Books & Writing



On a hot Sydney weekend afternoon in November fans of a near-octogenarian queued for the signing of his latest book. Stars on Stage A Conversation with Reg Livermore saw Reg Livermore return to The Independent Theatre to talk about the book and his life with ABC Radio presenter James Valentine. It was at the Independent Theatre that Reg Livermore did theatre training as a schoolboy. The two of them appeared relaxed as they conversed about life stages and the stages on which Reg had appeared in his career from early teens until now. These aspects appear in Stages – Reg Livermore A Memoir (Hardie Grant Books, 2018).

A true legend of Australian Theatre, from serious drama to cabaret and more, Reg Livermore has received more than a dozen major awards. He has been a performer, writer, designer and director and appeared on television. In the last few years, he has received three lifetime achievement awards.

In conversation, Reg reflected on some of the relationships, triumphs and tragedies that have shaped him both as a person and performer. Ensuring that he was speaking directly to the audience, Reg appeared variously energetic, sparkling, reflective, matter-of-fact and opinionated. Clearly he demonstrated that he is a person to be respected and listened to if one is at all interested in Australian theatre of the last 66 years and curious about possible life lessons as well as theatrical ones. He did not shy away from failure, had felt its sting and accepted it as part of life. He accepts failure but owns his triumphs. This may be key to his theatrical longevity. Continue reading STARS ON STAGE : A CONVERSATION WITH REG LIVERMORE


Eerie and authentic, DRACUL is a full blooded prequel to Bram Stoker’s celebrated vampire novel, Dracula, impaled with impeccable heritage by being co-written by Dacre Stoker, the great grand nephew of Bram, manager of the Stoker Estate, and internationally recognised authority on his celebrated ancestor’s extraordinary legacy.

The stakes are always high in trying to emulate and capture the style and ambience of the original classic and Dacre and his co-author, J.D. Barker have suck-ceeded admirably.

Grabbing the reader by the throat from its first page, DRACUL is drenched in dread from go through and to woe with a brilliant evocation of Victorian Gothic that throbs like a carotid artery with verisimilitude, vigour and verve.

DRACUL traverses two time zones a third person Now featuring an adult Bram Stoker and a first person Journal kept by a child Bram.

The Journal of Bram Stoker focuses on his nanny, Ellen Crone, a mysterious woman with peculiar powers, cryptic chronology and a penchant for sleeping in a bed of soil.

“The peculiarities of Ellen Crone. That is, of course, where I should start, for this is as much her story as it is mine, perhaps more so. This woman, this monster, this wraith, this friend, this…being. Her hand always reaching out, even as the prick of her nails drew blood”

Dare one say that this journal is as, if not more, chilling and blood curdling as Jonathan Harker’s journal, or any of the other diaries and letters that was the spine of Dracula.
Stoker and Barker’s narrative gallops from gruesome and grizzly, the uncanny and unsettling in a sequence of unease that is compelling in a page turning whirl closer akin to page tearing.

The chill of the chase is their acumen, the thrill of the unnerving, an exhilarating exhumation of deep seated fear and an exploration of the margins of private experience and popular tradition at the frontier of the natural and the supernatural.

DRACUL is seriously creepy and enthralling, made all the more compelling with the references to Makt Myrkranna splattered throughout the narrative. Makt Myrkrann is an Iclandic version of Dracula, only recently translated. In it, Dracula had a love interest, a woman his equal in many ways, a woman he knew as Countess Dolingen von Gratz, whom Bram believed to be Ellen.

When Dracula was first published in 1897, the first 101 pages had been cut, numerous alterations made and the epilogue shortened.

The authors of DRACUL have picked up Bram’s breadcrumbs and followed them on a bewitching journey, a trail that has resulted in a sublimely spooky origin tale.

DRACUL by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker is published by Bantam Press.


Image: Margaret Atwood. Photo by George Whiteside

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, UNSW Centre for Ideas is presenting Margaret Atwood . Titled A WORD AFTER A WORD AFTER A WORD IS POWER, this Australian-exclusive presentation by one of the world’s most celebrated writers and thinkers, considers our possible futures, both real and imagined.


