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Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2003 Winners

Premier's Prize

lastcablgeLast Cab to Darwin - Reg Cribb
Pork Chop Productions/ Black Swan Theatre
Judges' Comments
Reg Cribb has crafted an exceptional Australian play for our time. Using laconic and irreverent vernacular, he explores traditional topics like small-town life and rural decline along with the contemporary debate on voluntary euthanasia. Along the way he reflects on the perennial themes of love, friendship, identity, mortality and, without fuss, race. Although the driving force of the plot is Max's quest for euthanasia, which takes him on a long odyssey in his own taxi through the outback to Darwin, the play is far from morbid: its caricature, humour and satire are suffused with a characteristically Australian humour forged in defiance of adversity. This is a masterful work that continues to linger in the mind.

Fiction

darcyThe Mindless Ferocity of Sharks - Brett D'Arcy
Vintage
Judges' Comments
Brett D'Arcy has created a memorably eccentric, tight-knit family defined by surf subculture in this, his second novel. It is a coming-of-age story told from the perspective of eleven-year-old Floaty-boy who has an attention disorder along with the gift of buoyancy, and who chronicles his family's continual dance with disaster. Mother Adelaide, the Old Man and the Cronies display shrewdness, determination, humour, warmth, and a skill for cultivating luck as they evade respectability and avoid the law. Brett D'Arcy is an outstanding writer whose descriptions of the South Western Coast of Western Australia, where the novel is set, are Winton-like in their passion and perceptiveness.

Poetry

kinsellaPeripheral Light - John Kinsella
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Judges' Comments
John Kinsella is a poet of the Australian landscape: he is creating a tradition of Australian pastoral poetry, exploring shades of meaning in his vivid depictions of the Western Australian countryside and country life. Kinsella allows his readers to see familiar landscapes anew through his potent imagery. Peripheral Light is an impressive collection of old and new work that continues Kinsella's commitment to the idea of what he calls "international regionalism."

Non-Fiction (2 Awards)

dowson.pgOld Fremantle - John Dowson
University of Western Australia Press
Judges' Comments
In his Preface John Dowson says that, "Western Australia is poorly represented in the major histories of Australian photography," and he insists that his book "is not a comprehensive history of Fremantle." But Old Fremantle is much more than an enthusiast's portfolio of pictures dating from the time of the introduction of photography to Western Australia. John Dowson guides the reader through the 1850-1950 development of the port city with exquisite and engaging photographs accompanied by precise and accessible text. The book uses images from the past to brilliantly illuminate the social history of old Fremantle.

kinnaneShadow Lines - Stephen Kinnane
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Judges' Comments
The shadow lines of the title are, Stephen Kinnane says, "wide lines of negotiation that we all use to make sense of our differences, and our interconnections." The author tells the story of his maternal grandmother, a Miriwoong woman from the Kimberley, and his grandfather, an Englishman. In tracing their unconventional union, Stephen Kinnane begins to explore his own identity, an exploration bisected on various axes - racial (black/white), cultural (British/Australian) and geographical (Miriwoong/Noongar country). This is a moving account by an accomplished writer of disrupted lives under pressure, and of the triumph of the spirit of individuals over paternalistic official repression.

Children's Books

greenwoodThe Legend of Lasseter's Reef - Mark Greenwood
Cygnet Books (University of Western Australia Press)
Judges' Comments
This work is a wonderful retelling of a fascinating and tragic chapter in our history. Lasseter's ill-fated expedition to locate an alleged gold-bearing reef in Central Australia is recounted simply. Greenwood intertwines a wide variety of primary sources: maps, newspaper cuttings, letters, diaries, photographs and art works to bring the many threads of this story together in an exciting and accessible way. Ultimately, this is a mystery story that tantalizes the reader with the question of whether the gold deposit ever existed. The author takes the events of the episode with all its tragedy, courage, foolhardiness and endeavour and presents it directly and without censure. The history, mythology, grandeur and drama of the outback are realized in this attractive hardback book.

Young Adults Award

bowlesNights in the Sun - Colin Bowles
Penguin Books
Judges' Comments
The setting for Colin Bowles' novel is Broome, 1926. The central motif for this rite-of-passage narrative is Sun Pictures, an open-air movie theatre. Its narrator is 14-year-old Sam who is observant, funny, sensitive and credible. The novel describes the racial mix of the town and the accepted social hierarchy reflected in the intricate seating arrangements at the Sun. While his father works the projector, Sam manages the seating of patrons, in the process coming to realise some of his own romantic needs. But Broome at this time can also be a dangerous place. Life-and-death personal and social history is brought to life in an assured and entertaining way that will resonate with the contemporary reader.

Script Award

lastcablge Last Cab to Darwin - Reg Cribb
Pork Chop Productions/ Black Swan Theatre
Judges' Comments
For Judges' Comments please see the Premier's Prize entry.