Sydney novellist Josephine Pennicott has won HarperCollins First Prize of $1000 in Sisters in Crime Australia’s 19th Scarlet Stiletto Awards for her short story “Shadows”, a story about obsession, grief and the power of words and perception. Pennicott also won the coveted stiletto trophy¸ a scarlet stiletto shoe with a steel stiletto heel plunging into a mount, back in 2001 for her short story “Birthing the Demons”.
An elated Pennicott told the 120-strong crowd at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel on Friday night (23/11), that she’d been trying to win a second shoe for eleven long years. “It’s (almost) worth killing for.”
“We have incredible women writers in Australia – Sisters in Crime has always acknowledged that with its Scarlet Stiletto Awards. To be even shortlisted for this prestigious annual award has always meant so much to me. Red shoes can symbolise home, danger, sex and passion. I’m honoured I’m now one of the select women writers in Australia who has won a pair of shoes – Wwich must make me an extremely, dangerous, passionate writer!”
Pennicott is the 5th author in the 19 years of the national short story competition to win the shoe twice. However, only the winner of the first two Scarlet Stilettos Awards – Cate Kennedy – has a matching pair. Under Sisters in Crime’s rules, Pennicott will no longer be eligible to compete and will be invited to become a judge.
Poet’s Cottage, Pennicott’s mystery novel set in a Tasmanian sea-fishing village, was published by Pan Macmillan Australia in May this year. It has been sold in a bid ding war to Ullstein publishers in Germany, along with Currawong Manori, her current mystery in progress. (See Pennicott’s blog on the award: http://josephinepennicott.com/2012/11/25/1am-in-melbourne/)
Marion Boyce, costume designer for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Miss Fisher’s literary creator, author Kerry Greenwood, presented the awards after debating with Sisters in Crime’s co-convenor about how much the designs contributed to the mood and style of the successful 13-part television series shown on ABC 1 earlier this year.
Boyce and Greenwood were joined by fashion lecture, Dr Sue Thomas, to judged the winner of the Frocked Up for Phryne competition for the best Phryne-inspired outfit. The winner was Fiona Chisholm who was visiting from Sydney. Chisholm bought her entire outfit, including a vintage beaded handbag, from op shops.
A record 182 short stories competed for eleven awards in all and $5350 in prize money. A record 22 authors were short-listed. The boost in the number of stories is attributed to new award offered by Melbourne’s famous Athenaeum Library – a prize of $1000 (as well as a runner-up prize of $500) for the best short story with the words “body in the library”, the title of Agatha Christie’s famous novel. Sixty-two stories with her immortal words fought it out for the award. Athenaeum Board member Anne Malloch announced that the library would again sponsor the award next year.
Emilie Collyer (West Footscray, Vic) took out both The Kill City 2nd prize ($400) The Clandestine Press Award for Cross Genre ($300) for “A Clean Job”, a futuristic story about a world where the neutralisation of emotions is compulsory and an enforcement officer risks everything when she starts to succumb to her feelings. Collyer writes fiction, plays and poetry and is completing a Masters in Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts.
The Cate Kennedy Award for Third Prize ($350) went to Claire McKenna (Seaford, Vic), for “Live to Spring”. Claire McKenna normally writes in the safe places of science fiction, she’s recently taken to moonlighting in the underworld of crime fiction for a touch of literary danger and excitement.
Kath Harper (Port Fairy, Vic) won the inaugural Athenaeum Library ‘Body in the Library Award ($1000) for Brought to Book, a story about a quiet night in the library that turns deadly as revenge strikes the unwary. Harper is an ex-school teacher, an editor/indexer by day and a writer of plays and short stories whenever she has the time.
The runner-up award ($500) went to Aoife Clifford (East Ivanhoe, Vic) for “Quit” which also took out the Pulp Fiction Bookshop: Funniest Crime Award ($150 voucher). Clifford gives Shane Maloney a run for his money with her hilarious story about Victorian Labor politics: “When a murdered teenage girl is found in Premier Prenderghast’s holiday home, political fixer Callan Valiant is called in to solve the crime and work out who could possibly hate the Premier more than the voting public.”
