The winners of the 2018 Ned Kelly Awards, sponsored by the Australian Crime Writers Association and honoring the best crime writing in Australia, are:
Best Fiction: Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill
Best First Fiction: The Dark Lane by Sarah Bailey
True Crime: Unmaking a Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna-Jane Cheney by Graham Archer
The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest, and considered its most prestigious, prizes to honor the country’s crime fiction and true crime writing.
The winners are chosen by judging panels comprised of booksellers, book industry luminaries, readers, critics, reviewers, and commentators.
The awards began in 1995 after a group of crime writers, academics, publishers, and journalists hatched the plan over a long Sydney lunch, according the association’s website.
The awards are named after Australia’s most infamous criminal who lived during the late 1800s.
Ned Kelly was kind of like Robin Hood or Jesse James, considered part criminal but also part folk hero, pushed into crime by circumstances beyond his control.
According to several sources, Ned was one of eight Kelly children. The family was poor and saw themselves as victims of police persecution. Ned Kelly served three years in prison for stealing horses.
He and his brothers became outlaws after fatally shooting three policemen who supposedly were harassing the family. In a final showdown with the police, Ned Kelly dressed in homemade metal armor and a helmet; he was wounded in the arms and legs by the police and eventually hanged.
At the time of his execution—as well as now, Ned Kelly was a controversial figure. Opinion was divided on whether he really was harassed by the police to the point that he had no choice but to turn outlaw, or if he was just a thug.
And like Robin Hood and Jesse James, Ned Kelly has been the subject of several films. The 1906 Australian film The Story of the Kelly Gang ran for more than an hour and was, at that time, the longest narrative film to be released.
Mick Jagger played him in the 1970 movie Ned Kelly, a film so dreadful you can’t stop watching it. Heath Ledger played him in a 2003 film that was also called Ned Kelly; it was marginally better.
Singer Johnny Cash and the band Midnight Oil have sung about Ned Kelly.
Florida Happens: Tales of Mystery, Mayhem, and Suspense from the Sunshine State edited by Greg Herren (Three Rooms Press) $15.99.
Florida is, often, a state of mind, as this well-curated short story anthology proves.
Edited by award-winning author Greg Herren, with an introduction by comic mystery writer Tim Dorsey, who writes the Serge A. Storm series, Florida Happens plunges the reader into the oddity, eccentricities, and humor that we who live in Florida sometimes take for granted.
Florida Happens is the 2018 Bouchercon anthology, an annual collection to showcase the region where the conference takes place.
This year Bouchercon will be September 6 to 9 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
As usual, a portion of the anthology’s proceeds go to charity. This year the beneficiary is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that provides free books to children from birth to school age regardless of family income. A personal mission of Dolly Parton, the Imagination Library fosters literacy, a love of reading, and is meant to inspire children to succeed.
I think Dolly would approve of this eclectic collection that nails what life in Florida can be.
It’s interesting that many of the authors are not from Florida, or have never lived in the Sunshine State.
Hopefully, a few have at least set a foot or two in Florida.
Despite this, Florida Happens is very Florida-centric, from the descriptions of the beaches and canals to the seedy parts that seemingly rise from nowhere.
While some people may think a few stories stretch credibility, well…those people don’t live in Florida.
Frozen iguanas falling from the trees and then reviving in warmer weather? Yep, happens many a winter.
An alligator living in a canal behind a home and becoming like a pet? It happens, though most people want those gators gone.
An illegal trade in tortoises? Unfortunately, does happen.
Fake hit men? Oh, yeah, though the “customer” usually is a grandmother.
Alligators in purses? A good way to stop purse thieves.
Straight men who make a living as drag queens. Yep.
Each story is a standout, some more than others.
Here are a few of my favorites:
In Herren’s “Cold Beer No Flies,” a young man seethes with revenge in a trailer, never forgetting those slights from high school.
Susanna Calkins gives us a look at Palm Beach in the 1920s in “Postcard for the Dead."
Married retirees are energized by a vacation at a down-at-its-heels motel in Eleanor Cawood Jones’ “All Accounted for at the Hooray for Hollywood Motel.”
A selfie, a drag queen, and a distraught father interrupt an FBI agent’s weekend in Neil Plakcy’s “Southernmost Point.”
Florida is the final frontier for a runaway wife in Patricia Abbott’s “When Agnes Left her House.”
Pete Fernandez, the hero of Alex Segura’s series, has a run-in at a Coral Gables bar in “Quarters for the Meter.”
A nurse with a keen sense of justice turns sleuth in Debra Lattanzi Shutika’s “Frozen Iguana.”