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The Speechwriter

2023 - Winner

Winner

Toby, former speechwriter to the PM, has reached a new low: locked behind bars in a high-security prison, with sentient PlayStations storming the city outside, and the worst of Australia’s criminals forcing him to ghost-write letters to their loved ones or have his spine repurposed as a coat-rack. How did he get here? From the vantage point of his prison cell, Toby pens his memoir, trying to piece together how he fell so far, all the while fielding the uninvited literary opinions of his murderous cellmate, Garry.

What Toby unspools is a tale of twisted bureaucracy, public servants gone rogue, and the ever-present pervasive stench of rotting prawns (don’t ask). Realising that his political career is far from the noble endeavour he’d once imagined it would be, Toby makes a bid for freedom … before the terrible realisation dawns: it's impossible to get fired from the public service. Refusing to give up (or have to pay for his relocation fee), Toby’s attempts to get fired grow more and more extreme, and he finds himself being propelled higher and higher through the ranks of bureaucracy.

Judges' Comments 

Forget every satirical political memoir you have ever read. The Scriptwriter is here to re-invent the genre in a time where politics comes to us in fractals of the unreliable, shameless, self-serving, deluded and absurd.

Readers are thrust into the world of former speechwriter to the PM, Tony Beaverbrook who, from his prison cell, pens his memoir while trying to figure out how it all went wrong. All the while, his violent, amateur philosopher cellmate, Garry, is critiquing his literary merit. 

In this unhinged, profane, surreal world as imagined by McKenzie-Murray — with its cast of amoral lobbyists, obsequious staffers, time wasters and puffed-up pollies — we hope readers find a LOL and OMG! on every page, like we did.

Headshot

Martin McKenzie-Murray

Martin McKenzie-Murray was The Saturday Paper’s chief correspondent, work for which made him both a Walkley and Quill finalist. Before that, he worked as a teacher, speechwriter, Age columnist, and adviser to the chief commissioner of Victoria Police. Elsewhere, his writing has appeared in The Sydney Morning HeraldThe MonthlyGuardian AustraliaMeanjin, and Best Australian Essays. His first book, A Murder Without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Awards for crime writing.