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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Alibi by Sydney Bauer - The Reading Note Follow-Up

In my previous post about Alibi by Sydney Bauer I was halfway through the book with hopes that it would deliver on the early promises, well...

I have now finished Alibi by Sydney Bauer and thought it would be best to follow up my initial reading notes post. I’m pleased to report that the second half of the book was everything I hoped it would be and more. The anticipated courtroom drama takes place as expected and unfolds as only a battle between lawyers who genuinely don’t like each other can.

There are all sorts of tension-filled dramas going on at the same time, all of which are held together under a tight rein...

And what an ending. You don’t want me to even hint about it so there’s little else to say except…what an ending!

Now that I’ve finished the book I can safely say that Alibi is now my favourite of the 3 Sydney Bauer legal thrillers I’ve read so far.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reading Notes : Alibi by Sydney Bauer

I’m just over midway through the new legal thriller by Sydney Bauer titled Alibi (published by Pan Macmillan Australia), which is due to be released April, 2008, so I’ll give you a few of my thoughts and reactions to whet your appetites.

Bear in mind, I have reached a stage in the book where there are numerous possible suspects to choose from, a trial is about to begin that promises to be extremely fiery and an overseas human rights issue is building, so I’m pretty “into it” at the moment.

Firstly, Alibi is Sydney Bauer’s 3rd novel following Undertow and Gospel. All three books are legal thrillers featuring Boston attorney David Cavanaugh. Undertow recently took out the Davitt Award for Best Crime Novel by an Australian Woman in 2006.

Within the first couple of paragraphs of Alibi both Undertow and Gospel are summarised briefly to give those who have read the earlier books a brief refresher and those who haven’t, a short rundown of David Cavanaugh’s credentials.

All of the principal characters have returned in Alibi: Cavanaugh, of course; Sara Davis, his colleague and girlfriend; Lieutenant Joe Mannix; Detective Frank McKay. Also returning is Cavanaugh’s antagonist, the arrogant, smug, over-ambitious, easy-to-hate ADA Roger Katz. (Just finished a particularly enjoyable little confrontation between the two combatants, as a matter of fact).

Setting the Scene

Nineteen year old Deane University student Jessica Nagoshi has been strangled to death and left in the garden of her family home. She is the daughter of a billionaire Japanese businessman so the murder is very high profile and the despised Roger Katz is anxious to have someone arrested and convicted as quickly as possible – next year is an election year, after all.

The arrest is made and David Cavanaugh is on hand to represent a man he is sure is innocent.

As for possible guilty parties at least 3 are tossed into the mix, each of them are credible and each of them have jumped to the top of my suspect least at one stage or another.

My Own Impressions

Alibi has succeeded in hooking me, well and truly, with the prospect of an emotion-charged courtroom stoush if the offing. The lead up has been engrossing thanks to the vast array of scenarios that have been set up.

The first 150 pages had me in mind of the television show Law And Order with the police doing their bit tracking down suspects, interviewing witnesses and friends and putting together some sort of case to make an arrest. The only difference here is that even the police, who are supposed to be on the District Attorney’s side, hate Roger Katz. So you’ve got a situation in which antagonism and resentment pretty much rules the day.

As I said earlier, I haven’t finished the book, so I can’t exactly proclaim it the best that Sydney Bauer has written just yet, but it’s definitely heading that way. It moves as smoothly as anything John Grisham writes and is full of the kinds of hidden complexities that marks Scott Turow’s legal thrillers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Broken Shore is still Winning People Over

It's a rare book that can take someone from the impression that "this is not for me" right through to "Temple has gone onto my must read list", but that's exactly the impact that Peter Temple's The Broken Shore has had at Table Talk as part of the blog's Awards Project.

In one of the more articulate reviews of the book I have read the reviewer gets straight to the crux of what makes Peter Temple's books so darn readable, his social commentary and insight and his compelling use of language.

Peter Temple has that ability to take you from indifference to devotion in the space of around 350 pages.

By the way, it's worth visiting the Table Talk blog just to enjoy the serene uncluttered orderliness of a very nicely designed and presented blog. I really enjoyed my visit there.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Reading Notes : Harum Scarum by Felicity Young

Harum Scarum is the third crime novel by Felicity Young. The first two are titled A Certain Malice (pub. Creme de la Crime) & An Easeful Death (pub. Fremantle Press).

This is the second Detective Stevie Hooper book and is the sequel to An Easeful Death.

Set in Perth, Australia.

