Books & Writing

THIS IS PLEASURE: IT SURE IS

“Don’t you agree that sex is at the core of personality?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “people are complicated.”

People certainly are and Mary Gaitskill builds on this short exchange in her excoriating new book, THIS IS PLEASURE.

There are two narrators – Quinn, a man accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, an accusation that has cost him his career as an editor at a publishing house, and Margot a friend and colleague of many years standing – and so we get a subjective view and an objective view of a man and his behaviour.

Quin married with a young daughter, is a self proclaimed flirt. He says he flirts to to feel alive without being unfaithful. His wife says that infidelity is more normal and astonishingly admonishes him for being not even a predator but a fool. Does foolishness trump philandering?

Readers may also be astonished by Margot’s assertion, “Women are like horses. They want to be led but they want to be respected. If you don’t respect them they will throw you off and prance around the paddock while you lie bleeding.”

Is that the bridle party bristling with indignation?

The pleasure of reading difficult stories, stories that achieve a degree of moral honesty and emotional space is the pleasure to be found in THIS IS PLEASURE.

One man’s flirting may be one woman’s conception of microaggression. And what is the difference between hurt and offended?
How do you express desire without putting pressure on people? Is to seduce to reduce? The question, surely, is how men show their interest – with respect and courtesy or with aggression or a sense of entitlement.

Mary Gaitskill has been called the poetess of wounded eroticism and THIS IS PLEASURE certainly cements and consolidates that mantle as she charts the tempests and tumults of emotion and desire with drop dead cool prose.

THIS IS PLEASURE by Mary Gaitskill published by Serpents Tail

 

THE LIGHT ASCENDING: GRIFFITH REVIEW 66

A heart stopping reminder of what a poem can do, Sarah Holland-Batt’s Pursuit Music has all the crackling, cascading cadence of a neon noir thriller, the lyrical language of on the lam iambics, the rhythm of the road, its bolt holes and pit stops, its desperadoes and detours.

Holland-Batt chronicles a duo on the run, literally poetry in motion, with cool imagery – the liquid, mercury of polarised lenses our only witness protection…. under navy amphetamine skies – set in rapid pulse beats.

Pursuit Music is the first poem you encounter in Griffith Review 66: The Light Ascending. It’s a novella edition with the addition of several poems by award winning poets Stuart Barnes, Stuart Cooke, Shastra Deo, Anna Jacobson, Ella Jeffrey, Daniel Swain, Laura Taylor and the aforementioned Holland-Batt.

Daniel Swain’s poem, Routines, is a wry blank rhyme, an adverse verse of rumination and aphorism-The summer before people pretended to prefer orange wine to a nice dry Riesling. That’s when I knew Brexit would happen. People just want to belong to smaller and smaller unities.

Although labelled a novella edition, there are only two pieces that really fit into that category – Julienne Van Loon’s Instructions for a Steep Decline, and Keren Heenan’s Cleave at 72 and 60 pages respectively.

The shortest of the stories is the long awaited first fiction from Holly Ringland since her bestselling novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. The Market Seller is a twelve page page-turner, a bewitching contemporary fairy tale with a tantalising mystery complete with potions, recipes, both botanical and baked, and brutally fractured families.

Ringwald’s fracture of the normal creates a breathtaking apprehension – dark, distilled and disturbing.

Another gem of short fiction is Pat Hoffie’s Chronicles of the Maiwar Mangroves a then and now narrative that connects a fantastical Victorian wonderland on the banks of the Brisbane River to the city’s present-day mangroves where a sense of unease and an encounter with the uncanny put the wind up the reader in a delicious tingle of the shivers.

Memory and imagination mingle and meander in Julienne van Loon’s Instructions for a Steep Decline, a canter through the corridors of a comascape where questions from the unconscious collide with conscience.

Each of the stories and poems in THE LIGHT ASCENDING make their worlds come brilliantly alive, to reckon with our time, look at our past and posit the future. There is prose that has eaten poems, poetry that feasts on fiction, offering a smorgasbord of stories on a table that bears the bounty of continents, cultures and generations, inviting you to dine or graze at a narrative banquet.

THE LIGHT ASCENDING is, truly, the ultimate compendium of summer reading.

THE LIGHT ASCENDING: GRIFFITH REVIEW 66 is published by Text.

 

DARKNESS FOR LIGHT: NOW HEAR THIS

Now hear this.

If earlier glowing reviews of Emma Viskic’s two previous books featuring the deaf detective, Caleb Zelic, Resurrection Bay and And Fire Came Down, have fallen on deaf ears, now is the time to rectify this glaring omission and open your eyes to this immensely entertaining series.

