Welcome to the website of Malla Nunn, author of the internationally renowned Detective Emmanuel Cooper novels. Find out more about Malla’s books and films.


Malla Nunn is the author of four Detective Emmanuel Cooper novels set at the beginning of the apartheid era in 1950s South Africa. A Beautiful Place to DieLet the Dead LieBlessed Are the Dead and Present Darkness have, between them, received two Edgar Award nominations, a RUSA Award for Best Mystery Novel, and a Davitt Award for best crime novel by an Australian author. Blessed Are the Dead, a 2013 Publishers’ Weekly Top Ten Summer Crime Read, was short-listed for an Anthony Award and a Ned Kelly Award. Present Darkness, also received an Anthony Award and a Ned Kelly Award nomination.

Born and raised in Swaziland on the far edges of the British Empire, Nunn attended a boarding school specially set up for “mixed race” children. The students at the school spent their time learning the Bible, breaking the rules, and then lying about it. In common with most colonial institutions, stealing, fighting, and violence were common. It was in this charged atmosphere that Nunn developed a fascination with bad behavior, risk, and punishment.

After her family migrated to Australia to escape apartheid, Nunn graduated with a double degree in English and History and then earned a Master of Arts in Theater Studies from Villanova University. Faced with a life of chronic under-employment, she dabbled in acting and screenwriting. She wrote and directed three award-winning films including Servant of the Ancestors, which won Best Documentary awards at film festivals in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Zanzibar and was shown on national television in Australia. She married in a traditional Swazi ceremony. Her bride price was eighteen cows. She now lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

You can contact Malla here.


Selected Bibliography

Present Darkness (2014)
If I Tell You, I’ll Have To Kill You (essay collection) (2013)
Joyful Strains (PEN Australia anthology) (2012)
Blessed Are the Dead (2012)
Let the Dead Lie (2010)
Confession (10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2010)
A Beautiful Place to Die (2009)

Link to Author page with published books

Awards for which Malla’s books have been nominated

  • A RUSA Award for Best Mystery Novel
  • The Davitt Award for best crime novel by an Australian author.
  • Two Edgar Award nomination for Best Novel/Best paperback novel
  • Two Ned Kelly nominations
  • Twice short-listed for an Anthony Award
  • A Beautiful Place to Die listed in ‘Top Ten Crime Books of the Year’ by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian
  • Blessed Are the Dead was a 2013 Publishers’ Weekly Top Ten Summer Crime Read



Fade to White (1990)

Winner Best Short Toowoomba Film Festival 1992

Sweetbreeze (1992)

Servant of the Ancestors (1998)

Winner Best Video Documentary, Zanzibar International Film Festival 1999

Best Foreign Documentary, Pan African Film Festival 2000

Best Documentary, Silver Images Film Festival 2000

Screened Margaret Mead Ethnographic Film Festival 1999

Link to the Screen Australia page for ‘Servant of the Ancestors.’