Kiwi Quiz Night and the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2023: Yeah Noir

There was an excited buzz in the TSB Space at Tūranga for the Ngaio Marsh Awards and Quiz Night, as people sorted out teams, found a fourth person, and bought drinks in anticipation of some quizzing and the much-awaited announcement of this year's winners of the Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best Crime Writing in New Zealand, in association with WORD Christchurch.

Quizzmisstress Vanda Symon put us all through our paces, getting us all 'quizzical' delivering the quiz with aplomb and more than a few laughs as she delivered questions put together by the dastardly Craig Sisterson, founder of the awards (and a huge promoter of Kiwi talent). Vanda admits she's envious of Tūranga, even though Dunedin is New Zealand's UNESCO City of Literature.

I joined the Crimechurch Crooks - a team of true crime writers, Best Non-Fiction nominees Scott Bainbridge (The Fix) and partner, and Steve Braunias (Missing Persons).

We fought valiantly through six rounds, including a sheet of mug-shots of famous Kiwis, but were soundly trounced by Rachael King's team The Berets, Charity Norman's team The Agatha Quizzlies, and The Old Souls.

The first question was the best - a true/false round. Are Librarians superheroes? You do the math. There was also an audio round of old and new crime series theme tunes. 

Next up was the event we had all been waiting for - the awards. In its fourteenth year, there was so much variety in these shortlists, and an exciting lineup of old and new faces, some of whom I've not had the pleasure of reading before.

Vanda read a message from Craig, who highlighted the the fact that many Kiwi writers are on bestseller lists; performing as well as our sporting heroes. This year saw around seventy-five entrants, with a vast array of voices making a case for Kiwi Crime. Ngaio Marsh is still well beloved overseas, making it fitting that these awards bear her name.

The nominees for award for the biennial Best Non-Fiction were: A New Dawn by Emeli Sione (about the Dawn Raids of 1974-6),  The Devil You Know: Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion by Dr Gwen Adshead & Eileen Horne, Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay by Paul Diamond (about blackmail and a murder committed by the Mayor of Whanganui in 1920), The Fix: the Story of One of New Zealand's Biggest Swindles by Scott Bainbridge, and Missing Persons by Steve Braunias

And the winner was... Missing Persons by Steve Braunias! Steve said that he was pleased to have been nominated in such great company. Steve thanked Craig Sisterson and WORD for organising the awards; a credit shared by all writers. And said our quiz team were robbed [Editor's note: As a member of the winning team I think the word Mr Braunias is looking for is "trounced"].

Catalogue record for Missing persons

Nominees for the award for Best First Novel (now in its eighth year) were: One Heart One Spade by Alistair Luke, Too Far From Antibes by Bede Scott,  Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, Surveillance by Riley Chance, The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum, and Paper Cage by Tom Baragwanath.

And the winner was...Better the Blood by Michael Bennett! Michael Bennett thanked all, and acknowledged his Kaumatua in film and television, eighty-year-old Ngamaru Raerino (who passed away earlier this year), Craig Sisterson for his untiring promotion of the book, and his publishers Simon and Shuster.

Catalogue record for Better the blood

Lastly, the nominees for the award for Best Crime Novel were:  Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum, Remember Me by Charity Norman, Blood Matters, the second crime novel by playwright RenēeExit .45 by Ben Sanders, The Doctor's Wife by Fiona Sussman, and Blue Hotel by Chad Taylor.

And the winner was... Remember Me by Charity Norman! Charity thanked the 'indefatigable' Craig Sisterson, who 'tells writers to get out of bed'. Charity spoke of how she used to have a 'sensible career and ended up a writer'.

Catalogue record for Remember me

Remember Me was born of Norman wanting to pretend she was a tramper, and inspired by her mother, who had dementia. Her mother's bedroom, said Norman, was like Felix's office - she had kept a diary reminding her of the names and birth dates of her children, and other important things to remember, as she struggled to keep the disease at bay. Charity's author's mind wondered, what if she also kept a dark secret?

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