The third in the trilogy, DARKNESS FOR LIGHT, has just been published and it picks up nineteen weeks after the incendiary action of AND FIRE CAME DOWN with the hearing impaired private eye committed to put the horrors and mistakes of his past far behind him. Continue reading DARKNESS FOR LIGHT: NOW HEAR THIS

MARK MORRIS :  OUT LOUD A MEMOIR

From the very first page Morris’ warm , flamboyant voice captivates us in this intimate , extremely revealing book .Out loud and proud. You feel as if he is talking to you as a close friend.The book itself is of medium size and fairly thick , delightfully illustrated , with a great index at the back. It is written by Morris in collaboration with novelist/singer-songwriter Wesley Stace with great panache and frankness.

Dance lovers might be aware of Joan Acoclla’s 1993 biography
.
OUT LOUD takes you on a roller coaster ride through Morris’s personal life interwoven with the history of his company, the Mark Morris Dance Group .It also considers the history of modern dance and how this is linked to music through the ages.( Look at the range of composers Morris has worked with – everyone from Bach, Brahms ,Handel, Purcell, and Poulenc , Stravinsky, Vivaldi,– as well as Gershwin , Lou Harrison, Indian classical music , the Louvin Brothers, and Thai pop artists. Morris insists on live music and is extremely attentive to the score.) Mark Morris Dance Group is one of America’s major modern-dance companies, and Morris has long been regarded as both naughty and delightful as well as discerning . He has a great eye for the significant detail. Continue reading MARK MORRIS :  OUT LOUD A MEMOIR

MARIUS PETIPA THE EMPEROR’S BALLET MASTER BY NADINE MEISNER

Of medium size, but quite thick and heavy to read and carry , Nadine Meisner’s book also includes fascinating illustrations – photos of the time and costume designs – and a terrific index at the back as well as many pages of footnotes and an extensive bibliography. Fabulous for balletomanes.

This is the first biography in English of Marius Petipa, (1818- 1910) a legendary Titan of ballet history . Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master examines his life and work in great detail, also placing it in the context of turbulent history. Previous works in English mention Petipa but are mostly translations of memoirs or texts in which he is not the primary focus .Meisner draws on libretti and other archival material, like theatre records, memoirs,  contemporary reviews, and photographs, enabling us to at least partially reconstruct and elaborate on works that have been presumed lost and which are little discussed ( eg King Candaules (1868 )and the 1903 The Magic Mirror). Continue reading MARIUS PETIPA THE EMPEROR’S BALLET MASTER BY NADINE MEISNER

AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD: LE CARRE’S LATEST

The Godfather of Cold War thrillers, John Le Carre, has not put out to pasture but is instead still running in the field.

Readers are reminded of this mightily on devouring his latest book, AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD, his twenty-sixth novel.

Le Carre proves categorically that he still has it, if anything he has more wisdom and wit, his narrative style and substance straddles the stream of espionage thriller on the pillars of literary fiction.

AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD central character and narrator is Nat, a 47 year old secret servant of Her Majesty, veteran of the Eastern Bloc, now returned to England and facing retirement. He is married to Prue, ex security service spouse now a high flyer lawyer prosecuting Big Pharma. Ask her her favourite novel and she might just say The Constant Gardener.

As well as being a star at running agents in the field, Nat is a champion badminton player and his prowess brings him into the orbit of Ed, an earnest Englishman and pro European Unionist appalled at Brexit, the British Government and the buffoon in the White House.

From such disenchantment the seeds of sedition are sown. Notions of for Queen and Country clash with for Clear and Conscience.

The Iron Curtain has rusted, the Berlin Wall has been dismantled, but old enmities prevail, and archaic crafts continue to be employed against current anarchies.

Traditional spy trade is all part of the sizzle in AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD, as Nat retires retirement and becomes his own agent running in the field, taking him from London to Karlovy and back again, navigating the smoke and mirrors of espionage, the double and triple loyalties, aliases, operation code names and subterfuge.

AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD is contemporarily momentous and surges and seethes with a momentum that compels the reader to race through the narrative to its thrilling conclusion. And then, by way of debriefing, to start reading, from the beginning, all over again.

AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD by John Le Carre is published by Penguin Viking

THE AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL : A WONDERFUL REFERENCE BOOK

This is a large-format, high production value book , written by Peter Pinne and Peter Wyllie Johnston .Lavishly illustrated with both black and white and colour photographs as well as vibrant graphic design, The Australian Musical takes an incredibly detailed , impeccably researched look at the history of the Australian musical .The first half is in eight chapters and looks at the story of the Australian musical from roughly 1901 to now.

