A large coffee table book, beautifully presented and lavishly illustrated, this is an intriguing book for art lovers brought to us by the excellent Wakefield Press.

Christopher Heathcote is one of Australia’s foremost art critics, has published a number of books on Australian painters, and  is a regular contributor to the current affairs journal Quadrant.

Linked in with the current exhibition at TarraWarra Museum of Art we gain a fascinating insight into the life of Dobell. The book is in effect divided into four sections with a Forward by TarraWarra Museum of Art director, Victoria Lynn.

In her forward Lynn says that the exhibition and this book places Dobell in context, from his working class roots and ‘ between the two camps of the Academy of Arts and the more avante- garde Society of Artists ‘.

The book and exhibition also examine the links and friendships between Dobell and his contemporaries such as Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, Margaret Preston, Justin O’Brien.

Dobell maintained close friendships with many of these artists and in the 1940s Dobell controversially became a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, an influential advocate for rising artists, again indicating how important he was to the mid-century Sydney art scene.

Heathcote,  in his curatorial essay, has written a tremendous examination of Dobell’s life and work. We see how Dobell was concerned with ordinary people, painting subjects ranging from ordinary men and women seen on the streets of Depression-struck London to Sydney’s Kings Cross.

Much mention is made of his 1943 Archibald prize win for his portrait of Joshua Smith and the huge controversy this created , and how it badly affected Dobell afterwards.

Heathcote also looks at Dobell’s work practices, how he developed ideas from sketches to paintings.

DISCOVERING DOBELL stresses Dobell’s trademark style – elongation and lashings of paint – and prominently features the artist’s controversial and recognisable portraits of Joshua Smith, Dame Mary Gilmore and Helena Rubinstein, together with other major themes of his extensive output, including paintings of grinning Ockers, ( Billy Boy ) struggling young mothers, ( Cockney Mother) cheeky street children at play( Cockney Kid With Hoop) and haughty women intent on keeping-up-appearances. (Mrs South Kensington).

Dobell became quite a society portrait painter at one point . We can see his very strong solid use of shape and form. Some striking landscapes are also included of London in the 1930’s. .There is also his portrait of The Cypriot – quite startling for its time – and his portrait of The Strapper.

The book’s overview is completed with analysis of Dobell’s experimental drawings and paintings from New Guinea, ( for  example Highland Natives and The Thatchers) as well as his little-known ventures into abstract form once he moved to Wangi Wangi, some paintings just completed with ball point pens.

This book reminds us of the major creative achievements of this great Australian painter and brings these achievements alive for the younger generation of art lovers.

Category Arts, Architecture and Design
Format Jacketed hardback
Size 290 x 260 mm
ISBN 9781743054802
Extent 112 pages

Price: AU$49.95 including GST.



The Late Show is LAPD parlance for the night shift and it’s been appropriated as the title of Michael Connelly’s latest thriller.

Eschewing Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller his seemingly perennial serial protagonists, Connelly has created a new lead character, Renee Ballard, an Hawaiian transplant pulling the late show out of Hollywood.

THE LATE SHOW is a slow burn of a page turner, a police procedural that sees Ballard pick up a trio of cases she wants no part of but cannot bear to part with.

The first of the three appears to be a benign case of credit card theft. But it brilliantly builds the base of Ballard’s philosophical foundation of seeking justice for a victim no matter the felony, whether it’s petty theft or first degree murder. Continue reading THE LATE SHOW : MICHAEL CONNELLY’S LATEST THRILLER


Featured pic. Author Sarah Bailey.

These violent delights have violent ends says Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet.

He loved a good warning to set the scene. Perhaps these days he’d be writing crime fiction sensations like THE DARK LAKE, the debut novel from Melbourne based author, Sarah Bailey.

Bailey has harnessed her tale of regional town homicide to the work horse of Shakespeare, and of Romeo & Juliet in particular, complete with teenage suicide, parental displeasure, and a victim called Rosalind.

When the body of high school drama teacher, Rosalind Ryan, is found in the lake the morning after the triumphant opening night of her student’s production of Romeo & Juliet, ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny, as local cop, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, uncovers a ‘storm’ of Shakespeare like dimension.

Woodstock was a contemporary of Ryan and vied for the attention and affections of the same boy at school. That boy’s much younger brother is now Ryan’s star student, cast as Romeo in her brash, bold and brilliant re imagining of the classic tale of star crossed lovers. Continue reading THE DARK LAKE : MELBOURNE AUTHOR SARAH BAILEY’S DEBUT NOVEL


Featured image- Pic of author by Dennis Drenner.

A fission and fusion of fashion and crime fiction, Barbara Bourland’s I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD is a ferociously funny satire of the gloss and goss industry.

Rip the dust jacket from the binding and wear it with pride, you’ll want to devour this delicious banquet of a book in one sitting, gutsing the glorious barbs and bon mots, characters and situations.

