The Mannequin Makers (SRC)
From the winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book, this strikingly original novel is at turns a gothic tale of a father's obsession, a castaway story worthy of a Boy's Own adventure and a thorny remembrance of past tragedies. The skin was smooth and bright as porcelain, but looked as if it would give to the touch. What manner of wood had he used? What tools to exact such detail? What paints, tints or stains to flush her with life?o So wonders the window dresser Colton Kemp when he sees the first mannequin of his new rival, a man the inhabitants of Marumaru simply call The Carpenter. Rocked by the sudden death of his wife and inspired by a travelling Vaudeville company, Kemp decides to raise his children to be living mannequins. What follows is a tale of art and deception, strength and folly, love and transgression, which ranges from small-town New Zealand to the graving docks of the River Clyde, an inhospitable rock in the Southern Ocean to Sydney's northern beaches. Along the way we meet a Prussian strongman, a family of ship's carvers with a mysterious affliction, a septuagenarian surf lifesaver and a talking figurehead named Vengeance.
Craig Cliff was born in Palmerston North in 1983. His first short story collection, A Man Melting, won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize Best First Book, the judges commenting: 'This book is of the moment, and is rightly at home on a global platform. Cliff is a talent to watch and set to take the literary world by storm.' His short stories have been published in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom; one of them being selected for Essential New Zealand Short Stories, edited by Owen Marshall. Earning Cliff the title of the Sunday Star Times's 'Hot Writer of 2011', A Man Melting met with critical acclaim, Nicholas Reid calling it 'simply the best new collection of short stories I have read in an age'. His first novel, The Mannequin Makers, published 2013. Cliff writes a column for The Dominion Post about his double life as a writer and public servant in Wellington, where he lives with his wife and daughter. He also has the This Fluid Thrill blog (www.thecraigcliff.blogspot.co.nz), a Twitter account (@cliff_craig) and a website (www.craigcliff.com). The New Zealand Herald wrote that A Man Melting 'heralds the arrival of an electrifying new voice on the New Zealand writing scene. These stories are perfectly formed, standalone gems, but the collection also brings together satisfying harmonies as a whole.' In The Short Review, Angela Readman called Cliff's stories unforgettable and noted that the book 'encapsulates what the best short story should do: resonate and hone how we see our world'. Kylie Klein-Nixon of Kapi-Mana News noted that 'gorgeous insanity is the purview of Craig Cliff', while Landfall's Kate Duigan wrote that 'Cliff's quarry is the human heart and he hones in on it with fierce accuracy', these varied views endorsing the verdict of the Commonwealth Writers Prize judge of 'wry, punchy [writing] filled with fresh images, and providing an engaging mix of fantasy and gritty realism ... These are extraordinary stories about ordinary people.'