Protagonist is Detective Sergeant Stevie Hooper who worked in the Serious Crimes Squad in the first book but now has moved across to the Sex Crimes, Cyber Predator Team.

One of the reasons she has moved out of Serious Crimes is that her old squad is headed by Inspector Monty Maguire with whom Stevie is in a relationship. The back story to Stevie and Monty's relationship is a little convoluted and was played out in An Easeful Death (so get it and read it) but in a nutshell, Monty grew up with Stevie’s family on a property in WA. They were close friends growing up but only recently accepted that their mutual attraction was more than just friendship. Not surprisingly they have issues.

Notable Plot Points From the Book

  • Stevie arrests a cyber predator who has set up a face to face meeting with the young girl he thought he had been chatting with.

  • Bianca Webster runs to the park hoping to meet Daniel, a boy she has been chatting to on-line. She meets a man instead.

  • Detective Inspector Monty Maguire is called to a crime scene. A young girl’s body has been found thrown in a dumpster. She has been raped and then asphixiated.

  • A suspect in the murdered girl case is found shot to death in his car.

  • There’s an important link connecting the shooting death and an earlier murder.

  • Child abuse and paedophilia runs through the story, grimly joining all the threads together.

There's a lot going on here with an on-line paedophile ring in operation around the Perth area, preying on young girls through a type of fan site. The murders that take place look completely unrelated on the surface but the mere fact they are mentioned in the book tell us there's more to them than is first represented. The question is: how are they related?

Complementing the well-crafted plot, which has been constructed with noticeable attention to detail, Felicity Young also makes sure the relationship between Stevie and Monty progresses satisfactorily. There is a definite hint that there will be another book to come involving these characters.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reading Notes : The CEO by Peter Ralph

Let's see how this goes. I've been jotting down a few notes, thoughts, what have you while I've been reading lately. I'll throw them out there for you, perhaps it might help you to decide whether you want to read it yourself.

The CEO is the second novel by Peter Ralph, his first being Collins Street Whores (published by SidHarta Books).

Here is a crime novel that was released in 2007 by small publisher Melbourne Books to little or no fanfare. I managed to track down a copy a couple of weeks ago and have a very enjoyable time reading about the high-powered, dirty dealing and outright greed emanating from a large company's CEO.

This is a book that is worth tracking down for the outrageous behaviour of Douglas Aspine, the clever wheelings and dealings that are carried out and the brilliant case of poetic justice that marks the ending.

I'll take one quote out of the book that describes the main character, Douglas Aspine to a tee:

He's an overbearing bully, earning a fortune to tear a company to pieces, in the
name of downsizing and profit. He's a typical CEO.

We first meet Douglas Aspine as he walks into his bank hoping to extend a personal loan. He's already in debt to the eyeballs and his $400,000 salary just isn't stretching far enough to meet his expenses. Unsurprisingly, the loan application is flatly refused and he's left with a seething resentment towards the bank officer who refused him and a burning need to pick up one of the many CEO positions for which he has applied.

Surprise, surprise, one of the applications is successful and suddenly, Douglas Aspine's future looks does his personal wealth. In a move that is typically Douglas Aspine's he immediately rubs his success in the noses of i) his former boss who'd just sacked him and, 2) the bank loans officer.

Aspine then proceeds to methodically screw over every single person he comes in contact with as he seeks to ensure that his bank balance will be as fat as possible. The line of enemies he makes for himself includes his company board, his secretary, his mistress, his wife, his stockbroker, his children, his former bank manager.

In fact, when it comes time to try to decide exactly who is going to seek revenge on the bastard, we're spoilt for choice. How Peter Ralph chooses to do it is inspired, it must be said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We Have Just Begun to Snapshot

Consider the last week of Australian Crime Snapshot interviews merely Part I. Perry (Matilda), Karen (AustCrime) and I are already compiling a list for a second round with authors we either were unable to contact this time or who were out and about at various Literary Festivals or meeting publisher deadlines.

As a matter of fact, if there's anyone out there thinking: "Hey, I wrote a crime book recently and no-one asked me which make believe character should my make believe character meet" then give us a hoy. Your keenly considered thoughts will look quite good next to all the other thoughts that are considered keen.

Round 2 will be hitting our blogs in a few months after we've given ourselves a chance to take a breath, check our lsits and hound some more unsuspecting authors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - James Phelan

1. With two Lachlan Fox thrillers now out, FOX HUNT and PATRIOT ACT, and global terror warnings beamed into our loungerooms every night, do you find yourself spoilt for choice with possible storylines to give him?