Plot thickens, narrative ripens under the impressive prose of Ms Bourland, with this scathing, coruscating and laugh out loud novel. Continue reading I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD : A FEROCIOUSLY FUNNY SATIRE OF THE WORLD OF FASHION


LONNIE’S LAMENT,  the latest collection of poems by Ken Bolton, was recently published by Wakefield Press. Bolton has been a major figure in the Australian poetry and experimental writing scene for decades.  Whilst he says that he writes ‘to keep awake, and amused’, this latest collection is yet another reminder of how wonderful a writer he is.  

This rather small and slim book is in four sections. Most are new poems, some have been published in other collections before. They are incisively written often as stream of consciousness poems.

The pieces are lyrical, thoughtful,  dreamily associative and easily distracting. Bolton reflects on life in ‘difficult times’ and tries to capture how recognize the feeling of changing from one era to another, describing it as being like, ‘a history of the vanishing present’. The poems explore how we define ourselves and how we think we are perceived by others.

There is a great use of the senses in his . Some of the poems are short – only a few lines – others are several pages in length. There are many references to other poets, art, artists, films and books. Bolton’s poems question the meaning and purpose of life and death.

Bolton’s poems with their loose rhythms and sudden shifts jump fluidly between Europe and Australia – mainly Sydney and Adelaide- and there is repeated mention of a favourite Greek restaurant Bolton used to frequent.

The book’s first section consists of three poems.  The opening extended poem 2/12/08A Poem for Philip Whalen meditates not just on Whalen and his work but on Bolton’s father’s World War 2 service. There are references to many artists including Grace Cossington-Smith, the Bauhaus, Rembrandt, Kirchner, and Apollinaire.

 Life is a series of short couplets over several pages reflecting on the brevity of life, the passing of time and the passing of important loves in Bolton’s life.

The Funnies uses comics as a springboard for social comment and analysis.

The book’s second section is entitled September Poems and comprises thirteen poems. Poems range from The Palm , where the exploding burst of fronds and the Ent- like ‘ tree-ness’ of the palm is captured to The Blues which is a meditation on inspiration and travel. Geography is visually and aurally sharp and evocative.

Rooftop Apartment is written with a painter’s eyes and love of detail. West Hampstead captures the feelings brought up when Australians catch up far from home.

The third section consists of five poems. New Way of Worrying is a stream of consciousness poem – should he be worrying about Life? Old friends he hasn’t seen for ages? He observes other people and speculates about what they are worrying about.

It also captures other people he is observing and their possible worries.

Train Tripping has plenty of Australian references and is about eavesdropping on people’s conversations.

September Song is about the writing of a poem with dreams of giving a lecture on poetry.

What’s Best distills images of a flower and the moon. or is a streetlight?, interspersed with reflections on his partner Cath’s writing.

The final section – All New Tunes – opens with Spirits – which jumps between Sydney and Surfers Paradise and Bolton’s favourite Greek restaurant. Drink and the muse are invoked as are the spirits of old friends.

Maybe For You twists standard expectations of gender and identity and looks at ways of reading and comprehending a poem. There are also many musical references too.

30:11;12 concerns stylistic decisions in Adelaide and Fewer Pages is another exuberant yet thoughtful riff on reading, art and dogs.

You would be able to read this book in one sitting but my recommendation is to read/savour only a few poems at  a time, and then have the pleasure of returning to the book at a later time and having another very enjoyable session.

Publisher – Wakefield Press

Category –  Literature – Poetry

Format Paperback

Size 210 x 148 mm

ISBN 9781743054727

Extent 112 pages

Released March 2017

RRP- $22.95.



It was more than a bit of a challenge when I was requested to write  a review of a book written by an eminent and esteemed critic, academic, best selling author and a person who is the Sydney Morning Herald chief book reviewer. The gentleman is Andrew Riemer, the book Between The Fish and The Mudcake.

In his book, Riemer reminiscences about well known literary figures; there are food references and destinations mentioned. It is part memoir, history lesson, political piece, travelogue and social commentary.

Between the Fish and the Mudcake begins by discussing Patrick White whom he meets at a dinner party in Sydney in 1966 and who undergoes Riemer’s astute character observations  and analysis of his personality. “We see him driven into precisely the taciturn hostility, thinly disguised beneath a veneer of politeness…” Continue reading ANDREW RIEMER : BETWEEN THE FISH AND THE MUDCAKE


Featured image – Left to right David Gonski and his immediate family. Pictured left to right- David’s wife, sister, mother, David, and his younger twin brother Stephen. David’s other twin brother Dr Peter Gonski was not at the event.

Having outgrown its original Shalom College venue in Kensington, the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival was held in the Bondi Beach Pavilion for its launch on August 27 and thereafter for the bulk of speakers, the next day at Waverley Library.

