Books & Writing

Bill Bryson – Observations on Life and the Human Body

Best known for his wickedly sassy travel books, Bill Bryson undertook the gigantean task of providing a layman’s take on science in the best-selling A Short History of Nearly Everything. For the past three years Bill Bryson has been taking a good long look at the human body. The result – his latest soon-to- be-released tome The Body; A Guide for Occupants.

Bill Bryson returns to Australia and New Zealand in September for a series of stage events in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland, titled Bill Bryson – Observations on Life and the Human Body, Live on Stage, presented by Lateral Events. Tickets went on sale on Friday 1 March at 12 noon. Continue reading Bill Bryson – Observations on Life and the Human Body


Author Katherine Kovacic

Art dealer and accidental sleuth, Alex Clayton made quite a splash last year in her debut adventure, THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN. A follow up caper was much anticipated and with PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS, author Katherine Kovacic has followed through.

Whereas THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN was a split narrative between Melbourne in 1999 and Melbourne circa 1930, PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS follows a single narrative stream which provides a narrower palette.

The setting is the early 21st Century, a couple of years on from her previous adventure, and involves murder and forgery, an ancient curse and a little known Brett Whitely.

The curse belongs to Edwin Landseer’s Man Proposes, God Disposes, a grizzly polar bear painting that is damaged when a packer has a turn. Credence for the curse is consolidated when conservator Meredith Buchanan carks it while repairing the canvas.

Alex and her cohort, art conservator, John Porter want to know the why and wherefore of Meredith’s demise, and the questions come up with some blood stained answers, mingled in the mess of Alizarin Crimson.

A whodunit romp through the avarice and exploitation in the art world,
PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS wears its scholarship – both art and veterinary – with fine, light strokes.

Kovacic sheds light on Alex’s backstory and teases out more of her relationship with John. And there’s ample time with Alex’s pooch, Hogarth.

A study in nice people with nasty streaks, people who aren’t bad for nothing, PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS is a worthy sequel to The Portrait of Molly Dean, a stand alone plot-boiler but also a terrific teaser for a series to follow.

PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS by Katherine Kovacic is published by Echo


“There is a gap in Australian theatre history, which often leaps from the huge one-off success of Ray Lawler’s classic, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll in 1957 to the emergence, at the end of the 1960s, of the ‘New Wave” in Australian theatre, a period when Australian writing and a distinctive Australia style dominated local stages for the first time. Few commentators have paid any attention to the immediately preceding period, however: it is though artists of the New Wave swelled up from nowhere.”

So write Robyn Dalton and Laura Ginters, two commentators who give rightful and detailed attention to the decade that produced the architects of the New Wave, undergraduates and recent graduates of Sydney University who were transforming drama on campus and the wider community.

Their book, THE RIPPLES BEFORE THE NEW WAVE, is an informed and fascinating read, a sweeping saga of a massive swell of ambition, audacity and talent that powered the surge of creativity and cultural transformation we benefit from today.

The authors argue that this group had a bigger influence on Australian cultural life than any single group before or since, and when you see the roll call, there seems little doubt. Among their number are Clive James, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Robert Hughes, Mungo MacCallum, Madeleine St John, Les Murray, Bob Ellis, Eva Cox, Richard Brennan, Jill Kitson and Leo Schofield. Continue reading THE RIPPLES BEFORE THE NEW WAVE: DRAMA AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY 1957-63


Vitreous humour takes on a whole new definition in HUNTER, Jack Heath’s eye popping sequel to Hangman, the delicious debut of his anthropophagus shamus, Timothy Blake.

After severing ties with the FBI, Blake is currently employed as a body disposal agent for Charlie Warner, queen bee king pin crime boss of Houston, Texas. Blake’s biz is making evidence inadmissible by turning it edible.                  Continue reading HUNTER: SIZZLING SEQUEL TO HANGMAN


George Bernard Shaw, using Colonel Pickering as his mouthpiece in the play, Pygmalion, says: “There’s always something professional about doing a thing superlatively well.”
Guess that qualifies Thom Jones posthumous collection of stories, NIGHT TRAIN, professional.

