Monday, November 26, 2018

Prize Positions

Three weeks ago, we received the shortlist of nominees for the premiere Staunch Book Prize, designed to honor the best thriller novel “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped, or murdered.” And finally, today brought an announcement that Australian author Jock Serong has captured that prize with his third novel, On the Java Ridge. Text Publishing, that Australian house that handles Serong’s books, offers the following plot synopsis:
On the Java Ridge, skipper Isi Natoli and a group of Australian surf tourists are anchored off the Indonesian island of Dana. In the Canberra office of Cassius Calvert, Minister for Border Integrity, a federal election looms and a hardline new policy on asylum-seekers is being rolled out.

Not far from Dana, the
Takalar is having engine trouble. Among the passengers on board fleeing from persecution are Roya and her mother, and Roya’s unborn sister.

The storm now closing in on the
Takalar and the Java Ridge will mean catastrophe for them all.
“This is exactly the quality of thriller that Staunch set out to find, and we’re proud to name it as our winner,” The Guardian quotes Staunch prize founder Bridget Lawless as saying. “It’s a good thriller, with all of the usual jeopardy and ups and downs. There is very strong writing, it’s very brutal, and there is violence, but there is nothing gratuitous. And one of the adversaries is nature, which we don’t see enough of.”

On the Java Ridge faced off against five other contenders in this competition to capture the first Staunch Prize: The Appraisal, by Anna Porter (ECW Press); East of Hounslow, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ); If I Die Tonight, by A.L. Gaylin (PRH); The Kennedy Moment, by Peter Adamson (Myriad Editions); and Cops and Queens, by Joyce Thompson (seeking a publisher). In addition to earning bragging rights, Serong’s Staunch Prize win brings him £2,000 in award money.

Text Publishing notes that Serong has some solid history of scoring literary commendations. His novel Quota evidently picked up the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction; and The Rules of Backyard Cricket was not only shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction, but was a finalist of the 2017 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

* * *

Meanwhile, the shortlist of nominees for the 2018 Costa Book Awards has been announced, and among the quartet of contenders in the First Novel category is a mystery yarn titled The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton (Sourcebooks Landmark). The Costa Book Awards are handed out annually in five categories to works by UK- and Ireland-based authors. Winners in each category are scheduled to be declared in January of next year.

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