The topics remained from the musical poetry of Israel’s most renowned poet Yehuda Amichai to the great Jewish Australian rock impressario Michael Gudinski; the childhood innocence of Anna and Barbara Fienberg’s Tashi books to facing death by Leah Kaminsky.

There were authors and distinguished local community figures who had also penned books such as David Gonski, Mark Tedeschi and Alexandra Joel. Authors Lee Kofman, Leah Kaminsky, Susan Wyndham, Maria Katsonis and Arnold Zable flew in from interstate. Others such as Rabbi Dov Lipman and Matt Friedman came from overseas. It was a hothouse of learning and intellectual stimulation. The crowds had increased from last year, as did their pleasure.

If the Festival grows any bigger, Waverley Library may no longer be large enough.


Not Right In The Head

Featured photo – Melbourne author and television producer Michelle Wyatt.

There’s no denying that Alzheimer’s is joked about. Even those most prone to this devastating disease, the elderly, self deprecatingly refer to to it as Oldtimer’s. It may be a way of denial that this insidious syndrome is much more formidable than mere forgetfulness.

In her forthright memoir of dealing with her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s, NOT RIGHT IN THE HEAD, Michelle Wyatt admits that it’s a tough topic to write about with any kind of lightheartedness, yet she succeeds wonderfully in getting the balance right.

That balance comes from a sharing of a family headed up by the seemingly indefatigable Dad, Frank, to whom the book is dedicated. As much as Michelle and her siblings rallied to deal with their mother’s dementia, it was Dad who led the charge, a living manifestation of the marriage vow “in sickness and in health.” Continue reading NOT RIGHT IN THE HEAD BY MICHELLE WYATT



“Let me tell you a story about my grandfather.”

This is the opening and closing line of Liam Pieper’s colossally compulsive novel, THE TOYMAKER, a story that has its beginnings in the Holocaust and its finale in Melbourne some seventy years after the end of World War II.

The grandfather is Arkady Kulakov, a survivor of Auschwitz, who ended up in Australia to found a successful toy making company.

His grandson, Adam, is heir to the family business, which he now runs in conjunction with his wife, Tess, a puppeteer prior to their nuptials, and presently quite the spreadsheet whiz. It is her forensic financial skills that turn up fiscal discrepancies, dollar drains brought about by Adam’s infidelities. Continue reading LIAM PIEPER’S FIRST NOVEL : THE TOYMAKER


Professor Marie Bashir delivering her moving tribute.
Professor Marie Bashir delivering her moving tribute.

Dame Leonie Kramer was a trailblazer for women in the world of academia and commerce. She was the first female Professor to be appointed the Chair of Literature at Sydney University, she was the first female Chancellor in Australia, and she was the first female Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

A State Memorial celebrating her life was held at the Verbrugghen Hall at the Sydney Conservatorium Of Music on Monday 27 June 2016.

Dame Leonie Kramer 1/10/1924-20/4/2016
Dame Leonie Kramer 1/10/1924-20/4/2016

Amongst the attendees were the New South Wales Governor, retired General David Hurley, former Prime Minister John  Howard accompanied by his wife Janette, Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and current Chair of the ABC, Mr Jim Spiegelman.

Former Prime Minister John Howard greets Sister Jocelyn Kramer with his wife Janette Howard in the background.
Former Prime Minister John Howard greets Sister Jocelyn Kramer with his wife Janette Howard in the background.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop chats with current ABC Chairman Jim Spigelman
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop chats with current ABC Chairman Jim Spigelman
Governor David Hurley chats with his aide.
Governor David Hurley chats with his aide.

IMGL10001 (69)

In addition to moving reminiscences from her children and grandchildren, an especially moving tribute was delivered by former Governor and current Chancellor of Sydney University, Professor Marie Bashir.

John Gaden
One of the greats of Australian theatre John Gaden AM.

Highlights of the Service included readings from Cymbeline, The Tempest, and Credo recited by John Gaden, and a performance from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers There Lived A King performed by David Hidden, Justice Peter Hidden and Judge Robert Cameron, accompanied by Sophie Spargo.

David & Justice Peter Hidden, Judge David Cameron with Sophie Spargo on piano.
David & Justice Peter Hidden, Judge David Cameron with Sophie Spargo on piano.

Dame Leone Kramer was innovative in that she was one of the first lecturers to invite Australian authors such as Les Murray and James McAuley to attend her lecturers and talk to the students, which excited them greatly.

When China began to open up to the world, amongst the first students to study overseas were nine Chinese students who were supervised by Dame Leone in the study of Australian literature. As a result there are a number of English faculties studying Australian literature throughout China. A tribute from The Gang Of Nine, as they were known, was read by Mr Yu Zhang.

Mr Yu Zhang delivers his poignant tribute representing ‘The Gang of Nine’.