June 24, 2010 – A South African-born crime writer has won one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Miles Franklin, for a novel set during the devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Peter Temple’s complex crime story “Truth” beat five other shortlisted books to take the 42,000 dollar (36,000 US) award for a literary work portraying Australian life.
“It’s unusual for a crime writer to receive such a prestigious award,” Temple told Australian news agency AAP after receiving the prize at a ceremony late Tuesday.
Temple likened the award, first won by Patrick White in 1957 for his novel “Voss”, to winning the Nobel Prize.
“It’s the Miles Franklin. It stays with you forever,” he said. “I feel enormously elated by it.
“One only has to look at the people who have won the Miles Franklin. In order to join that company, you have to believe that you’ve joined something quite special.
“I mean in any other terms it really would be like winning the Nobel Prize.”
The Miles Franklin, established in 1954 with a bequest from author Miles Franklin to nurture Australian literature, has previously been awarded to Tim Winton, Shirley Hazzard and Peter Carey.
Temple said he had almost stopped writing “Truth” after the Black Saturday firestorms which killed 173 people and destroyed thousands of homes as it levelled towns in the southern state of Victoria in February 2009.
“I wasn’t quite sure how to cope with that. I wasn’t sure what kind of book I would write,” Temple said.
Temple, who in 2007 won the UK Crime Writers Association’s prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, known as the Gold Dagger, has previously won Australia’s Ned Kelly Award for Crime Fiction five times.
“Truth” is the sequel to his highly acclaimed “The Broken Shore”.