Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Australian crime novelist wins prestigious literary prize!

Big news today from Australia, as crime king Peter Temple (pictured right) was last night announced as the suprise winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, which is touted as Australia's "first and most prestigious literary award", for his novel TRUTH. It was a history-making ceremony for the Award, which has been running since 1957, as TRUTH is the first ever crime novel to win.

According to its website, the Miles Franklin Literary Award "celebrates Australian character and creativity and nurtures the continuing life of literature about Australia. It is awarded for the novel of the year which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases" (emphasis added). It was first awarded in 1957, following a bequest from renowned Australian novelist Miles Franklin in 1954.

It is very much an award for 'literary novels', with Australia of course having its separate crime fiction-focused awards, the Ned Kellys, to recognise the best of its crime writing. So it's great to see the literary-crime-minded Temple break through and win (he has also been shortlisted on a previous occasion). Prior to last night's ceremony, there was plenty of speculation of who would win the $42,000 prize - with many newspaper articles down this way focused on the other authors on the shortlist, such as Thomas Keneally (the author of Schindler's Ark, which became the Oscar-winning film Schindler's List), or whether fellow shortlistee, literary novelist Alex Miller, could win the award for a third time.

I am very humbled to win the award and I never expected to have a chance," said the 64-year-old Temple in his acceptance speech, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Temple also said crime fiction would benefit from his win - TRUTH was also the first crime novel to be shortlisted for the Miles Franklin. ''Winning the Miles Franklin is the high point in an Australian writer's career,'' he said. ''I feel very honoured to be among such a long list of illustrious writers.''

The judges said TRUTH was ''a stunning novel about contemporary Australian life, written with all the ambiguity and moral sophistication of the most memorable literature''. TRUTH was the sequel to THE BROKEN SHORE, which won the 2007 Duncan Lawrie Dagger

In TRUTH, Stephen Villani is the acting head of the Victoria Police homicide squad. But his first months on the job have not gone well: two Aboriginal teenagers shot dead in a botched operation he authorised in the provincial city of Cromarty; and, no progress on the killing of a man in front of his daughter outside a private girls' school. Now five men are found dead in horrifying circumstances on the outskirts of the city. Villani' superiors and the media are baying for arrests. To add to his woes, some of the country's richest people are alarmed by the baffling killing of a young woman in the high-security tower where they live. Villani, a man who has built his life around his work, begins to find the certainties of both crumbling. As the pressure mounts, he finds that he must contemplate things formerly unthinkable. TRUTH is a novel about murder, corruption, family, friends, honour, honesty, deceit, love, betrayal and truth.

It has largely received great reviews. You can read a variety of reviews of TRUTH here:
So have you read TRUTH? Or any of Peter Temple's other work? What do you think? Do you like crime that leans heavily towards the literary? Is it a good thing that literary awards are also now sometimes recognising 'crime novels'? Thoughts and comments welcome.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's good to see a non-traditional novel win the Miles Franklin and TRUTH is certainly worthy of an award for presenting Australian character and life. It's a dark, complicated book but very, very good. Frankly I think the sooner we get over the whole 'literary' versus 'genre' debate the better.

    I actually prefer THE BROKEN SHORE which is a loose prequel to TRUTH but that's just me.

    The ABC here does a daily books podcast and today's was all about this win - an interview with Peter Temple and a chat about the judging - both were jolly good