Mystery and crime books from Australia. News, views, reviews, releases and author appearances - crime fiction in Australia. Crime novels, mystery novels, detective stories, police procedural books, thrillers and soft-boiled mysteries

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reading: Punter's Luck

A debut novel slipped quietly onto the shelves last year with little or no fanfare. Punter’s Luck by Peter Klein (pub. New Holland Press) is very much in the style of Dick Francis being set in and around the Australian horse-racing industry. Klein is a former strapper and knows the racing scene inside out which stands out in the way he captures the excitement and adrenaline of race day.

The story itself is a very involving thriller in which professional punter and son of a prominent horse trainer, John Punter, gets himself caught up in a missing person case. The missing person is his best friend, a man nicknamed Wombat and on his trail are some mightily pissed off drug dealers who have lost a large sum of money. Inevitably everyone involved has links with one another and the horse-racing industry which drags it all back into Punter’s closer circle.

Punter’s Luck is definitely worth the effort of tracking down and reading. It’s a fast-paced story that contains all of the elements that has made Francis’ books so hugely popular with the added drawcard for Australian readers of having a local flavour.

Friday, October 19, 2007

RIP: Steve J. Spears

I was saddened to hear of the death of Australian playwright turned crime novelist Steve J. Spears. Spears passed away in his home in South Australia last Tuesday, succumbing to lung cancer and a brain tumour. He wrote numerous plays including his most notable being the award-winning The Elocution of Benjamin Franklin which earned him international recognition. He also wrote many scripts for television shows and children’s books.

Over the last few years, though, he wrote detective novels in a series titled The Pentangeli Papers featuring wannabe actress private detective Stella Pentangeli and the brilliant Inspector Ng. According to the Wakefield Press website, Steve was planning on writing 13 books for the series but the count only made it to book 3.

All 3 books bear the hallmark Spears wit and humour making them highly entertaining books to read, not to mention well-crafted mysteries to boot.

The 3 books of The Pentangeli Papers are:
Murder At the Fortnight (2003)
Murder By Manuscript (2004)
Innocent Murder (2005)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Outpost - Issue 5 Released

It has been a year and The Outpost, a crime and mystery zine of short stories from Down Under continues to keep on keeping on. Issue 5 has just been released and once again there are 8 new stories ready to go.

As with the last issue, there appears to be a bit of preponderance of stories based around familial revenge. I don't know what's going on in and around the 'burbs of Australia, but in the minds of our authors there's a heap of payback for cheating so and so's.

To get your quarterly fill of the short stuff from Australia you can check this little lot out...

The Clough Family by Ross Duffy
Night Fever by Breanda Cross
Both Sides of the Same Coin by F.N. Karmatz
The Camp Three Incident by Malcolm Reid
Typhoid Mary by David Walker
Suspicions Aroused by Kerry Ashwin
Second Guess by Christian Fennell
A Buzzing In the Air by S. M. Chianti

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hook, Line and Sinker by Susan Geason

It’s a good news day today. I’ve just been told that there has been a 4th Syd Fish detective novel written. Not only that, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and, it would seem, the short-sightedness of Australia’s publishers, we have the opportunity to enjoy the 4th Syd Fish detective novel for nix.

Back in the early 1990s, author Susan Geason introduced us to the Sydney-based private detective who featured in 3 books (Shaved Fish, Dogfish and Shark Bait). It looked as though the sleuth with his sharp wit and diverse array of connections was here for a long stay, but he disappeared after the 3rd book and hasn’t been seen since.

That is, until now.

It seems that Geason wrote a 4th book titled Hook, Line and Sinker that was completed in 2001. Incredibly though, she was unable find a publisher for Syd Fish IV. Instead, the book is available for download in its entirety from Susan’s website. (Just click on the book's title above)

And if the opening paragraph is anything to go by, we're in for another lively Syd Fish adventure:

To avoid the axe murderer on the loose in Kings Cross, I kept to the main streets on my way to Victoria Street to lunch with Lizzie Darcy. It was a perfect Sydney summer’s day: the smog levels were miraculously below hazardous; there was no bushfire smoke, and the graceful plane trees were in full leaf. Only the sight of all those perfect, tanned blond backpackers doing nothing soured the experience.
I would also encourage you to go back and experience the tight plotting and lurid Kings Cross atmosphere of the earlier Syd Fish by hunting down copies of Shaved Fish, Dogfish and Shark Bait. After that, you might like to try the cracking stand-alone thriller Wildfire.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Reading: Bleak Spring by Jon Cleary

While reading Bleak Spring by Jon Cleary it occurred to me just how dramatically attitudes and accepted standards have changed over the last 10 to 15 years. Remember now, I’m a guy and my observations are coming from a guy’s perspective so perhaps I’m about to be howled down because you feel things haven’t changed terribly much in your opinion – and that’s cool, but my feeling is that we’ve moved on significantly to the point where the attitudes portrayed in Bleak Spring are outdated.

‘I know that!’ snapped the magistrate, giving him the edge of her tongue as if he were her dumb husband. ‘I take it there’s someone here from the DPP then? There’d better be.’
‘Here ma’am.’ Another woman appeared: crumbs, thought Malone, the bloody law is becoming cluttered with them.

