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Best True Crime Book
Subcategory of Davitt Award
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Winners

2019 winner y separately published work icon The Arsonist The Arsonist : A Mind on Fire Chloe Hooper , Melbourne : Penguin , 2018 14732249 2018 single work non-fiction crime

'The Arsonist takes readers inside the hunt for a fire-lighter. After Black Saturday, a February 2009 day marked by 47 degree heat and firestorms, arson squad detectives arrived at a plantation on the edge of a 26,000-hectare burn site. Eleven people had just been killed and hundreds made homeless. Here, in the Latrobe Valley, where Victoria’s electricity is generated, and the rates of unemployment, crime and domestic abuse are the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know.

'The Arsonist tells a remarkable detective story, as the police close in on someone they believe to be a cunning offender; and a puzzling psychological story, as defence lawyers seek to understand the motives of a man who, they claimed, was a naïf that had accidentally dropped a cigarette.

'It is the story not only of this fire - how it happened, the people who died, the aftermath for the community - but of fire in this country. What it has done, what it has meant, what it might yet do. Bushfire is one of Australia’s deepest anxieties, never more so than when deliberately lit. Arson, wrote Henry Lawson, expresses a malice ‘terrifying to those who have seen what it is capable of. You never know when you are safe.‘

'As she did in The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper takes us to a part of the country seldom explored, and reveals something buried but essential in our national psyche. The bush, summertime, a smouldering cigarette - none of these will feel the same again.'  (Publication summary)

2015 winner y separately published work icon The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama Julie Szego , Cheltenham : Wild Dingo Press , 2014 7180718 2014 single work non-fiction

' How did a young Somali man end up in gaol for the rape of a woman he had never met, in an over-28s nightclub he was too young to be admitted to, in a Melbourne suburb he had never visited? In the style of literary non-fiction comes a gripping true story that will appeal to mystery, crime and ‘CSI’ aficionados and anyone interested in justice for all, in the midst of cultural diversity.

'In 2010, nearly 18 months after Jama’s incarceration, his conviction was overturned when a mother’s profound faith in her son’s innocence, a prosecutor’s tenacious pursuit of truth and justice and a defence lawyer’s belief in his client, brought forth revelations that overturned one of the worst miscarriages of justice in Victorian legal history.' (Publication abstract)

2015 winner y separately published work icon Last Woman Hanged : The Terrible, True Story of Louisa Collins Caroline Overington , Sydney : HarperCollins Australia , 2014 8167292 2014 single work biography (taught in 1 units)

'One woman. Two husbands. Four trials. One bloody execution. The last woman hanged in NSW.

'In January 1889, Louisa Collins, a 41-year-old mother of ten children, became the first woman hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol and the last woman hanged in New South Wales. Both of Louisa's husbands died suddenly. The Crown was convinced that Louisa poisoned them with arsenic and, to the horror of many in the legal community, put her on trial an extraordinary FOUR TIMES in order to get a conviction. Louisa protested her innocence until the end. Now, in Last Woman Hanged, writer and journalist Caroline Overington delves into the archives to re-examine the original, forensic reports, court documents, judges notebooks, witness statements and police and gaol records, in an effort to discover the truth.

'Much of the evidence against Louisa was circumstantial. Some of the most important testimony was given by her only daughter, May, who was just 10-years-old when asked to take the stand.

'The historical context is also important: Louisa Collins was hanged at a time when women were in no sense equal under the law - except when it came to the gallows. 'Women could not vote or stand for parliament - or sit on juries. There were no female politicians and no women judges.

'Against this background, a small group of women rose up to try to save Louisa's life, arguing that a legal system comprised only of men - male judges, all-male jury, male prosecutor, governor and Premier - could not with any integrity hang a woman.

'The tenacity of these women would not save Louisa but it would ultimately carry women from their homes all the way to Parliament House.

'Less than 15 years after Louisa was hanged, Australian women would become some of the first in the world to get the vote. They would take seats in State parliament, and in Canberra. They would become doctors, lawyers, judges, premiers - even the Prime Minister.

'Caroline says: 'My hope is that Last Woman Hanged will be read not only as a true crime story but as a letter of profound thanks to that generation of women who fought so hard for the rights we still enjoy today.'' (Publication summary)

2014 winner y separately published work icon Night Games : Sex, Power and Sport Anna Krien , Collingwood : Black Inc. , 2013 6019769 2013 single work prose

'"The Pies beat the Saints and the city of Melbourne was still cloaked in black and white crepe paper when the rumour of a pack rape by celebrating footballers began to surface. By morning, the head of the sexual crimes squad confirmed to journalists that they were preparing to question two Collingwood players ... And so, as police were confiscating bedsheets from a townhouse in South Melbourne, the trial by media began."

'What does a young footballer do to cut loose? At night, some play what they think of as pranks, or games. Night games with women. Sometimes these involve consensual sex, but sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they fall into a grey area.

'In the tradition of Helen Garner’s The First Stone comes a closely observed, controversial book about sex, consent and power. In Night Games, Anna Krien follows the rape trial of an Australian Rules footballer. She also takes a balanced and fearless look at the dark side of footy culture – the world of Sam Newman, Ricky Nixon, Matty Johns and the Cronulla Sharks.

'Both a courtroom drama and a riveting work of narrative journalism, this is a breakthrough book by one of the leading young lights of Australian writing.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2013 winner y separately published work icon The Waterlow Killings : A Portrait of a Family Tragedy Pamela Burton , Carlton : Melbourne University Publishing , 2012 Z1895907 2012 single work biography

'Anthony Waterlow left his decrepit room in a run-down boarding house at 4.45 p.m on Monday 9 November 2009. By 6 p.m, the 42-year-old was seen leaving another home: his sister Chloe's in Randwick. He left behind her slaughtered body and that of their father; celebrated art curator Nick Waterlow. The pair had been stabbed multiple times, in front of Chloe's three young children. The Waterlow Killings delves beneath the public face of a successful and affluent family, to reveal private suffering that even their closest friends could not have guessed. The story takes us deep into the world of musical, literary and visual artists who defy conventionality, push boundaries and become international celebrities. But behind that apparently glamorous life of the Waterlows; with British aristocratic blood lines and Nick's art world fame; lay a story of love, despair and torment. (Publisher's blurb)

2011 winner y separately published work icon Murderer No More : Andrew Mallard and the Epic Fight That Proved His Innocence Colleen Egan , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2010 Z1707993 2010 single work biography

'In 1994 Pamela Lawrence was brutally bashed to death in her jewellery shop in Perth. Police suspicion fell on a young drifter named Andrew Mallard. Although innocent, he was charged and convicted of this murder. It took 12 years and an epic struggle by Andrew's mother and sister, a team of lawyers and West Australian journalist Colleen Egan to right this wrong.

'Not only did their unrelenting battle for justice end in the High Court of Australia making a devastating judgment against the West Australian courts, but it also led to cold-case investigators identifying the real murderer.

'This is an emotional roller-coaster of a book, brilliantly and compellingly written. It is about justice, survival and what can happen when good people take on the system.' (From the publisher's website.)

2009 winner y separately published work icon The Tall Man : Death and Life on Palm Island Chloe Hooper , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2008 Z1483259 2008 single work prose (taught in 11 units) In November 2004, in the small township of Palm Island in the far north of Queensland, Detective Hurley arrested Cameron Doomadgee for swearing at him. Doomadgee was drunk. A few hours later he died in a watch-house cell. According to the inquest, his liver was so badly damaged it was almost severed. (Source: Trove)
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