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 Die, Let the Dead Lie, Blessed 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.