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Gee's novel a 'narrative tour de force'

Monday 24 July 2006

Maurice Gee's winning novel described as a narrative tour de force

Maurice Gee's novel, Blindsight has won the Deutz Medal for Fiction or Poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2006.

The judges - Lawrence Jones, convenor, Linda Burgess and Bob Ross - described Gee's novel as a narrative tour de force, with a strong ending that makes the reader reinterpret everything that has gone before. "It is," they agreed, "a worthy addition to the oeuvre of this country's greatest living novelist."

Pohutukawa & Rata: New Zealand's Iron-hearted Trees by Philip Simpson won the Montana Medal for Non Fiction. The judges considered this title to be a very valuable reference book, with a strong environmental message. Lawrence Jones went on to say that Pohutukawa & Rata is "very readable and gives a greater understanding of the unique nature of this group of native New Zealand flora. Clear text and well selected and presented illustrations make this an outstanding publication."

For the first time since the Readers' Choice Award was introduced in 1998, the public vote was evenly split between two books. Maurice Gee's novel Blindsight and Fiona Kidman's The Captive Wife are joint winners of this sought after award. Voting was not just close, it was impossible to pick right down to the last minute.

Jones commented on the quality of submissions for this year's awards, saying "the judging panel was impressed with how well New Zealand writing and publishing served the differing but overlapping reading publics of this culture. For a society with a comparatively small population base, the range of what is being written and published is great indeed, and across that range the quality is high."

The Montana New Zealand Book Awards, this country's most celebrated awards for contemporary writing, were presented at a gala awards ceremony at SkyCity in Auckland tonight.

The full list of winners is as follows:

Deutz Medal for Fiction or Poetry and Fiction category winner - Blindsight by Maurice Gee (Penguin Books) Fiction Runners Up: Responsibility by Nigel Cox (Victoria University Press) The Captive Wife by Fiona Kidman (Vintage) Poetry - Lifted by Bill Manhire (Victoria University Press)

Montana Medal for Non Fiction and Environment category winner - Pohutukawa & Rata: New Zealand's Iron-hearted Trees by Philip Simpson (Te Papa Press) Biography - Dingle: Discovering the Sense in Adventure by Graeme Dingle (Craig Potton Publishing) History - Thrift to Fantasy: Home Textile Crafts of the 1930s - 1950s by Rosemary McLeod (HarperCollins Publishers) Reference & Anthology - Great Sporting Moments: The best of Sport magazine 1988 - 2004 edited by Damien Wilkins (Victoria University Press) Lifestyle & Contemporary Culture - How to Look at a Painting by Justin Paton (Awa Press) Illustrative - Contemporary New Zealand Photographers edited by Hannah Holm and Lara Strongman (Mountain View Publishing)

Each category winner was presented with a prize of $5,000. The winners of the Deutz Medal and the Montana Medal were presented with an additional prize of $10,000. The runners-up in the Fiction category each received $2,500. The Readers' Choice Award carries a monetary prize worth $1,000 for each of this year's two winners.

NEW ZEALAND SOCIETY OF AUTHORS BEST FIRST BOOK AWARDS: The best first book awards for non-fiction, poetry, and fiction were established by the New Zealand Society of Authors with the aim of encouraging new writers and their publishers. This year's competition was fierce with 36 books of non-fiction, nine of poetry, and nine of fiction vying for the awards. The books are judged on the basis of literary excellence. This year's winners are:

New Zealand Society of Authors E H McCormick Best First Book Award for Non Fiction - Pakeha and the Treaty: Why it's Our Treaty too by Patrick Snedden (Random House New Zealand). The judges felt this book truly deserves recognition and acknowledgement. The author has researched his subject with great sensitivity and has presented us with an intelligent statement that gives us a clearer understanding of the Treaty.

New Zealand Society of Authors Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry - Dream Fish Floating by Karlo Mila (Huia Publishers). "With her roots in Pakeha New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga," said the judges, "Karlo Mila writes with flair, energy and passion, creating a direct, accessible poetry. This multi-cultural, lyrical voice is one the judges expect to hear a lot more of."

New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction - A Red Silk Sea by Gillian Ranstead (Penguin Books). "A Red Silk Sea is ambitious in its sweep, consciously literary in its language, it is a strong début book," said the judges.

A W REED AWARD FOR CONTRIBUTION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE: The A W Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature was presented to Kevin Ireland. This award is presented biennially in recognition of an outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature and an involvement in activities which foster and promote literature to wider audiences.

REVIEWER and REVIEW PAGE OR PROGRAMME AWARDS: The Book Publishers Association of New Zealand Reviewer of the Year and Best Review Page or Programme Awards are an integral part of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. They recognise the role of the critic within this country's book publishing industry. The judges this year were independent publisher and editor, Linda Cassells, and executive director of the New Zealand Society of Authors and poet, Elizabeth Allen.

The Reviewer of the Year Award was presented to Jolisa Gracewood. The judges said Gracewood's reviews are of a consistently high standard, looking critically at a book's successes and failures, giving good overall background and never giving too much away. They are always engagingly written. Her reviews are published in The New Zealand Listener.

The winner of the Best Review Page or Programme Award was The Dominion Post. The judges agreed that these review pages have it all - clean layout, easy to navigate, a consistency of style and content, four whole pages devoted to books and authors, with a lively mix of genres, and a balance of New Zealand and overseas titles.

The principal sponsors of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are Montana and Creative New Zealand. The awards are managed by Booksellers New Zealand and supported by the Book Publishers Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of Authors and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd.


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