This object is a Ned Kelly Award - memorably described by Shane Maloney as looking like "a sawn-off anthracite dildo" - now one of my most prized possessions since Ghostlines won the award for best first novel last night at the Ned Kelly Awards - the annual awards for Australian crime writing. On the underside it has the letters "C.W.A.A" which stand not for Country Women's Association but Crime Writers Association of Australia.
This wasn't one of those stuffy awards nights of polite applause and formal speeches - as became clear early in the piece when MC Jane Clifton flashed her magnificent spangly derriere at the audience. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of that but maybe the official photographer snapped it.
The night kicked off with a debate on the topic "Women do it better" between (for the affirmative) Liz Porter and P.D. Martin, and, (for the negative) crime legend Peter Corris and Underbelly co-author John Silvester. Porter and Martin claimed that women are much better at crime than men for the simple reason that they carry it out so well that they never get caught. This was only slightly undermined when Martin pulled a (toy) gun out of her handbag upside down. Porter, though, produced a stiletto from her boot with convincing style. Women, they claimed, are more likely to get away with a crime: unlike men, women do not have an irresistible urge to boast about what they have done. In contrast, Corris gave a list of all the male writers who he claims invented the various genres of crime writing (Conan Doyle, Ed McBain, Raymond Chandler - he ignored Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers) and claimed that "women couldn't drive getaway vehicles - they can't even find a park at Chadstone".
But Silvester brought the house down with anecdotes of the Melbourne underworld. He started with a blatant suck-up to the women in the audience, by claiming that females are just too smart to get involved in crime in the first place. Then, contradictorily, he cited Melbourne matriarch Kath Pettingill as his exemplar of a female criminal. One of Kath's master crimes, according to Silvester, was her attempt to shoplift a toy dinosaur from a department store. The dinosaur was equipped with a voice box to give it a terrifying roar, and while Kath had it stuffed under her clothes the thing started to groan. Kath tried to pass it off by claiming she had terrible flatulence, but even this cunning ruse didn't succeed. It's really not fair - John Silvester (and co-author Andrew Rule) are so well-equipped with tales of the criminal world that it's difficult for anyone else to compete. Silvester also weighed into the debate about criminal nicknames (a topic which I considered here), saying: "When you hire a hit man, you want someone with a nickname like "Steel eyes" or "Two guns". Judy Moran (allegedly) decided to choose someone called "Nuts".
I don't know who won the debate but the Ned Kelly Awards went to:
Lifetime achievement award - Shane Maloney (Interview with Shane in The Age here)
Best novel: shared by Deep Water by Peter Corris and Smoke and Mirrors by Kel Robertson
Best true crime: The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper
Best first fiction: Ghostlines by Nick Gadd
S.D.Harvey short story award: Scott McDermott