These new and selected stories are superlatively well written, muscular, sinewy, tooth and claw ferocious, and sometimes, deeply, darkly hilarious.                    Continue reading NIGHT TRAIN: NEW & SELECTED STORIES BY THOM JONES


Richard James Allen


Hot off the press from the University of Western Australia Publishing comes this wonderful book, THE SHORT STORY OF YOU AND I, the latest by Richard James Allen .

Allen is an Australian born poet whose writing has appeared widely in journals, anthologies, and online over many years. Former Artistic Director of the Poets Union, Inc., he has written ten books of poetry and edited a national anthology of writing for performance. Richard is also well known for his multi-award-winning career as a filmmaker and choreographer with The Physical TV Company and as a performer in a range of media and contexts.                   Continue reading THE SHORT STORY OF YOU AND I



Farce and furious, Nakkiah Lui’s seriously side splitting BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE is now published, so audiences who relished seeing it on stage can now revisit this comic gem in print form.
Race is front and centre in BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE wrapped in an intelligent rom com package.

In a Guess Who’s coming To Dinner race reversal, sharp legal practitioner Charlotte brings home her affianced, meek musician, Francis, to meet her folks, Ray and Joan, Aboriginal activists now settled into a comfy middle class affluence.

Also in attendance is Charlotte’s sister Rose and her husband, Sonny.

It’s Christmas, but both Ray and Rose are definitely not dreaming of a white Christmas.

Further strain is applied to the occasion by the invitation to, and reluctant acceptance of, Francis’ parents, Dennison and Marie, white middle class conservatives.

What ensues is a festive season frisson where secrets, lies, and inconvenient truths surface in a rollicking fusion of ethics, ethnicity, race, culture, gender, sexuality, music and dance.
Lui’s script sparkles with acute personality and social observation, measured malapropism, affectionate nod to rom com tropes and all the fun and frenzy of food fight.

Charlotte is a champion character, juggling a journey arc that navigates pre nuptial euphoria with filial disaffection. Her falling for the awfully awkward Francis, who takes his foot from his mouth only to use it as a shovel to dig a deeper hole, is endearingly true to rom com tropes because it is true to life.

Ray and Joan are wonderful as the oil and water couple, he brash and self centred – “Ray, you’re giving your ego a hard on” admonishes Joan after a speechifying tirade – while she is centred and openly embracing.

Again, Lui depicts the opposites attract and compliment truth of human relationships.

Ray’s Martin Luther King complex blinds him to Joan’s colossal contribution to his success on the political stage, a success based on Joan’s speech-writing prowess.

Charlotte is much closer to her mother in temperament and personality, whereas Rose is the strident anti Colonial clone of her father, a fashionista with a racial purity agenda. Her affable hubby, Sonny, is the epitome of his character’s name, sharing the same philanthropic values as Charlotte.

Francis’ parents are a comic treat -Dennison is a stitched up white bred, white bread emotion-phobe whose neglect of wife and son are coming home to roost, while Marie is fey and deftly daffy,on her own Road to Damascus and character epiphany.

There’s a cheeky Puckishness in the device of Narrator, a singular chorus of background briefing and astute observance.
BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE is a joyous, jolly jape with some gentle jabs and a knock out delivery.

BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE by Nakkiah Lui is published by Allen & Unwin


Some of the Leonard the Lyrebird: A Musical Story team: Teije Hylkema, Jodie McLeod, Grace Kim and Ian Munro

LEONARD THE LYREBIRD – A MUSICAL STORY, will be onstage for the first time ever in the exciting and beautiful surrounds of  Scenic World in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains.

original composition by acclaimed composer Ian Munro based on the children’s book, Leonard the Lyrebird.  Written by Jodie McLeod and illustrated by Eloise Short, both Blue Mountains locals, Leonard the Lyrebird is a popular Australian bush animal story about friendship and bravery that connects children and their families with the Blue Mountains. Continue reading LEONARD THE LYREBIRD- A MUSICAL STORY AT SCENIC WORLD. GIVEAWAY WITH RIDES!.


