My dear friend and crime writer Katherine Howell invited me to the 2009 Davitt Awards at the Celtic Club in Melbourne last night. We fought bracing winter winds, me holding down my light as a tissue Metallicus skirt to avoid showing all of La Trobe St my sexy Elmo undies. (Note to self: in a galeforce wind and wearing a skirt that’s only ever dreamed of being a scarf, wear sexy underwear). I have no idea why I buy expensive skirts that serve no protection from the elements and spend half the night around my ears. Let’s move on, shall we?
We were sat at one of many round tables crammed full with crime writers, crime readers, crime perpetrators… okay maybe not perpetrators, but one must wonder at crime fiction fans and what their true desires really are, mustn’t one? Let’s just say, I tied my handbag strap to my chair leg all night. Just in case. And what did I see the moment I sat down (careful to make sure my skirt hadn’t ridden up again to reveal a rather un-criminal looking Elmo)? CHEESE!! A glorious platter of CHEESE! Blue cheese, ripe, cheddary cheese, soft, melt in the mouth cheese…Cheese! Did I partake? Hell yes sister! And despite my focus on the cheese platter I think I managed to experience most of the rest of the evening. Granted, in a cheese stupor. (It’s been a while, remember.)
After the main course (I had salmon – it doesn’t rate next to a plate of CHEESE, so I won’t bore you with the details) we were entertained by a rather lively and oftentimes awkward interview of Justice Betty King (who banned Underbelly from being telecast in Melbourne) by Sue Turnbull. Turnbull clearly wanted to take King down one road (the role of women and feminism in her early career) and King wasn’t having a bar of it, stating that she didn’t particularly experience sexism as a new barrister in the 70s, claiming it was the women who were exclusive with one another, and apparently still are. King is well known for her flamboyant, “larger than life” dress sense and personality, but stated quite categorically that she merely wants to disappear when she retires and never had any desire to be in any spotlight in the first place. There was some lively discussion about the colourful cast of real life Underbelly characters and how accurately the series really did portray the people and events, which was one of the reasons King didn’t want it aired, stating (and I paraphrase here): “if I watched the first 5 episodes and started saying things like, that didn’t happen!, how could I expect a jury to properly separate the trial from the TV series?”.
It was time for dessert, which meant the head-bobbiling lady next to me woke up for a few minutes. She was a fascinating character, this woman – she slept, with her head bobbing about on her neck like a toy boat in a bathtub – often with snoring – for the entire evening – just waking up for food. Intriguing, no?
So, the awards. My mate Katherine Howell won (naturally) the People’s Choice Award for her second book The Darkest Hour, beating out 40 other feisty female crime writers for the honour. Go Katherine! It’s a great read and even better than her first, (2008 Davitt Award winning book) Frantic, in my opinion. Chloe Hooper won the True Crime award for The Tall Man, a book which has garnered a lot of postive attention and won both the 2009 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the Australian Book Industry Awards and clearly something to be added to my reading list post haste. I met Chloe at the end of the night. She’s lovely and completely down to earth and I hope I get the chance to meet her again some day. The YA award was won by Catherine Jinx for her book Genius Squad and the 2009 Davitt award went to Malla Nunn for A Beautiful Place to Die. Nunn couldn’t attend the award but made her acceptance speech via phone which Turnbull pressed to the microphone and we could all hear surprisingly clearly!
Of course after the awards were received I had to step aside for the crush of fans crowding Katherine for a signature. Katherine being Katherine, pulled me back, and at every given opportunity introduced me to people, saying “this is my friend Simonne, she’s a writer too.” Bless her crimey little socks.
We went out for breakfast this morning (after I spent a fitful night dreaming about cheese) and then paid the Sun Bookshop a quick visit where Katherine delighted the owner by offering to sign their copies of her books for them. I just, you know, stood next to her and soaked up fame and notoriety that way.
NB: I’m on holiday all of next week. Please talk quietly, and with much jealousy, amongst yourselves.