The last event for our National Year of Reading programme here at the University of Adelaide is another Read the Book, Meet the Author session. Kerryn is a Research Fellow in our discipline of English and Creative Writing; she is also a critic, freelance writer and a prolific book reviewer. Her latest book is Adelaide, published in NewSouth’s City Series. Read about Kerryn’s book here and join us in the Barr Smith Library if you can!
This glamorously-named award – the nominees get a champagne reception at London’s Savoy Hotel as well as the diamond dagger- is the ‘lifetime achievement’ award offered by the Crime Writers’ Association. Consequently, the list of winners reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of contemporary crime writers – Ruth Rendell, P D James, Ian Rankin, John le Carré, Elmore Leonard and so on. Eric Ambler won the first award, in 1986, and Frederick Forsythe the 2012 one.
The CWA committee selects writers nominated by the membership. Nominees have to meet two essential criteria: first, their careers must be marked by sustained excellence, and second, they must have made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation. The award is made purely on merit without reference to age, gender or nationality. (1)
The Barr Smith Library holds the work of all of these authors: we have an excellent crime fiction collection.
First candidate for prize-winning novels to read over summer is a great American novel, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres ( 1991). Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992, a fitting accolade for ‘distinguished fiction by an American author … dealing with the American way of life.’
Awards and prizes are the lifeblood of contemporary literary fiction. They are often controversial, they attract media attention, and they can be worth a lot of money. From the odd (ever heard of Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award?) to the famous (the Nobel Prize for Literature), literary prizes are worth checking out. They can help us decide what to read; sometimes they also tell us what to avoid (I’m thinking of the Literary Review’s annual Bad Sex award, for example – there’s just so much pulsating heat and nipple clamping that I can stand.)
We’ll look at a wide range of prize-winning literature this month. 🙂
The traveller / writer who accompanied me to Vietnam this year was Graham Greene; I read The Quiet American (1955) in Hanoi. Greene’s powerful novel about the war in Vietnam, set in the period of the French recolonization efforts against the Viet Minh, was the perfect book to read on this trip. He wrote from experience as a war correspondent, and this ‘fictional reportage’ makes compelling reading.
Many thanks to my colleague, Helen, who has been working in Vietnam this month:
Hue is a lovely small city in central Vietnam, on the banks of the Perfume River. It was the imperial city during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) and is famous for the gorgeous Hue style food that emanated from that period.
Hue also has a stong history of providing higher education and today the Hue University has a wonderful central library known as the LRC (Learning Resource Center). It was built in 2001 with funding from Atlantic Philanthropies, who also built 3 other LRCs in Vietnam. The Hue LRC is a light and airy four storey building with plenty of work desks and PCs, and group study and audiovisual facilities. They have a range of print and electronic resources and of particular note are the excellent training, seminar and conference rooms. But the best thing about this LRC are the librarians. While I was working there recently I found them highly skilled, very professional and really motivated to create the best services possible for their staff and students.
See their website here:
Crime fiction is well-known for its contribution to the literature of place. Think of your favourite writer, and you will almost invariably link their work to a particular setting, whether it’s Donna Leon’s Venice, Peter Temple’s Victorian country towns or Sara Paretsky’s Chicago. Crime and geography seem to often go hand in hand.
The night air was thick and damp. As I drove south along Lake Michigan, I could smell rotting alewives like a faint perfume on the heavy air. Little fires shone here and there from late-night barbecues in the park. On the water a host of green and red running lights showed people seeking relief from the sultry air. On shore traffic was heavy, the city moving restlessly, trying to breathe. It was July in Chicago.
Sara Paretsky, Indemnity Only