbour Street, the most recent Vera book.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
My initial reaction was relief.  Our car had broken down and we didn't have the money to fix it. I knew that the advance for the novel would pay to get it back on the road.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
Recently I did a signing on a train between London and York to celebrate the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival - I'm programme chair next year. That was good fun.

Thank you Ann Cleeves. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Ann Cleeves and her books here:

Comments welcome. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Preview of David Fincher's take on GONE GIRL

Directed by David Fincher and based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, GONE GIRL unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

GONE GIRL lands in theaters on October 3rd.

Okay, I'm excited...

I know the Emmy went to Breaking Bad (terrific show), lots of people are enamoured by the likes of Game of Thrones (also very good) or True Detective (really looking forward to watching that), but for me, personally, this is my number one MUST-WATCH television drama, filled with superb writing and acting.

The seventh and final season kicks off in the United States next Tuesday night. I'm excited, curious, and perhaps mildly terrified as to where Kurt Sutter is going to take us, on this final ride...