I know it's a week after the big event, and the announcement Paul Cleave won the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime fiction, but hey, some of us are a bit slow at this time of the year! But better late than never, so here's my report on the Setting the Stage for Murder.
First up - the venue. I was delighted they kept the event in Christchurch, despite the physical limitations of a city still coming to grips with the aftermath of the earthquakes. With so many venues destroyed Christchurch has come up with a great idea which is the Events Village in Hagley Park - temporary but beautifully functional places to allow those all important social and cultural activities to happen. We were at the TelstraClear Club, which was like an enormous yurt. This large, circular marquee was warm and welcoming, with the inside lined with stained glass windows and leadlights, and a huge chandelier suspended from the centre. The raised circumference was lined with wooden dining booths and the central portion filled with seating. There was a cafe/ bar serving food and drinks, and the University Book Shop had set up a sales table. It was a fabulous venue. Well done Christchurch!
First on the billing were award-winning crime writers Tess Gerritsen and John Hart, ably chaired by Graham Beattie. The crowd enjoyed the candid and often very amusing conversations with these two popular authors. I loved the fact they disagreed on so much! Tess Gerritsen was all for working from home, John Hart had to have an office away from the house and the distractions of wife and kids. Tess advocated belonging to writing groups to get critiquing on your work, John was absolutely against. It was great to hear their differing opinions, and realise that all writers have their unique ways and quirks in how they approach their work.
Then we got to see the finalists of the Ngaio Marsh in action on the stage - Paul Cleave, Neil Cross, Paddy Richardson and Alix Bosco (AKA Greg McGee). Craig Sisterson, the driving force behind the awards, fired the questions, and this year he must have been relieved to know the winner would actually be at the awards! The results were interesting, often funny (Neil Cross has the split-second timing of a comedian) and entertaining. Again, I find it interesting when writers disagree, and one of the questions from the audience on whether they would use Christchurch post earthquakes as a setting made for lively discussion, with Paul Cleave adamant he couldn't do that at this stage as he would find it distasteful. Most of the other writers agreed. But it was John Hart who piped up from the audience that he felt it would be wrong not to include the hugely impacting event in fiction. Lots more discussion followed.
Finally we came to crunch time - the announcement of this year's winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction....Paul Cleave, for Blood Men. Congratulations to Paul! His Dad looked so proud I thought he'd burst.
Congratulations to Craig Sisterson and the Christchurch Writers Festival folk for organising the event and keeping it in Christchurch, and it was great to see it well supported. It was wonderful to see Auckland crime writer Ben Sanders come down to support the event, and also local Christchurch writers Rachael King and Grant Shanks in the crowd.
It was a wonderful day, and well worth the hideously early start to catch the plane up from Dunedin. After the event, and a lovely lunch with the finalists, and international writers and local literati, and then an impromptu and emotional tour around the perimeter of the earthquake ravaged central city (crammed in the backseat of Dave Batterbury's car with Neil Cross and Paul Cleave, and with Craig Sisterson occupying the front seat)(it was very cosy and very very noisy!) I was a tired girl plonked in the plane home that night. Here's hoping I'm on the stage for next year's awards!