“Have you fallen in with a mad cast of plucky, down at heel characters?” asks a surprising antagonist in Patrick de Witt’s surprising and delightful new novel, FRENCH EXIT.

The query comes from a cat, which gives this hilariously biting satire a touch of the mog magicals, a feline flourish that fuels the narrative and keeps it purring.

Think Auntie Mame out of Edward St Aubyn’s Melrose saga, FRENCH EXIT is the kind of book that sparks envy in other writers, procurement by motion picture producers, and competition from actors hoping to play these characters and wrap their mouths around the glorious dialogue. Continue reading FRENCH EXIT: AN EXIT WORTH ESCAPING THROUGH


To some Australians Shane Warne is a legend but others see him as deeply flawed. To set the record straight  and dispel some of these  views, Shane Warne has written his pull no punches autobiography, NO SPIN. Some will be interested in his cricketing career including the co called Ball Of The Century to dismiss Mike Gatting as well as his history making 700th Test wicket. The  Sultan of Spin also sheds light on the art of leg-spin bowling, unveiling how he delivered some of his most potent deliveries.

Then there is the other Shane Warne, with scandal involving the use of a diuretic pill in South Africa, and allegations of links to Indian cricket betting. After pledging  that he would not smoke there is the busting of this pledge by a schoolboy. There are his hair restorative commercials and of-course his magazine page filling relationship with Elizabeth Hurley. Shane Warne’s book does not shy away from  any of these controversies, facing them head-on. Continue reading SHANE WARNE’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY : NO SPIN


Move over Phryne Fisher, there’s a new female investigator on the block and she’s just as stunning, sassy and a dogged sleuth for the truth.

Allusions to Phryne Fisher may be a slight furphy as the sassy sleuth is actually late 20th Century, indeed, on the cusp of the new millennium, but the murder she’s investigating is Fisher familiar 1930 Melbourne, dripping with Bohemian rhapsodies and crooked cop concertos.

Strike the musical allusions, because THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN is concerned with the painterly precinct of the arts end of the world.

Author Katherine Kovacic, veterinarian turned art historian, has as her heroin, Alex Clayton, a savvy art dealer whose pickup of a portrait by Colin Colahan thrusts her into a seventy year old murder mystery where the clues are in the canvas and the canvassing of the suspects, then and now, create clear and present dangers.

The narrative is split between two time frames, 1930 when the murder was committed and 1999 when Alex Clayton conducts her cold case investigation. It’s a bold stroke choice and Kovacic pulls it off with panache, painting a dazzling portrait of Molly Dean and her world as well as delivering a delicious depiction of Alex Clayton and her accomplices and acquaintances.

The period placements are beautifully evocative of the time Melbournites had Meldrumites at the vanguard of the city’s Bohemian culture, setting the real, the rich and the wretched, environment Molly Dean lived and dreamed, and tragically died.

Kovacic’s plotting, pacing and economy combined with an erudite, educational and entertaining exactness in art appreciation churns through this dual narrative, doubling the pleasure, doubling the fun, in a compulsively page turning romp.

Kovacic’s eye for art is matched by her ear for dialogue, and the repartee between Alex and her pal, the art conservator, John Porter, puts the spar into sparkling, with a rich palette of patter and persiflage. More Mulder and Scully than Holmes and Watson, it’s a partnership of professional regard and genuine affection.

THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN is a palimpsest of a plot, taking a factual murder and overlaying it with a fictional patina of resolution in a most satisfying, accomplished, witty and gripping piece of story telling, artfully done.

A sequel, Painting in the Shadows, is slated for publication next March, so now is the time to prime yourself for what will hopefully be an exciting new series of jaunty capers.

THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN by Katherine Kovacic is published by Echo