True West by David Whish-Wilson and River of Salt by Dave Warner are in the running for Australia’s most prestigious crime writing award. Run by the Australian Crime Writers Association since 1995, the Ned Kelly Awards are dedicated to promoting the best crime writing this country has to offer.
The judges described River of Salt by Dave Warner as an ‘evocative tale about the Australian surf scene in the early 1960s with compelling characters’, and True West by David Whish-Wilson as a book with ‘a distinct sense of time and place where you can almost smell the outback’.
Warner, who already has one Ned Kelly Award in his ‘pool room’, said he was totally surprised by the news. He said, ‘With so many brilliant Australian crime novels out there, I'm absolutely thrilled and pumped to be shortlisted. Congrats to all shortlisted authors, editors and publishers.’
The pair join fellow Western Australian crime novelist Dervla McTiernan on the six-book shortlist. Whish-Wilson said, ‘Writing is a nervy business, and it’s always a nervy time when a new novel, and a new character, goes out into the world. So it’s a gratifying thing for a crime writer to be recognised in the Neds alongside others plying the craft, given the award’s long history. It’s especially good to see this year three WA writers on the shortlist, and two writers from Fremantle Press, so I know I’m in friendly company.’
River of Salt, which the Australian Book Review said was ‘Australian crime writing at its apex’, is set in the 1960s when surf music was at its height. It follows Blake, a former hitman reborn into a tiny coastal Australian town where the ghosts of his past still haunt him.
True West, described by the Weekend Australian as ‘quality fiction made from materials that in other hands would remain pulp sensationalism’, is set in 1988 and follows 17-year-old Lee Southern after he betrays the Knights bikie gang and flees to the city with nothing left to lose. Working as a rogue tow truck driver in Perth, he is captured by right-wing extremists whose combination of seduction and blackmail keeps him on the wrong side of the law.
The other books on the shortlist are Death of a Typographer by Nick Gadd, The Strangers We Know by Pip Drysdale, The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan and The Wife and the Widow by Christian White.
In a media release about the announcement, Australian Crime Writers Association Chair Robert Goodman said the large number of entries in this year’s awards demonstrated that Australian crime writing and reading had never been stronger. He said, ‘This is not just evident in the number of submissions but the diversity and quality of the entries. Congratulations to all our entry authors.’
River of Salt and True West are available in all good bookstores and online. New novels Over My Dead Body by Dave Warner and Shore Leave by David Whish-Wilson will be released in October and November respectively this year.