THE AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL asks – what is an Australian musical and how do we define it ? Has the audience expectation over time changed ? As well as looking at the influence of Australian female composers , gay themes and Jewish influences . The flops , ( eg Rasputin ) lost/abandoned musicals and the mega hits are mentioned. Continue reading THE AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL : A WONDERFUL REFERENCE BOOK

HOME WORK: FROM MARY POPPINS TO VICTOR VICTORIA

Towards the end of her latest book, HOME WORK, Julie Andrews writes, “The most important thing I have learned is the simplest of all: people are just people – no matter their politics, their skin colour or where they live. There is no difference in our humanity; only in our circumstances.”

The circumstances of Julie Andrews’ life has been one of luck and privilege, endowed with a unique voice, mentored by giants, a talent that gained resilience from hard work, and an ability to seize on opportunity when it knocked.

The title of the book, HOME WORK, refers to the juggle of career and domestic life, a balancing act of blurred edges seeing that she was married to film maker, Blake Edwards, and they worked on many projects together.

Julie writes that her favourite song from The Sound of Music is Edelweiss. To her it’s an anthem that speaks to one’s homeland, no matter where that may be. Julie confides that she spent so much of her early life trying to unify her need for home with her commitment to work.

“These days I’ve come to realise that home is a feeling as much as it is a place; it is as much about loving what I do as being where I am.”

Subtitled A Memoir of my Hollywood Years, HOME WORK picks up from her first film, Mary Poppins, for which she won an Oscar and takes us through to Victor, Victoria, for which she was nominated again for an Academy Award.

Co written with daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, HOME WORK is revealing without being a salacious tell all. It chronicles the failure of her first marriage to designer, Tony Walton, the grueling treadmill of her first years in Hollywood – she completed three pictures before Mary Poppins was released – her decision to enter psycho analyses, and her subsequent romance, marriage and life with Blake Edwards, her “Blackie”, mercurial of mind and mood, the always admired artist, the not so admirable spouse. Still, the marriage lasted 41 years, till death did he part.

HOME WORK is peppered with showbiz anecdote – why Omar Sharif might have been a better fit for Inspector Clouseau – and littered with terrific photographs.

Candor with a spoonful of sugar, HOME WORK presents home truths in a most delightful way.

HOME WORK by Julie Andrews is published by W&N.

 

PAUL GALLEN : HEART AND SOUL

There is usually a rush of sports books as a reliable stocking filler for Dad’s to read on their annual holidays.

The most recent of these is for fans of rugby league in the form of Paul Gallen autobiography HEART AND SOUL.

There is a risk that this book launch last week at Dymocks will be overshadowed by the recent boxing match entitled ‘The Code Wars’ between Room rugby league great Paul Gallen and Aussie Rules great Barry Hall.

The match resulted in a controversial draw and there is talk of a rematch.

I suspect that the fight may help book sales and the reviews may use boxing metaphors such as no holes barred and straight shooting.

But above all his rugby league career has been illustrious. Like the title of the book he has given his heart and soul for his club, his state and his country. As a long time captain of the Cronulla Sharks he led them to their very first premiership. He has led the New South Wales Blues to a long awaited win in the Store ate Of Origin series and he has played more than thirty tests for the Kangaroos.

There have also been lows when the Sharks were embroiled in a long running ASADA investigation into pep tide use. Throughout these issues Gallen is always bruisingly frank which may divide both the media and his fans.

Nonetheless his heart filled devotion go the code at all levels shines through.

 

 

 

MICHAEL CONNELLY : THE NIGHT FIRE

When his half brother, Mickey Haller, aka The Lincoln Lawyer, gets an acquittal for a man charged for the murder of a judge, Harry Bosch cops a dumpster of disdain from his former colleagues in the LAPD.

The displeasure he can deal with, what he can’t let go is that there is a guilty party walking the streets and he determines to apprehend the felon not only to assuage the contempt of his former colleagues, but to bring justice to the victim.

If this was the main narrative flow of Michael Connelly’s new novel, THE NIGHT FIRE, it would be heartily enough, but it is but a tributary of the great river of intrigue that makes up this outstanding police procedural.

THE NIGHT FIRE sees Bosch team up once again with Renee Ballard, the sleuth soulmate who works the Late Show, the Hollywood grave yard shift, and has become his unofficial partner in clearing cold cases.

Ballard is investigating a possible homicide arson when Bosch taps her to help delve into an unsolved case that had obviously been of interest to a recently deceased mentor of Bosch.

