Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crime Novel wins NZSA Pindar Publishing Prize!

Late last month I encouraged readers to vote for their favourite amongst five finalists for the first-ever instalment of the NZSA Pindar Publishing Prize, a new award for unpublished New Zealand writers. At the time I was really pleased to see a couple of unpublished crime/thriller novels amongst the five shortlisted works - it was really encouraging to see the judges (Mary Egan, Managing Director of Pindar NZ, Linda Herrick, Arts and Books Editor of the New Zealand Herald, and Graeme Lay, Auckland National Council Delegate) recognise budding local talent looking to write in a storytelling style/'genre' that historically has been somewhat overlooked here in New Zealand - when it comes to recognising our own writers.

And now, even better news for crime and thriller fiction fans - the winner has been announced (and revealed - since the entries were all anonymous when it came to judging) and its one of the unpublished crime novels! So we're going to see another New Zealand crime fiction author launched on the market in the coming months - the winner's book is scheduled for publication in August.

The winner is Donna Malane, for her story SURRENDER, a thriller about a woman trying to track down her younger sister's killer in the sleazier side of Wellington. The synopsis for SURRENDER says:

"Though the cops could never prove it, Diane always believed it was Snow who’d murdered her little sister Niki, but now Snow’s turned up dead in suspiciously similar circumstances. Despite her ex-husband’s warnings, Diane is unable to leave it to the cops to find out what really happened to her little sister and instead determines to hunt down Niki’s killer herself. She figures that if she can find out who killed Snow, then maybe she can figure out who ordered the hit on Niki and why. So far so easy – as long as she can keep under the cops’ radar and that includes ex-husband Detective Sean McCallum, who knows Diane only too well.

But uncovering Niki’s past reveals more than Diane bargained for. Forced to enter into a seedy world of sex, drugs and blackmail, the more she uncovers Niki’s past the more she has to accept that maybe she didn’t know her little sister nearly as well as she thought she did. As if that’s not bad enough, she’s forced to face a few uncomfortable truths about herself along the way. Meanwhile there’s that little matter of tracking the identity of the decapitated body that’s turned up in a State Forest."

You can read a 15-page extract from SURRENDER here.

Malane, 55, is a Wellington television scriptwriter and producer, but SURRENDER will be her first published novel. In one of those 'small world' scenarios, I have actually chatted to Malane before, when I reviewed the excellent television movie UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT last year. Malane was a writer/producer of the award-winning adaptation of the true life story of David Dougherty, a New Zealander wrongfully imprisoned for several years for the rape of his young neighbour (screenshot left) - one of our country's most notorious miscarriages of justice. Malane has also worked on other notable New Zealand television dramas like The Strip, Duggan, Shark in the Park, The Insider's Guide to Happiness, and The Insider's Guide to Love.

You can read a good interview with Malane, where she talks to Linda Herrick about her nascent novel writing and thoughts on the Pindar Prize, in yesterday's NZ Herald, here.

"We were all impressed by the forcefulness of Donna’s plot, the vividness of her writing and the resilience of her central character," said judge Graham Lay in an NZSA press release. "She was also able to interweave elements of humour into the narrative’s brutality and mystery."

Co-judge Herrick said, "The narrative included a convincing sense of place; you felt that the writer knew Wellington and its environs very well, and this added to the novel’s feeling of authenticity. The characters were well drawn, particularly the female lead, but peripheral characters also rang true. The writing was crisp and compelling, driving the narrative along at a great pace towards the climax." And co-judge Mia Yardley concludes, "Surrender is a worthy addition to the growing catalogue of New Zealand crime fiction."

Growing catalogue indeed. And it's great to see. I'm very much looking forward to reading the entire version of SURRENDER when it comes out. Hopefully some of the other finalists may also be picked up for publication eventually as well (as sometimes happens in comparable overseas 'unpublished writer' competitions - e.g. Louise Penny didn't win the CWA Debut Dagger).

Over 500 entries were received for the inaugural award, which thanks to the fantastic support of the New Zealand Society of Authors, Pindar NZ, Whitcoulls booksellers, Astra Print Group, the New Zealand Herald, and Creative New Zealand, offers the winner the opportunity to have their unpublished novel professionally edited, produced, marketed and distributed throughout New Zealand (the total prize package is worth around $35,000 to a talented new author).

Entrants were required to submit a synopsis and a sample of their writing, not the entire manuscript. For example, the sample could have been the first two chapters of a novel, two short stories or 15 poems. The judges were not aware of the identity of any of the entrants.
When they met to draw up a long list of finalists, the judges were struck by the quality of the writing, saying it was extremely difficult to decide on the final five, as several of the long-listed manuscripts were of a publishable standard. After the five finalists were selected, the judges read the entire manuscript for each of them. The winner was decided based upon both a public vote (40% of the total score) and the Judge's determination (60% of the final score).

Have you read the extract from SURRENDER? What do you think? Does the story intrigue you? How important do you think such unpublished author competitions are for unearthing new talent (e.g the St Martin's/Minotaur comp in the USA that discovered Michael Koryta, the CWA Debut Dagger that has launched the likes of Allan Guthrie, Louise Penny, and Alan Bradley)?


  1. I was delighted to see a crime fiction novel won this. I haven't read the sample writing, but will look forward to reading Surrender once it's published.

  2. Hi Craig, I'm not entirely sure how to get in touch with you, I work for Pindar NZ and would love to invite you to the launch, can you send through your contact details to Thanks, Sophia.