With the end of the Cold War, quite a few thriller writers at my end of the genre were left scratching their heads looking for a new enemy to write about. Since S11, yes, there's plenty more fodder for us writers but it's also a situation that requires much more delicacy and finesse. Gone are the days when we could write about 'black hat' wearing bad guys up against a force we knew was good, ie the Yanks or Brits. These days, we constantly see footage on the internet and on TV of horrific things occurring in the Mid East, Africa, and closer to home. We now have a much more cynical view of our own political leaders who have been proved time and time again of lying to us. So, yes, there are now plenty more plausible storylines out there, it's just a matter of getting the right balance between producing an entertaining read and staying true to the circumstances we are living in. Some might say "this is fiction, leave truth at the door" but for me, the most powerful element of writing a thriller is that it is a snapshot of the time and place that I am writing about.

2. After 2 books Lachlan Fox has become established as a higly trained operative who can be relied on to respond to just about any emergency. Are there more global threats out there that will require his expertise?

There certainly are many more global hot spots and threats out there for me to write about. The third novel is about an oil crisis in Nigeria, and the fourth is about fresh water scarcity in India. On the first of March I finished the third Lachlan Fox novel, BLOOD OIL, and we see in greater depth how his post traumatic stress disorder is ruling his life. We see early on that Fox has the skills that come with being an ex-special forces operative, and soon realise that he's ready to snap. When an incident compounds something that has been haunting Fox since serving in Iraq, his quest becomes a path of revenge and redemption, and as we turn the pages we can see that he's getting closer and closer to going a step too far. And he just might... you'll have to read the book to find out.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

Half the novels that I read are written by Australians, and I am very deliberate about that and what I buy when in a bookstore. Many crime and thriller novelists here and overseas are my friends, so sorry if I am offending any friends here by listing some local standouts of the past twelve months (those that I can remember!): The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham, Maelstrom by Michael MacConnell, Shattered by Gabriel Lord, Chain of Evidence by Garry Disher, Sucked In by Shane Maloney, The Broken Shore by Peter Temple.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

Overseas we do okay - it's a gobalised marketplace and a pretty even playing field. Here at home, there could be more done to promote Aussie authors. Again, I have the opinion that we are in a marketplace where book sales will, over an author's career, equate to the quality of their work. That said, it would be great to see more retailers and publishers really pushing the novels written by Australian authors. We have authors here who are as good if not better than any import, and that's something that should be seen and heard when you go into a bookstore. I know that there are many readers here who are not aware of many Australian authors simply because there's not enough done to create that awareness. Which is sad, because there's some great books getting little to no attention, and the authors are right here on hand ready to promote them. How is the bigger situation fixed? We should all do more to promote and sell Australian novels, and by we I mean the publisher, retailer, media, government (how much do the state and federal governments spend on supporting the film industry?) and the authors. We would all benefit from more Aussie titles selling, and readers would be all the better for it - you know: smarter, happier, healthier, funnier, sexier... Seriously though, it's a big topic and one where we readers can make an impact right now by buying more Aussie fiction.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

In my novels I often have my lead character Lachlan Fox meet many real-life people, so that's always fun. Still no lawsuits have come my way, which is nice. During dialogue in my novels Fox makes references to heaps of fictional characters and I prefer to make fun of James Bond and Jason Bourne as fictional characters than as "real people". Besides, I'm sure we all know that if it really came to it that Fox had to fight Bourne or Bond, he'd kick their arses.

James Phelan is the author of the fast action Lachlan Fox thrillers mentioned in the interview. You can read more about him and his work by clicking on his name.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Mark Abernethy

1. Do you find yourself scouring newspapers, watching the evening news and reading Internet news sites picking up likely future plots? Golden Serpent was such a full-on action thriller, yet given world events over the last few years, no scenario seems too outrageous any more. Do you find that frees you up or make you feel more restricted?

Yes, all of my stories comes from the media and all of my characters are based either on people I’ve read about or people I know. In Golden Serpent the head bad guy is Abu Sabaya, from Mindanao. He is real as is the story that he was gunned down by Philippines and US commandos in 2002; 10 days later, a priest on one of the islands in the Sulu chain told a newspaper that Sabaya was still alive because he’d seen him walking around. And from there came an idea for a book… But I don’t scour the media for stories I just sort of absorb them. I also read a lot of the boring stuff: the Senate inquiries, the house committee reports, the judicial inquiries and the auditor general’s reports. Mostly these things are stripped for their news value in the media, but they’re full of gems if you can be bothered. I find that sticking closely with the truth frees me up because it’s more fun to write about the way things are than creating an alternative world.