“Bosch knew there were always unanswered questions in every murder, every investigation. Those who were naive called them loose ends, but they were never loose. They stuck with him, clinging to him as he moved on, sometimes waking him up in the night. But they were never loose and he could never get free of them.”

Those so called loose ends become tighter and tighter as the narrative accelerates, myriad tendrils that draw the degrees of separation closer and closer till seemingly unrelated cases begin sharing a chilling commonality.

With more levels than an elite law firm’s office, THE NIGHT FIRE burns with conspiracy, suspense and coincidence bedfellowed to the incredible but never conjugal with the incredulous.

THE NIGHT FIRE is pure Ballard and Bosch with a dash of Prizzi’s Honour as a mob contract killer out of Las Vegas starts to tie up those loose ends and proving that the greatest identify theft of all is murder.

Connelly once again proves he is the master juggler of the police procedural, deftly and adroitly keeping many balls in the air, in a story that is beguiling in plotting and equally dexterous in characterisation. His teaming of Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard is brilliant.

THE NIGHT FIRE is dedicated to Titus Welliver, the actor who plays Harry Bosch in the television incarnation of the character. Hope it’s not too long before a novel is dedicated to the actress who takes on Ballard.

THE NIGHT FIRE by Michael Connelly is published by Allen & Unwin

APATHETICAL SYDNEY: A PARODY

A is for Apathy – we give zero fucks, that we’re wrapped in red tape and a coffeee’s six bucks. you’d think we’d rise up since it’s all so unfair, but all that’s revolting is how little we care.

This is the opening stanza of APATHETICAL SYDNEY, an A- Z of revolting rhymes, cynical couplets cobbled together by Paul Chappel band Josh Whiteman, founders of the non advertising agency, Brand+Story.

Just in time for Guy Fawkes Day, APATHETICAL SYDNEY builds a bonfire to the vanities and inanities of the Emerald City, putting in verse the adverse aspects to the bastard child of Botany Bay and Farm Cove, lacing combustible cadence with contemptible commercialisation to burn the effigies of the smart arse ruling classes.

A doggerel’s breakfast, APATHETICAL SYDNEY makes a dinner of the lamentable and parlous state of the Harbour City, a city that harbours hubris and worships the land it stole from The Gadigal.

Like a blue tongue in a bum cheek, APATHETICAL SYDNEY is a lounge lizard’s lozenge that deep throats the pernicious underbelly of a town on permanent enema from ICAC.

By the time APATHETICAL SYDNEY gets to Z, the authors have done a three sixty, stopped their whingeing and whining from Wentworth to Warringah, and zealously dump shit on Melbourne.

As the verse gets worse, strained through a sieve that leaves a puree of puerile poetry, this Sydneycentric stocking filler offers a pictorial consolation courtesy of Will Vink.

Vink’s visuals are a combination of digital and hand drawn, an acute collage of images that lampoon landmarks, harpoon the Harbour, and cartoon the whole mortgage stressed metropolis.

APATHETICAL SYDNEY – A Parody by Paul Chappell and Josh Whitman, with illustrations by Will Vink is published by Penguin.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: THE EGO HAS LANDED

The quintessential Quentin Tarantino fanboy fait accompli in book form, the ubiquitously titled QUENTIN TARANTINO, is a slip cased celebration by Ian Nathan, one of Britain’s best known film writers.

From Reservoir Dogs to Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and detours into True Romance and Natural Born Killers, Nathan plots the rise and rise of the cinephile phenomenon who became the cult film maker who successfully blends art and commerce, show and business in movies that court controversy and unadulterated adulation.

Named after a character played by Burt Reynolds in Gunsmoke, Quentin famously didn’t go to film school, he went to films, shoring up a reservoir of cinema from all over the world that would inform his own distinctive work.

A self proclaimed and unapologetic film geek, Tarantino’s prodigious and encyclopedic knowledge of cinema fills every frame of his work, distilled into living, breathing, heaving film experiences, crisscrossing genres, appropriating with abandon and ambition.

Nathan’s book is rich in critical appreciation, behind the scenes information, and castings that could have been. Tarantino’s track record of resurrecting flagging careers is more astonishing in its entirety if certain wish fulfilment and scheduling conflicts had been realised.

As befits a visual artist, the book is also rich in pictorial splendour, a trove of Tarantino inspiration and composition.

Tarantino at fifty five is a survivor of the tectonic treachery of Tinseltown creating his own seismic impact that changed the complexion of cinema and continues to cram audiences into multiplexes.

