The Great Ngaio Marsh Game Show and Awards – Saturday 14 September 2019

As I make my way up Colombo Street past enticing restaurants, the newly restored Town Hall and Victoria Park Fountain, I think how much more lively Christchurch has become in the few years I've been covering WORD Christchurch events. A year down the track, and Tūranga has become part of  WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View season, and is proud to be hosting The Great Ngaio Marsh Game Show and Awards Ceremony. 

On Saturday night, quizmaster and comedian Brendon Bennetts wrangled crime writing teams led by no less than:

Fabulous WORD Christchurch literary director and author Rachael King, sporting a super-sleuth style beret, awarded the points. Tautoru / TSB Space was transformed into a nightclub, with a well-attended bar complemented by delicious platters from Foundation Cafe. The audience relaxed around tables.

The quiz show itself was excellent fun, with questions thrown out to the audience when the quiz teams couldn’t answer. Rounds included "Name the author", with one picture a hilarious image of a young Val McDermid; "Improvise a Novel" and "Name the TV Crime Show Theme Song" - I won a prize in that one – Val’s latest! No one could guess Blue Heelers.

How the Dead Speak

In the last "Sudden Death" round, the Silver Foxes clawed their way back to a decent showing of 27 ½ points, but it wasn’t enough. The title of “Sharpest Knives” went to Vanda and the John Does with 32 ½ points.

Earlier in the day, I walked across the Avon in very Scottish rain to the (quite Edinburgh-ish) UC Arts Centre, where many of the Ngaio Marsh Award nominees read excerpts from their novels. Anyone there would have agreed at this point that the competition was very tough indeed. 

This year there were over seventy nominees, prompting another category: Best First Novel.

This year's ceremony marks ten amazing years in New Zealand crime writing since the awards were founded by Craig Sisterson, who unfortunately couldn't be there to celebrate with us. Award presenters made up for this in spades (see what I did there?) - ripping the wrapping from the awards with great aplomb.

The nominees were:

Best Novel:

Money in the Morgue

The Quaker

This Mortal Boy 

The Vanishing Act

Call Me Evie

The winner was (fanfare): This Mortal Boy, by Dame Fiona Kidman (followed by clapping) - which also took out the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards this year. This Mortal Boy was written about the second to last hanging in New Zealand. A young man, Albert Black, killed another in a fight; prompting concern about youth out of control in the 1950s : a concern that the justice system felt impelled to answer with the harshest penalty. 

Best First Novel:

Call Me Evie

One for Another

Crystal Reign

The winner was: Call Me Evie by J.P Pomare. Call Me Evie is a thriller: the compelling story of a woman held captive for acts she can't remember; unsure if her sometimes violent captor has her best interests at heart. This award is well-deserved. Already displaying a gift with language often seen more seasoned authors, Call Me Evie is gripping, intensely thrilling and keeps the reader guessing until the very end. An exceptional achievement, J.P. was nominated in two categories.

Best Non-Fiction:

The Great New Zealand Robbery

The Cause of Death

The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Jane Furlong

Behind Bars

The winner was: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Jane Furlong, by court reporter and journalist Kelly Dennett - the poignant story of the abduction of a young woman in Auckland, who featured on the television series Sensing Murder.

Congratulations to everyone: authors, organisers and hosts, involved in making this year's Christchurch WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View season a huge success.

Dame Fiona Kidman gave a moving acceptance speech for Best Novel:

“I’m a crime writer by accident. This Mortal Boy is a crime, rather than a murder story. Albert Black’s death was a crime. I want to remember Albert Black and his mother, who tried so hard to save his life, and his daughter, born three months after his death. As a result of this book, we found her relatives. I also want to thank (husband) Ian Kidman (who died just before the book was published), who was very much a part of it.”

It’s like Christmas is over when the last WORD event is finished. 

As I leave the venue, I’m think of C.K Stead’s response to WORD 2016 :

Christchurch World Festival, 2016

3 a.m.

From the 9th floor

I watch a taxi

dawdle down a wide wet street

between two wastelands.

A wind drags at a flag:

the flag resists

the wind persists…

Cold out there!

(C.K Stead, That Derida I Derided Died : Poems 2013-2017, p. 68)


WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

WORD Christchurch presents Shifting Points of View — a spectacular line-up of New Zealand and international speakers to warm you up and get you thinking. Shifting Points of View runs from Sunday 18 August to Saturday 14 September 2019. Visit our page on WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View for more information, previews, reviews, and WORD reading.