Drawing on her rich body of work, often considered to reflect the most prescient of imaginations, Atwood shares her understanding of how the creation of our own dystopian futures can be foretold, by tracing the consequences of present-day human behaviours. Continue reading MARGARET ATWOOD: THE LITERARY THINKER ON HUMANITY AND THE FUTURE CREATION. LIVE.


There is no known antidote for a Michael Caine anecdote. They are profligate, relentless, and entertainingly infectious.

And they colonise and spread through his new book, BLOWING THE BLOODY DOORS OFF.

This book grew out of a master-class for film actors and was only completed when Michael broke his bloody ankle.
The venerable 85 year old has a simple refrain for all actors – learn your bloody lines. Basically, this means be prepared, and that is sage advice for any walk of life as Michael keeps advising.

There’s lots of common sense in BLOWING THE BLOODY DOORS OFF, but also a lot of wisdom, from a life led in the heddy atmosphere of Hollywood, to be sure, but a bloke who has managed to keep his feet firmly on the ground -well at least since marrying his wife of 45 years, Shakira. Continue reading BLOWING THE BLOODY DOORS OFF: MORE RAISING CAINE


Australian screen legend Steve Bisley is looking to adapt his critically acclaimed memoir STILLWAYS into a feature-length film PAULINE, told from the perspective of his mother.

Shortlisted for multiple awards including the National Biography Awards, STILLWAYS is a powerful snapshot of Australian childhood in the 60s. The memoir is an unflinching recollection of Bisley’s own upbringing, from fighting bullies and dreaming about girls, to his father who’d take out his frustrations on his children, and his mother who’d do anything to protect them. Continue reading AUSSIE ICON’S UNFLINCHING MEMOIR SLATED FOR FILM TREATMENT


This image: Walking in Beauty by Petrina Kow | Photography by Kelly Fan
Featured image credit: Pip Herrero

Word Travels’ STORY FEST is Australia’s largest performing writers festival!  The Guide had the chance to speak with guest artist Singaporean poet Deborah Emmanuel who gave a fascinating insight into her creative process.

Deborah’s poetry career began after being imprisoned at just 19 years old, when police raided a wild nightclub party. Upon release, Deborah turned to writing to process her harrowing experience, chronicling her time in Changi Women’s Prison in her novel Rebel Rites. She is now a regular guest on TEDx panels, discussing cultural heritage, classism and womanhood, and has performed as both a slam poet and musician with her various bands at Festivals worldwide.

SAG:                     So have you arrived in Sydney yet for the festival? Have you been to our gorgeous city before?

DEBORAH:           Yeah I’m in Newtown right now . Actually I have been before, I came through here 2 years ago on my Australian Tour.

SAG:                      I wanted to begin by fangirling a little bit. I haven’t seen your work live but I love your writing. Your poem ‘imperfect’ really resonated with me. Has your creativity always been about words?

DEBORAH:           Thank you so much, Judith . What’s really funny is that it started with words when I was a kid, nobody taught me how to do it. It was kind of a secret when I was upset and I had stuff that upset me at home. So it was just a way to deal with my feelings. But it was the thing I did for myself … for a really long time without ever thinking of sharing or anything like that. Continue reading INTERVIEW WITH SINGAPOREAN PERFORMANCE POET DEBORAH EMMANUEL


Whether or not you can afford an overseas holiday, you can still get your Happiness Passport. The Happiness Passport – A world of joyful living in 50 words is a delightful light reference book taking you through dozens of languages and cultures. It arrives amidst the current positive psychology and pursuit of happiness literature.

This global exploration of sayings and inspired illustrations is written by Dr Megan C Hayes, an academic researcher in Psychology, and illustrated by Yelena Brysenkokova, a fine artist and illustrator. The book provides its readers with an ‘internal cwtch’ [Welsh language indicating a warm, safe cuddle or hug]. Continue reading THE HAPPINESS PASSPORT : A DELIGHTFUL REFERENCE BOOK



Shirley Barrett’s THE BUS ON THURSDAY reads like Bridget Jones Demon, with the first hundred pages serving up a cracking pace, accelerating round hair pin narrative bends and ignoring give way signs.