“Whether it is that monumental self belief, or the insistence of that God given talent, combined with a skilful management of his own celebrity and bankability, the next film from Quentin Tarantino, his tenth and apparent final picture, remains an event still able to stop Hollywood in its tracks.”

Big, bold, and handsomely packaged, much like the man himself, QUENTIN TARANTINO is a must for any film buff or any aficionado of popular culture.

QUENTIN TARANTINO by Ian Nathan is published by White Lion through Murdoch Books.

IAN MCKELLEN THE BIOGRAPHY BY GARRY O’CONNOR

This is a captivatingly , warmly written ,fascinating biography of one of the theatrical greats of our times .The paperback version is of medium size and weight , divided into three parts and thirty eight chapters and includes a list of illustrations , a file of acknowledgements and a well researched and presented index at the back.

The author, Garry O’Connor, is a biographer and novelist, noted for his publications on theatrical and literary figures. He has written acclaimed biographies of Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Paul Scofield, Peggy Ashcroft, and Alec Guinness – and now McKellen. O’Connor has written and presented programs for radio, including Campion’s Ghost for Radio 4, adapted from his novel about John Donne. O’Connor has directed for the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) , acted with McKellen at Cambridge and has known him since 1958 , directing McKellen in some of his early roles. Continue reading IAN MCKELLEN THE BIOGRAPHY BY GARRY O’CONNOR

THE DEVIL’S GRIP: A TRUE STORY OF SHAME,SHEEP AND SHOTGUNS

The devil’s grip is an expression used to describe a genetic defect in sheep, considered to be a flaw on the show circuit.

Neal Drinnan has fleeced the term for the title of his compelling investigation and inquiry into toxic masculinity and mass murder.

On the surface, THE DEVIL’S GRIP is an examination of the events of Wednesday March 18, 1992, at Stanbury sheep stud, Ceres, when a revered sheep breeding dynasty came to a bloody and inglorious end in an orgy of violence wiped out three generations of the Wettenhall family.

While the triple murder forms the backdrop, Drinnan delves deep into the sheep-dip of secrets, lies and denials that infested the lives and fostered the deaths of the players in this epic tragedy.

Kindness is classless but it is said that manners come with breeding and might just as easily be a prelude to treachery as to altruism. Darcy Wettenhall had a chip on his shoulder the size of Uluru, feeling the brunt of being the runt. He was hell bent on raising himself up and positioning himself in the pivotal. The pursuit of pedigree and privilege and property paved the way to instil and install his own prejudice.

“Feminists and snags can say what they like but in the western district when the farmer wants a wife she needs to be a looker or a cooker preferably both. The workers need to fed and well fed at that and in traditional set ups a farmer marries a woman who will bear his heirs and spares and see to all the catering required. End of story.”

Darcy dated and mated with a woman that produced an heir, but that was as far as his heterosexual duty took him. Breeding completed, he was free to furtively go in search of mutton dressed up as ram, and she was cold shouldered out of the picture.

Drinnan posits that misogyny is endemic in homosexuals, the simmering hatred between men and women is never far from the surface. Perhaps its as much about envy as disdain.

With the help of Bob Perry, Darcy Wettenhall’s secret lover for a decade before the murders, Drinnan combines true crime and memoir weaving personal and intimate insights into a narrative that will silence naysayers that truth is stranger than fiction.

On Darcy’s dark personality, Drinnan writes “I understand how a homosexual man who learns early that he has no place in his family or the world and has experienced deep visceral sexual brutality might choose to own brutality than die at its hand.”

Similarly, “The Wettenhall murderer Wayne Walton simply possessed the distilled pathology of twenty four years of poverty, violence, sexual stigma, class inequality, ignorance and blind injustice – a heady concoction of venom and woe.”

The elephants in the room far outnumber the sheep in THE DEVIL’S GRIP, and the second half of the book is as much about reflection as response.

The author hath borne himself beyond the promise of his page, doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion.

THE DEVIL’S GRIP by Neal Drinnan is published by Simon & Schuster

DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE: EAST WEST SEX DEATH

Gonzo journalism is alive and well in Luke Williams’ DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE.

Escaping a harrowing head space as much as the homophobic hometown of Bundaberg, Williams first flees to the putrid Grandma-burnt-her-filtyhy-eggs-again halfway house in Melbourne then escapes Australia, Australians, an Australian Community Service Order, his sister, his former psychology clinic which was trying to sue him, and the high culture of lumpen koalas for Kuala Lumpur.

And so begins three year labyrinthine libertine thoroughfare through Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines, where he meets and mingles with sex addicts, opium smokers, money boys, lady boys, ghost whisperers and tarot readers.

