A best-selling Hawke’s Bay author has reached a pinnacle of two decades’ writing by winning the best New Zealand novel prize at the Ngaio Marsh Awards.
In the 14th awards celebrating excellence in crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing, and presented at a ceremony in Christchurch last Friday, Uganda-born Charity Norman, author of seven novels and a three-times finalist, was acclaimed for latest offering Remember Me, published in 2022 by Allen and Unwin.
Renowned journalist and New Zealand Herald columnist Steve Braunias scooped Best Non-Fiction for Missing Persons (HarperCollins), and filmmaker and author Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) made history when he was named the winner of Best First Novel for Better the Blood (Simon and Schuster), the first author to claim both fiction and non-fiction honours in the awards.
Norman was “overwhelmed” when the award was announced, and judges said: “There’s an Olympian degree of difficulty in this novel. To write about characters facing devastating, mind-altering health diagnoses and blend these everyday tragedies – all too familiar to some readers – into an elevated suspense novel, while steering clear of mawkishness and self-pity … Remember Me is an astounding piece of work.”
The writer received $1000 courtesy of WORD Christchurch, long-time partner of the Ngaio Marsh Awards.
The daughter of a vicar, Norman was raised on the edges of the Yorkshire Moors in the North of England and spent several years travelling before studying law and becoming a barrister, specialising in crime, family law and mediation.
In 2002 she diverted to spend more time with her three children and Kiwi husband, Tim Meredith, from Central Hawke’s Bay, the family moved to New Zealand, and she started her writing career, ultimately moving from Wellington to Hawke’s Bay about 16 years ago and seeing-out the publishing of debut novel Freeing Grace in 2010.
About a tiny mixed-race baby whose mother was tragically killed in a road traffic accident shortly after the birth, and then estranged from the teenaged father, it set the path for the challenging tasks of her literary efforts.
Remember Me is about a close-knit community ripped apart by disturbing revelations casting new light on the historic disappearance of a young woman, through the lens of a woman who returns to New Zealand to care for her ageing father, who in the path towards infirmity starts to unveil truths she’d rather were never revealed.
Having lived in Napier for several years, she and her husband now live back between Waipawa and Ongaonga, where his family farm and where he runs a mobile sawmill business.
There’s a definite soft spot for the city, and she says she loves Napier, which she used for the setting of second book Second Chances, launched in 2012, published in the UK as After the Fall, and described by one reviewer as “a rich and warm novel of family, divided loyalties and complicated relationships”.
Winning the Ngaio Marsh award is certainly not the end of a career in writing, and she now has an eighth novel heading through the production and proofreading stages for publication in the New Year.