This is merely one example of numerous times that the role of women were either commented on disparagingly or else women were portrayed in their “proper” place – in the kitchen, ready to make a cup of tea for their lord and master.

The idea of Scobie Malone commenting on how the "place is becoming cluttered" with women really got me thinking about the series and I started to think back over all the books I have read so far, and I can't for the life of me remember a female police officer in any significant role. Hardly reflective of modern Australian society.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Inside the Mind of Shane Maloney

See what happens if you mooch around the internet long find yet another brilliantly entertaining interview with Shane Maloney. Well, that's what happened tonight anyway.

Lucinda Schmidt (The Sydney Morning Herald & The Age) has collared Maloney and wrung a first rate profile out of the creator of Murray Whelan that should inspire hope for budding authors everywhere who are trying to get published.

Shane explains how his first manuscript (Stiff) was saved from the Text Publishing slush pile by publisher Michael Heywood, single-handedly saving the publishing company from financial ruin.

The story works it's way through to a snappy question / answer section that defines Maloney's clever wit to a tee.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quoting : Maelstrom by Michael MacConnell

As I said earlier, I finished reading Maelstrom by Michael MacConnell yesterday and found it to be a whirlwind ride, a serial killer story with a difference. I'll just chuck a few quotes from the book out there to let you get acquainted with a few of the characters and MacConnell's style.

Where better to start than with the opening paragraph which puts us in a car with...

The (toey) prey...

Terry pressed his foot down harder on the accelerator. Beside him, his girlfriend Janice slept soundly, oblivious to her boyfriend's reckless abandonment of the speed limit. While he normally paid little attention to road rules, today he had good reason to arrive at their destination speedily. Having made him wait more than 12 months - at last, at long last - Terry Chambers was going to screw Janice Falsom.

Terry didn't know it yet but he and Janice Falsom were already screwed...

So, on to The Killer and a chilling description of a guy with whom you get the impression is not going to be particularly receptive to pleas for mercy...

He was a chameleon. He moved, killed, and then moved again. He had no need for frivolous, specific or bizarre rituals. He borrowed the means from those his research had lead him to. The Violet-Eyed Man's motivation was simple - he liked to kill. After decades of introspection, it was the only conclusion he had been able to reach regarding his true nature. The means itself wasn't important.

Then there's the difference I was talking about, these guys provide the X-factor that quickly drew me into the the story, they are The Hunters...

Sarah could turn her head just enough to see another stranger approaching them, this time from the direction of the burning truck. although physically he looked nothing like the man who had tazered her - the man he had called Bates - he was, at the same time, exactly like him in ways that were less tangible. Sarah, stunned but still focused, noticed his nondescript outdoorsman's clothing, his loose walk, the way he scanned the surrounding area without seeming to, and the restrained menace in his fluid movements.
They were predators.

The protagonist of Maelstrom is FBI agent Sarah Reilly, daughter of Harry Reilly a legend within the Bureau...

He was fifty-one years old and his body was still thickly muscled, primarily from a youth spent in the coal mines of South Jersey. On top of his square-shaped Irish-American head were more dark hairs than there were grey and his green eyes still had a youthful twinkle that could make the ladies giggle and blush. He had a wonderful daughter, Sarah who - after having graduated with a degree in Criminalistics from Notre Dame - had finished first in her class at the FBI academy at Quantico. Most significantly in his life, he had Louise. His wife put up with his countless eccentricities and annoying habits and put him in his place if he got too cocky.

Michael has fed me few juicy tidbits about himself but I still haven't gotten around to updating his page with any details. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about Michael and his activities you can visit his website.

Football Season's Over, Bring On Summer

Well, now that the footie season is over we can anticipate the start of the local cricket season. And while I was disappointed to watch Collingwood go down by less than a goal to the Cats in the Qualifying Final, at least we can hold our heads high, proud in the knowledge that we put in for the entire 4 quarters. I mean, we could have been absolutely humiliated by, say, 119 points or something. Congratulations to Geelong who thoroughly deserved to win the 2007 AFL premiership.

Anyhow, my wandering attention can now return to the upkeep of the Crime Down Under blog and website which has been drifting like a Russell Robertson kick.

So what's coming up at Crime Down Under? Buggered if I know, but here's a dot-pointed list of my grand plans over the next week or so.

  • I have begun re-reading Peter Corris' Cliff Hardy series and will be posting a series that will lay each of his books absolutely bare under a barrage of microsopic examination. Naturally, I'll be starting with The Dying Trade which, I notice, I haven't reviewed yet - but that will change mark my words.
  • The new issue of The Outpost is nearing completion and will be released in a matter of days - if you haven't read Issue 4, now's your chance.
  • I'm also preparing my report on the October New Releases, but if you want a sneak peek you can find them on the What's New page of my website.
  • I have just posted my review of Maelstrom by Michael MacConnell. In a shameful display of cross-pollination I will be posting it here next weekend.
  • I have recently discovered a couple of newly released books that I somehow missed in my travels through the www. I shall now proceed to name them and will expand upon them later...ready? The Dog Trap by Jame McLean (Little Lantana Productions) and The Lost Dog by Michelle De Kretser (Allen & Unwin).

So hang onto your hats, we're on the downhill run to Christmas, the sledging has already begun in India and I can't guarantee there won't be some words of "friendly advice" handed out around here too.