Australia’s Best Crime Writers

by |September 4, 2017

The winners of the 2017 Ned Kelly Awards for the best in Australian crime writing were announced at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Friday 1 September.

Irish-Australian writer Adrian McKinty has won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction with his intriguingly titled novel, Police at The Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, the sixth book in his celebrated Sean Duffy series. This is his second Ned Kelly Award.

Set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the judges called Police at The Station and They Don’t Look Friendly ‘lyrical and tender, laugh-out-loud funny, and heart-stoppingly suspenseful.’ In his acceptance speech, McKinty told the crowd, ‘We’re very lucky in Australia to have one of the most talented, most diverse, smartest and funniest crime fiction communities in the world. And to be recognised by my peers like this is an absolutely huge honour.’

It is the second major award in six months for McKinty, who earlier this year won Best Paperback Original at America’s prestigious Edgar awards for his previous novel Rain Dogs.

Adrian McKinty

Another big winner on the night was Melbourne journalist and writer Jane Harper, whose celebrated debut, The Dry, picked up the Ned Kelly Award for best First Fiction. The Dry has been a publishing sensation since being released in May 2016, winning multiple awards at the Australian Book Industry Association awards, and being sold into more than 20 territories. It has also been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon.

On The Dry, the judges said, ‘Reminiscent of Wake in Fright’s claustrophobic atmosphere, this terrific portrayal of a country town filled with drought, secrets and long held grudges is deftly plotted, pacey and compulsively readable.’

Jane Harper

The Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime was shared by two titles: Getting Away with Murder by Duncan McNab and The Drowned Man by Brendan James Murray. Both books have a common theme, but are very different in style, looking at homophobic violence in the community and in the military.

Former policeman McNab opened the casebook on up to 80 murders of gay men in Sydney from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, 30 of which are still unsolved. ‘With his comprehensive inside knowledge, he ties these crimes together and paints a chilling picture of an ingrained culture of gay bashing,’ commented the judges.

Murray’s The Drowned Man begins with a chance encounter with an old soldier in a fish ‘n’ chip shop, and leads the author to investigate whether a gay man was secretly murdered on board HMAS Australia during World War II.

Left: Brendan James Murray. Right: Duncan McNab

Left: Brendan James Murray. Right: Duncan McNab

The S.D. Harvey Short Story winner, Rules to Live By by Louise Bassett, will be published in the upcoming edition of the on-line arts magazine Kill Your Darlings.

Best Fiction

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly by Adrian McKintyPolice at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly
Sean Duffy Thriller: Book 6
by Adrian McKinty

This time, help isn’t coming. This time, Duffy has to save himself.

Belfast 1988: a man has been shot in the back with an arrow. It ain’t Injuns and it isn’t Robin Hood. But uncovering exactly who has done it will take Detective Inspector Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on the high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.

Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece… Learn more.

Best True Crime

Getting Away with Murder by Duncan McNab Getting Away with Murder
by Duncan McNab

Sydney’s shame: Up to 80 men murdered, 30 cases remain unsolved.

From 1977 to the end of 1986, Duncan McNab was a member of the NSW Police Force. Most of his service was in criminal investigation. The many unsolved deaths and disappearances of young gay men are the crimes that continue to haunt him. Around 80 men died or disappeared in NSW from the late 70s to early 90s during an epidemic of gay-hate crimes. The line between a vicious assault and murder is a slender one and this was a time of brutal attacks on gay men, featuring gangs of young thugs like the ‘Parkside Killers’ and ‘Bondi Boys’, who took to the growing gay rights community with fists and feet. Learn more.

 The Drowned Man by Brendan MurrayThe Drowned Man
by Brendan Murray

A chance encounter in a fish-’n’-chip shop set Brendan James Murray on the trail of a mystery. Had a gay man been secretly murdered on HMAS Australia during the Second World War?

The veteran he spoke to was certain. ‘I knew about it,’ he said. ‘We all did.’

But was the story true? If so, who was the dead man? And why was it so hard to find out? The Drowned Man is a search for the answer, almost stymied by cover-up and silence. In the end, it brings us to the lies that have shrouded our understanding of war, and especially of war at sea. As one of the survivors poignantly says, ‘I want to pass it on to the next generation. What it was like. What it was really like.’ Learn more.

Best First Fiction: Shortlist

The Dry by Jane HarperThe Drowned Man
by Brendan Murray

Who really killed the Hadler family?

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well …

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds are reopened. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret … A secret Falk thought long-buried … A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface …Learn more.

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About the Contributor

Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.


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