Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, revealed*

*No, I'm not revealing who has won the 2010 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel today, but I am revealing for the first time what the trophy the winner will receive looks like!

As I've noted previously on this blog, this year will mark the first time (as far as I am aware) that an award for New Zealand crime fiction has ever been made. While the Canterbury Earthquake led to the unfortunate cancellation of the 2010 The Press Christchurch Writers' Festival, where the inaugural award was due to be made, the presentation of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (pictured above) has merely been postponed, and a replacement event will occur sometime in the coming weeks (likely in November). I will let you know the details of the eventual event, once things have been confirmed.

So at least all of you who are reading the three finalists now have a little more time to formulate your own opinion, before the official announcement. And booksellers have more time to promote all three finalists prior to the winner being announced. If any of you need any help sourcing copies of the three finalists, or other New Zealand crime fiction, please feel free to get in touch with me and I'll do my best to help.

Turning now to the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel trophy itself; there's a bit of a story behind the design of the trophy (pictured above). We were wanting to create something that was a little different and unique, that fit the kind of slightly irreverant and low-key style of many of the other crime fiction awards around the world (eg the Edgar, the Agatha, the Macavity, the Ned Kelly, the Arthur Ellis, the Theakston, the Dagger, etc - click on any of the award names to see an image of that award) while still looking good, and was also imbued with some ideas tied to Ngaio Marsh, books, crime writing, and New Zealand. Personally I think the above award does all this.

The award has been handcrafted by Auckland sculptor and visual arts and design lecturer Gina Ferguson, and mounted by Xpress Awards. As is often the case with such creative things, what we have ended up with is quite different from the earliest discussions and ideas between an informal 'design team', which also included myself and Dr Joanne Drayton (Ngaio Marsh expert and acclaimed biographer, and a lecturer at Unitec Design School), as ideas spiralled off ideas, and the team ended up coming up with something quite unique and, I think, exciting and elegant.

In short the award looks like an old-fashioned hardcover book, opened slightly (we realised few of the awards, although they were for books, actually had books incorporated into the trophy), with a stylised etching of Dame Ngaio on the cover. The 'book' is 'flocked', which is a technique that makes it look like it has a velvety black cover, which can shimmer a bit in the light, and the stylised etching is in mother of pearl, which gives a nice simple and elegant black/white contrast, while also tying to the pearl necklaces Dame Ngaio was sometimes photographed wearing. The velvet-ish flocking kind of echoes the Golden Age, while also tying to Dame Ngaio's theatrical leanings. The stylished etching of Dame Ngaio was based on a combination of various photos - working in elements of necklace, artist's beret, wavy hair etc - while looking simple, almost like a pencil or charcoal artist's sketch (again tying to Ngaio's artistic side as well).

I understand that people have different aesthetic tastes, but having seen the Award in person, personally I think it looks quite cool, and over the years it will hopefully grow into something much-desired by crime writers down this end of the world.

What do you think?


  1. Craig - Oh, I like it :-). It's a terrific award and I'm sure it's even more beautiful "in person." I am so impressed with all of the work you put into the award, the design, the original event, the whole thing. Kudos!!

  2. Graig, it's gorgeous - congrats to Gina and the design team!

  3. Oh Craig it is a great design - very aesthetically pleasing on the eye and you can see the origins of all the ideas you talk about - even down to the colours and their meaning in NZ. I had a look at all the others and I would say it is by far the nicest looking design of them all (I've always loathed the Ned Kelly trophy). Well done to all.

  4. I like it, superb.

  5. What a cool trophy!

    Usually they look like something you´d never drag home if it wasn´t for the honour. This one would look terrific in our cottage ;D

  6. It's gorgeous! Perfectly right for a book award. I am one of Ngaio Marsh's biggest fans and I think she would have liked and felt honored by this beautiful award given in her name.

  7. Looks good. Will it be a "perpetual trophy" or will each winner get a copy? How big is it?

  8. Certainly better looking than the Ned Kelly: http://crimespace.ning.com/profiles/blogs/ned-kelly-awards-2009 memorably described by Shane Maloney as looking like "a sawn-off anthracite dildo"

  9. I appreciate all the positive comments.

    Kerrie - it's about 25-30cm high, I think - it's the size of an old-fashioned hardcover book, on a small pedastal. The intention is for each winner to get a copy, although things can change obviously...

    Dorte - move to New Zealand and your coming crime novels would be eligible :-)