This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.
The award is called the John Dawson award and it was named after Australia’s oldest criminal, who at the age of 82 was sentenced in Adelaide to twelve months prison, concluding a criminal career lasting some sixty-eight years.
Naturally the prize is for Crime Fiction.
You have to be over 60 years of age to enter, and you need to be unpublished.
John Dawson would have been pleased as the last three winners were all over the age of seventy and at least one winner was over eighty.
This was the thirty-fifth time the award had been given and the prestigious award went to me, Leonard Warring.
I only just make it over the required minimum age and it is the first time since I was a teenager that I have had to produce a birth certificate to prove how old I am. The last time was to prove I was old enough to drink at my local pub.
I was mortified.
Drinking is legal in my country once you reach the age of eighteen, but despite being six feet tall, this annoying half wit was winding me up and I just passed my twenty-second birthday. My mates thought it was hilarious but I just wanted to gank the bloke.
These days I don’t mind looking a few years younger, it comes in handy.
I’ve been sending stories to editors for more years than I like to remember and generally I get a form rejection email, and occasionally a kind attempt to personalise the rejection, and I appreciate those.
I’ve been at this so long that I have a real rejection letter, a couple of them in fact, but mostly they fill up a folder in my email program.
I’ve thought about printing them out but it is just too depressing.
So I win the ‘Dawson’ and everyone wants to know me.
The editorial board of the ‘Ned Kelly Award’ sent me an email asking me why I didn’t submit the story to them.
The ‘Ned Kelly’ is the top award for new crime fiction in Australia.
I didn’t ignore them, I have been submitting to them each year for the last twenty-two years.
I sent them an email reminding them of my copious previous submissions.
I haven’t had a reply.
I’ve had publishing offers coming in almost daily since the award was announced, which is nice, but I’ve been a bit distracted.
I’ve been doing a bit of research.
It is true that quite a few of us ‘old timers’ have gone on to publishing greatness after winning the ‘Dawson,’ but it’s what happened to the others that interests me.
As you would expect, with thirty-five winners [actually there are only 33; Billy Bullpepper won it twice. He hid behind the cleverly disguised pseudonym of William Bullpepper when he won it the second time] spread over thirty-five years, there would be a variety of outcomes for the various winners.
There are the mega success stories of talents hidden for decades suddenly being discovered and rocketing the author into a life of book signings and dividend cheques.
Then there are the handful who went no further.
Their dream was realised by the award and they slipped quietly back into their old lives.
No huge surprises there until you realise that twenty-two of the winners are now dead.
They were probably old and life caught up with them, I hear you say.
Every death was sudden and violent, and all but a few of them had occurred in the last six months.
Someone is systematically killing off the ‘Dawson’ winners, and they are not being subtle about it.
Many of the deaths could have been violent accidents but not when they are linked as award winners.
The probability is off the charts.
The cheery thought; I am now on somebody’s hit list.
You have to be kidding me!
Just when I finally make it, some jerk is going to make me a notch on his belt.
Give me a break.
Why kill writers? What the hell did we ever do to deserve that?
I’ve got a list of people who need killing and writers aren’t on that list.
My goal is to live long enough to work this out.
It’s going to make a hell of a story.