Told in the first person singular by the recent singleton, Eleanor, the first third of THE BUS ON THURSDAY maps her journey from mammogram to mastectomy to the spectre of metastasizing, in a mad, manic rollercoaster rant of rom com riffs, patient doctor infatuation, and conflicting cancer counsel.

The story then snakes into totally wonkitated territory when Eleanor takes a job teaching at Talbingo, just out of Tumut. The school has recently gone through a tumult with the sudden disappearance of a much loved female teacher, Miss Barker. Continue reading THE BUS ON THURSDAY : CATCH IT TODAY


Sometimes I think about the animals who live in my noisy, polluted, constantly illuminated city and what they make of humans and the other species they are compelled to live with.

One of my favourite places in the sprawling metropolis I live in, is my local park, a verdant harbourside haven of both tranquillity and activity where native, introduced and domesticated animals and humans encounter each other. I feel for big eyed possums too scared to leave their tree homes. I constantly encounter numerous and dazzling species of dogs that seem to be essential companions and a required adornment of inner city living.

Shaun Tan’s latest book TALES FROM THE INNER CITY is a collection of twenty five illustrated short stories. With great sensitivity, compassion and playfulness, Tan explores the relationships between humans and animals sharing inner city environments. Continue reading TALES FROM THE INNER CITY: THE JOY OF IMAGINING


This is a fascinating book. It is a relatively small and light paperback , written in a clear and easy to understand style . Divided into seventeen chapters ,the biography has a handy table of contents as well as a list of abbreviations used and a Forward by the author at the front , several pages of footnotes and a well researched bibliography and index at the back.There are some black and white photos throughout and there is a rather delicate and charming portrait of Lee as the frontispiece .

Solidly researched, following trails in Armagh, Monaghan, Cambridge, London and Adelaide Denise George examines the extraordinary inspirational life of Mary Lee, a suffragist and social justice advocate . At times Lee broke/ignored society’s restrictive conventions of the times to improve the lot of women and others.

Lee was born in 1821 in Monaghan, Ireland daughter of a Protestant working class family and trained as a school teacher. In 1844 she married George(?) Lee, organist and vicar-choral of Armagh Cathedral; they had four sons and three daughters. Before travelling to Adelaide in 1879 Lee had escaped the devastating potato famine in Ireland and moved to England with George , first Cambridge and then London becoming principal of her own school .’ She spoke lovingly of George and held a high regard for her late husband many years after his death ‘. Continue reading MARY LEE : THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A TURBULENT ACTIVIST


As a multi Aria award nominee, in some circles Holly Throsby is better known as a melodic indie folksinger. In literary circles she is known as a novelist

Although she had written newspaper articles Throsby had not written a novel until she was approached by Richard Walsh, an enfant terrible of the 1960’s and now head of Allen and Unwin.

As a result Throsby in 2016  authored GOODWOOD a rural small town novel  which was a bestseller and reached Number 3 for bestselling fiction in Dymocks book list ratings.

Throsby has stated that growing up in Balmain gave her a feel for village life and touring small regional towns throughout Australia reinforced the impact of village life which has so evocatively percolated into her novels.

Throsby attended Harry Hartog’s booksellers in Bondi Junction leading a discussion about her latest book CEDAR VALLEY. It too deals with the mystery, secrets and vivid characters leavened with humour and affection for the Cedar Valley inhabitants. Critics of this book have compared her to Tim Winton, Thea Astley and Patrick White.

When asked by an audience member if the publisher required any changes to the novel Throsby replied that the only changes required was to do with the novel’s pacing and this was a positive critical response.

There was also discussion about whether the overtly Australian atmosphere and language of the book would limit overseas sales. Like so many artistic ventures, this is unknown.