Here are morally lapsed ex pats that went east to break taboos or break the law, to get rich, feel rich, work less, spread their cheeks, spread Christ, turn the other, free slaves or find one, DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE examines the empowerment of the pathetic.

Luke Williams puts the mad into nomad with hereditary mental illness his travelling companion as he traverses geographical and emotional terrain that is humid, fetid and fecund.

Dreams and disappointments, agonies and ecstasies, all enthrallingly and appallingly enlarged and magnified by the acid tripped, acquisitive addictive personality, a schizoid affective with meth in his madness.

More or less, more is less on a mind altered quest for less is more with a moral compass constantly pointing due south to a dark as molasses destination.

Three years later, back in Bundaberg, Luke starts seeing someone with the curiously titled job position: Suicide Aftercare Worker.

DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE is a homage to vagabondia an experimental, innovative, fast-paced and ever-surprising travel-guide, a complex mix of memoir and reportage, a rag tag assortment of crazy characters and nutty situations.
DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE by Luke Williams is published by Echo

TOI TOI KIM CARPENTER’S THEATRE OF IMAGE :  30 YEARS IN 2019

This book is medium to large size in format and just on a hundred pages .It is beautifully illustrated and is both poignant , sad and a celebration.

It is thirty years since the establishment of Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image, (TOI) a majorly important company in the Australian theatre world, and it is a retrospective of all the past productions, some of which have toured internationally. It was founded originally as a Theatre in Education company but is by no means ‘just’ for children and has evolved to become Australia’s premier visual theatre company.                             Continue reading TOI TOI KIM CARPENTER’S THEATRE OF IMAGE :  30 YEARS IN 2019

THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE: ANDREW McGAHAN’S FAREWELL NOVEL

Monoliths and mansions, Andrew McGahan’s posthumously published novel, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE, features both, and in its size and complexity, mirrors both.

A mountain of a book, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE is a mansion of rooms – geographical, geological, psychological, architectural, historical and supernatural – with mantles of mystery and thresholds of suspense.

The novel begins with a couple of prologues of faux fact, giving an historical preface to the multi storied edifice of the narrative. Then the first line of the narrative proper -, “Death is the great invigorator” hits us “like the slap across the face of the sleeper.”

The death that invigorates this opening chapter and that of the ensuing six hundred pages is that of architect, Richard Gausse, found deceased at age 78 in the newly completed home of billionaire Walter Richman.

Gausse designed Richman’s remarkable residence, The Observatory, on Theodolite Isle, in the cold Antarctic waters south of Tasmania. Gausse is famous for his so called “buried” style of design and McGahan has fun exhuming, excavating and uncovering much of what lies beneath his death in this strange monolithic and mythic geographical and geological anomaly.

A daughter from Richard’s first marriage, Rita Gausse, is surprised, upon herfather’s death, to be invited to the Observatory to meet the famous Richman in person. Turns out that her practice as a paranormal medium is the reason, as Richman is convinced a presence from the peak is pitted against him.

Secluded location, ulterior motives at high altitude, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE at times reads like Agatha Christie on crystal meth with a touch of Lovecraft. It’s not an easy journey to the summit, an avalanche of verbiage detours the ascent, and when the top is reached, you don’t really get to the bottom of the story.

As in keeping with the two prologues, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE is braced and book-ended by two epilogues, projected histories and anniversaries of the events depicted in the main body of the narrative and supply conjecture and rumour rather than conclusion.

In his author’s note, McGahan insists that THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE is a finished novel but can’t deny that his abrupt decline in health hastened the rewriting and editing process extremely and that it’s not quite the book it would have been had cancer not intervened.

THE RICHMAN’S HOUSE by Andrew McGahan is published by Allen & Unwin

LITERARY LECTURES : MEN, GLORIOUS MEN, HAMLET TO JAMES BOND

Susannah Fullerton says it’s time to discuss the wonderful variety of men in literature – romantic heroes, dastardly villains, schoolboys, men of action, serving men and their masters, cads and fools. She’ll talk about sexy men, muddled men, men who are treacherous, confused, cool under fire, or the ‘strong and silent’ types. And the literary works in which they appear will provide you with comedy and tragedy, adventure and violence, piety and devotion. Come along and hear about some well known literary men and the writers who created them. Hopefully you’ll meet some interesting new ones too. Continue reading LITERARY LECTURES : MEN, GLORIOUS MEN, HAMLET TO JAMES BOND

MINOTAUR: BLIND MAN’S BUFF

“Like any cop, I’ve seen enough evil to believe in the category. Or at least suspend my belief in it, on a practical, daily level.” says Rick Zadow, the protagonist of Peter Goldsworthy’s MINOTAUR, an existential super sensory detective story.