Clifford won first prize in 2007, was runner-up in 2009 and has won numerous category awards. Both stories appeared in the collection, Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut. She has been shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and this year she won the Ned Kelly – S.D. Harvey Short Story Award. She is currently writing her first crime novel.
The Kerry Greenwood Malice Domestic Award ($500) went to Sarah Evans (Bridgetown, WA) for “Fish for Freedom”. Sarah is a Scarlet Stiletto serial category winner and her daughter, Mary Evans, was commended in the Youth Category for “Pizza with Extras”. Last year both mother and daughter won prizes.
Robyn McWilliam (Avalon, NSW) won Benn’s Books Best Investigative Award ($200)
for “Nursing a Suspicion” about a nurse who proves her weirdo neighbour, Frank, is a killer. A former convenor of Partners in Crime in Sydney, her crime stories won prizes in the Queen of Crime Awards in 2004 and 2005 and in 2008 she was commended in the Scarlet Stiletto Awards.
Her first crime novel, House of Shadows, was the only fiction short-listed as one of the best self-published books of 2002. She is currently looking for a publisher for her latest novel Malevolent Desire.
The Scriptworks Great Film Idea Award ($200) was awarded to Helen Illes from (Oldbury, WA) for “Much Ado about Nunning”. Helen is currently the President of the Society of Women Writers WA and a Creative Writing tutor. Helen also writes training text books for Fire and Emergency Services Authority WA and was unable to attend in person as she was running a Mounted Search and Rescue training camp that weekend.
The Inaugural Catherine Leppert Environmental Theme Award ($250) went to Candice Graham (Pennant Hills, NSW) for “Fallen Angel”, a story about a semi-retired forensic anthropologist who recognises the woman in her latest facial reconstruction. Graham is studying for a Masters in Clinical Neuropsychology. She has read very few crime novels and this has been her first attempt at writing within this genre.
Ebony Franzman (Jimboona, Qld), who describes herself as “a 17 year old Catholic girl from a country town” who wants be a lawyer, won Allen & Unwin Young Writer’s Award ($500) for “Perspective”.
Two former first prize winners were highly commended: Liz Filleul (Mt Dandenong, Vic) for “We are Golden” and Julie Waight (Wedderburn, Vic) for “Coming Home.
Also highly commended were:
- Catherine Titasey (Thursday Island, Qld) for “My Most Difficult Investigation”;
- Sharon Rushton (Bundaberg North, Qld), for “Plain Jane’s Body”;
- Sharon Todd (Empire Bay, NSW), for “Rivals”;
- Brooke Maggs (Greensborough, Vic) for “The Promotion”;
- Melanie Myers (Stafford, Queensland) for “Trailer Trash”;
- Kate McIvor (Sorrento, Vic) for “Nanny Barton”;
- Anne Chapel (Kent Town, SA), for “God’s Punishment is Stern”.
Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut, a collection of 22 winning stories from the last four year of the competition, together with a reprint of Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut, a volume of 26 stories from the first 13 years, were published by Clan Destine Press for SheKilda 2011: Australian Women Crime Writers’ Convention (7-9 October), Sisters in Crime’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
So far, 16 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners (including category winners) – Cate Kennedy, Angela Savage, Tara Moss,Josephine Pennicott, Annie Hauwxell, Sara Evans, Inga Simpson, Alex Palmer, Liz Filleul, Margaret Bevege, Patricia Bernard, Bronwen Blake, Jo McGahey, Cheryl Jorgensen, Kylie Fox, and Amanda Wrangles – have gone on to have novels published.
The 20th Scarlet Stiletto Awards close on August 31, 2013. The entry fee is $10. Entry forms will be available next year by going to www.sistersincrime.org.au or by writing to Sisters in Crime, GPO Box 5319, Melbourne 3001
Media comment: Contact Phyllis King on 0411 084 300