Former pub rocker and celebrated songwriter Dave Warner – Australia’s original ‘Suburban Boy’ – has won the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for Australia’s best crime novel for Before it Breaks.
Warner’s ninth novel, his first in 15 years, beat out a star-studded list of past winners and was praised by judges for its ‘depth and humanity’ and for its ‘stunning sense of location’. Set in and around Broome in Western Australia, it tells the story of ex-homicide detective Daniel Clement who reluctantly returns home to Broome to piece his shattered life together only to be drawn into a murder investigation with links across the globe.
Sydney-based Warner came to prominence in the 1970s with the punk band ‘From the Suburbs’ which released the iconic song ‘Suburban Boy’. He later established himself as a writer for film, TV and the stage, as well as producing novels for adults and children.
The 21st Ned Kelly Awards were presented in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon at a gathering of past winners and passionate crime readers celebrating the best in Australian crime writing.
Warner told the audience, ‘I'm thrilled to accept this award because it comes from lovers of the genre. When we're tapping away alone we need every encouragement to believe somebody will ultimately enjoy our work. My hero Dan Clement thinks he's isolated up in Broome, he should try being a writer.'
The Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime book went to journalist and author Gideon Haigh for Certain Admissions, which tells the true story of a crime that captivated Melbourne society in 1949 when a privileged, private-school educated radio announcer, John Bryan Kerr, was charged with the murder of 21-year-old typist Beth Williams.
Rather than focus on the issue of guilt or innocence, Haigh has produced a story that reads like a police procedural, courtroom drama, family saga, social history and brilliant piece of investigative journalism.
Accepting the award, Haigh said he had immersed himself in the true crime genre before Certain Admissions. ‘I read many of the prior winners of the Ned Kelly Award, and was impressed by their quality and variety. I'm surprised and honoured to be joining their company.’
The Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction went to Emma Viskic for her debut novel Resurrection Bay, which judges said offered ‘a unique new take on the detective thriller’ by introducing a protagonist, Caleb Zelic, who is profoundly deaf. ‘Resurrection Bay has it all: betrayal, murder, lost-love, heartbreak – all delivered at a cracking pace.’
Viskic told the audience that she was driven to write Resurrection Bay and was ‘incredibly honoured to be in the company of previous winners like Peter Temple, Chris Womersley and Candice Fox.’
The S.D Harvey Short Story winner was Roni O’Brien, for a haunting story called ‘Flesh’ that will be published in the upcoming edition of the on-line arts magazine Kill Your Darlings.
The Australian Crime Writers Association chose the occasion of the awards to bestow a Lifetime Achievement Award on Carmel Shute, the national convenor and founder member of Sisters in Crime, an organisation that has been celebrating women’s crime writing since 1991.
The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest and most prestigious prizes for published crime fiction and true crime writing. First established in 1995, the list of previous winners includes Peter Temple, Shane Maloney, Gabrielle Lord, Garry Disher and Kerry Greenwood.
You can read more about the awards at the ACWA website.