Bull headed Detective Sergeant Rick Zadow has been left blind by a bullet to his brain-pan and is caught in a battle between two shrinks as to how much compo he is entitled to.

His medico Mrs., Willow, has left him and his hermitage is shared by his guide dog, Scout, in peril of being repossessed by the appropriate authority, and his voice controlled personal assistant, Siri.

The relationship between the sightless sleuth and his cyber secretary provide much of the comic that runs through this Adelaide set neo-noir.

Conversely, the serious side of MINOTAUR is shouldered by his sessions with a psychiatrist known as The Prof.

Suffering early onset inertia, slovenly, smelly, sarcastic, Zadow is a misery guts, and, as misery loves company, right on cue and with due diligence, it walks up to the door in the form of his ex partner in the police force, bearing the bare faced truth that the perpetrator responsible for his loss of sight has escaped from incarceration.

Zads, as Rick is affectionately known as, is a crumpled Camel smoking shamus with a chip on his shoulder and a mote in his eye, just itching to smote the vision extinguishing villain – an eye for an eye and all that Biblical brouhaha- to cast out the beam from the thug’s own eye.

Despite its classical pre-Christian title, MINOTAUR is awash with Biblical allusion, both Old and New Testament. The bikie gang Zads infiltrated is called the Golgothans, for instance, and his undercover work sees him running their prostitution ring, becoming somewhat of a saviour to the girls.

And, like the Bible, MINOTAUR is certainly a tale of revenge, retribution and redemption.

Revenge becomes a bloody renovation, nail guns at six paces, glue guns at closer quarters.

Looking can get in the way of seeing but in Peter Goldsworthy’s blind man’s buff, a vision splendid is revealed in lyrical, literate layers, in language that is larrikin laureate.

MINOTAUR by Peter Goldsworthy is published by Penguin Viking.

SEE YOU AT THE TOXTETH: CLIFF HARDY REVISITED

 

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the emergence of Cliff Hardy, the Sydney private detective created by Peter Corris.

To celebrate and commemorate, his publisher Allen & Unwin s releasing SEE YOU AT THE TOXTETH, the best of the Cliff Hardy short stories as selected by Jean Bedford.

Hardy proved true to his name, hero to forty-two books and countless stories.
Hard to imagine the first Cliff Hardy novel, The Dying Trade was made an orphan when the American publisher McGraw-Hill cancelled ts Australian fiction list.

Happily, it got positive reviews from all quarters and was picked up, along with the next two in the series, as a paperback by Pan, and later by Allen & Unwin, and the rest, as they say is history.

Historically, the Hardy novels and short stories can be seen as a renaissance of the home grown crime novel and opened up critical acclaim and public appetite, an appetite that was insatiable, an appetite that Corris was happy to feed.

The prodigious output and unfaltering quality of writing earned him the title ‘the Godfather of Australian Crime’, senior statesman in the genre he was instrumental in resuscitating, if not resurrecting.

Creating a credible, endearing and enduring character like Cliff was only ever part of the equation. The sense of place was always meticulous and revealing. As R.S. Brissenden wrote in The National Times, “Corris’ presentation of Sydney – blowsy, rough, vital and corrupt, but still sprawling indolent and beautiful, is one of the most distinct and satisfying things in his fiction.”

Diving into the dozen stories selected here, spanning the period 1984 to 2007, the blowsy, rough, vitality of Sydney is there in all its sprawling beauty.

Further celebrating Corris’ coruscation, SEE YOU AT THE TOXTETH also contains a selection of his columns, along with his ABC of Crime Writing, a miscellany of mayhem, an index of detection and deduction, a compendium of crime, stock, plot and two smoking barrels.

SEE YOU AT THE TOXTETH by Peter Corris, selected by Jean Bedford is published by Allen & Unwin.

WRITING NSW HONOURS SUMNER LOCKE ELLIOTT

 

In its annual Honouring Australian Writers series, Writing NSW pays tribute to writers who have made an important contribution to our literary culture.

This year Writing NSW honours Sumner Locke Elliott (1917-1991), internationally best-selling author, playwright, and scriptwriter. Elliott is best known for Careful, He Might Hear You, which won the 1963 Miles Franklin Award and was adapted into the 1983 film.

The event will include conversations, readings, and archival material. Sharon Clarke, Kimball Knuckey, Margaret Fink and Walter Mason will be speaking on the life and work of Sumner Locke Elliott.

DATE FOR THE DIARY

Saturday 17th August | 2:30-4:00pm

Metcalfe Auditorium, State Library of NSW

Free entry | RSVP required

Tickets are available via Eventbrite.

Speakers include:

Sharon Clarke is an academic and a writer who recently moved house from Sydney to the NSW south coast.  She gained her BA (Hons) and Ph.D. at University of Wollongong and was the Academic Director of Boston University Sydney Programs for over 20 years until she began the road to retirement in January 2017. Her authorised biography of Sumner Locke Elliott was published in 1996 and short-listed for the inaugural Australian Biography Award.

Kim Knuckey is a Sydney actor and director with a keen interest in the stage work of Sumner Locke Elliott.  He compiled an event for New Theatre which celebrated Locke Elliott’s most famous (and notorious) play, Rusty Bugles.  Knuckey has been acting in Sydney, Melbourne and the UK for 30 years. Kim was in the films The Great GatsbyA Few Best Men and Don’t Tell.  He is the ineffectual local policeman in ABC tv’s Rosehaven and was in ABC’s Rain Shadow and Kokoda.

Margaret Fink is an Australian film producer, noted for her important role in the revival of Australian cinema in the 1970s. Her productions include The Removalists (1975), My Brilliant Career (1979), For Love Alone (1986), Edens Lost (1988) (for TV), and Candy (2006).

Walter Mason is the author of Destination Saigon and Destination Cambodia. He is the Vice President of the NSW Dickens Society and a well-known travel writer and speaker. Walter is also a popular teacher of writing, mindfulness and creativity. As well as leading tours to Vietnam, Walter teaches Cambodian, Vietnamese and Buddhist history.

writingnsw.org.au

 

 

 

JOE COUNTRY: PAGE TURNING MURDERER OF SLEEP

Consider yourself kidnapped, held hostage, spirited away, your time ransomed.

Welcome to JOE COUNTRY where you are kept captive by a compulsively readable narrative that sweeps in like a rattlesnake and fangs it for over four hundred fabulous pages.

The sixth in the series of so called Slow Horses thrillers, JOE COUNTRY starts ominously with the death of operatives that have so far managed to survive the series. Their identities are kept secret, however, another layer of suspense heaped on by author Mick Herron, that wicked agent of insomnia and page turning acceleration.

The surging confidence in its storytelling swathed in bright shafts of dry wit makes JOE COUNTRY the equal of its predecessors, a sustained and seething thriller that walks both sides of Spook Street on a tightrope of intrigue, espionage and subterfuge.

I could divulge the plot but then you would have to kill me for spoiling the exhilarating thrill of the story, a narrative that capers, strides, bucks and gallops through every provocative page, peppered with acerbic, sometimes appallingly politically incorrect diatribes by the Slow Horses squadron leader, the incongruously named, Jackson Lamb.

Lamb leads to the slaughter any vestige of sensitivity to his employees, his diatribes unfiltered truth serums roughly injected by needle sharp invective.

In JOE COUNTRY, the bread of espionage is leavened with the circuses of violent spectacle, hazard seasoned with humour, real world politik enlivened with a pervasive imagination.

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger is an annual award given by the British Crime Writers’ Association for best thriller of the year. It is given to a title that fits the broadest definition of the thriller novel; these can be set in any period and include, but are not limited to, spy fiction and/or action/ adventure stories. Ian Fleming said there was one essential criterion for a good thriller – that “one simply has to turn the pages”; this is one of the main characteristics that the judges will be looking for.

Judges look no further.

JOE COUNTRY by MICK HERRON is published by John Murray.

DANCING UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKIES BY VALERIE LAWSON

This is a fascinating ,enthralling book extensively researched and vividly written by renowned dance critic and journalist Valerie Lawson . Lawson uses letters, interviews and personal anecdotes from dancers, directors, impresarios , producers, and critics to bring the history and characters alive . The horrendous drain of one night stands on the exhausting long tours ! The backstage scandals and dramas!

With a forward by David McAllister of the Australian Ballet , and a well laid out table of contents , the book while large and heavy is beautifully illustrated and also includes a terrific bibliography and helpful index at the back .

The preface briefly acknowledges the very early history of ballet in Australia but the book really begins with the tours of the famous Anna Pavlova ( with her signature solo ‘The Dying Swan’) in 1926 and then her 1929 tour, where the Taits and JC Williamsons ( ‘The Firm’ ) first feature and we learn how she influenced a young Robert Helpmann. The merits (or lack of) the ballets presented are discussed. Continue reading DANCING UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKIES BY VALERIE LAWSON