2. GOLDEN SERPENT introduced us to a very complicated character in Alan "Mac" McQueen. There appears to be a lot more to discover about him. Is there a follow-up on the horizon? What's in store for him?

Alan McQueen is going round for another go in August of 2008, in a sequel to Golden Serpent. Can’t say too much at this stage but he’s still in south east Asia and Australia and his life has become more complicated than it was last time. But there’s still very bad people trying to do terrible things. Then there’s a third Alan McQueen book for 2009. One of the fun things about this character is that he is complex (as most of us are) and that allows lots of scope for how he deals with people.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I don’t read as much Aussie crime fiction as I’d like, mostly because I’m always reading government reports and non-fiction books. My standouts are Melbourne-based investigator-fiction: the Jack Irish series is a lot of fun and also very smart; and I like Leigh Redhead’s PI, Simone Kirsch, who has to be one of the funniest characters in Australian fiction. One of the things that surprises me about the Melbourne view of the world is the attention to food, clothes and music. These seem to be essential elements of a Melbourne person’s character whereas Sydney is more about how much money or power you can wield in public. I like the state of Aussie crime fiction but it would be nice to see some of these stories made into movies.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

I’m not entirely sure about that. Golden Serpent was my first novel (after 21 years of writing journalism and speeches) and I’m still stoked just to have fan letters which are not a normal result of other types of professional writing. I go to the writers festivals and do the signings and I have to say that they’re so much fun that I forget it’s actually a promotion. Publishers all want to make a return on their authors and I think they are out there doing what they can with the crime fiction.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Probably the first person Alan McQueen would have to deal with would be Jill McBain, the character played by Claudia Cardinale in Once Upon a Time in the West. She’s tough, mysterious, complex, dishonest and beautiful and Mac would fall into her as surely as day turns into night. And as with all the complex, difficult women, he would not have a clue what he’s doing and would end up like the mouse who’s been cornered by a cat. When it comes to male characters, Mac would wander into Elsinore, meet the Prince of Denmark, tell him to stop sniveling and do what he has to do. He’d spin some inspirational story about courage from his rugby league days in Rockhampton. It would be a very short play.

Mark Abernethy's debut thriller Golden Serpent introduced us to Australian spy Alan McQueen and established himself as an author to watch out for. As Mark mentions above, there's more McQueen to look forward to. Read more about him on Mark Abernethy's website.


Read about the current plight of the Desert Nesting Bald Eagle at NerdChop.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Michael Robotham

1. You have utilised an interesting, hmm, shall we say tool(?) with your first 3 novels taking minor characters and using them in subsequent books. This may be a bit chicken and egg but, did you plan it this way or did you see the potential in Ruiz and Alisha Barba only after the earlier book was finished?

I know it sounds like I’m a borderline psychotic, but my characters are as real to me as any living breathing subjects of the books I used to ghostwrite. When I was a ghostwriter, each time I took on a project I got to look at the world through a fresh set of eyes. That’s what I love about shuffling my main characters around and introducing new ones. I never write a character and think I’ll use them again in another book. I let the story idea decide who the narrator should be.

2. You have a new novel that will be published later in the year (Shatter) and it sees the return of Joseph O'Loughlin. He appears to be the type of character that has enormous potential in terms of emotional development. Is this one of the reasons for his return?

The storyline for SHATTER is so dark and confronting, I felt it needed someone like Joe to guide readers safely through it and not leave them traumatised. He has such a wonderful sense of humour and sense of humanity that he lightens up the darkest moments.

It’s been a while since Joe appeared in one of the books. He’s a wonderful character, but sometimes I need to separate myself from the people who inhabit my head. (Imagine spending a year living in a two-man tent with your best friend and you’ll understand what I mean.)

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I tend not to read much crime fiction because I’m frightened of being influenced by other writers. Maybe that’s why my novels are a little different from the mainstream crime novels. Peter Temple is an obvious master storyteller, who is quite rightly respected internationally. THE BROKEN SHORE isn’t just a great crime novel it’s a great novel. Adrian Hyland’s DIAMOND DOVE was a stunning debut.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

I’ve been very fortunate but I realise how difficult it is to make a living as a writer in Australia unless you are published internationally. Getting those deals is the first hurdle. The UK is harder to break than the US because UK publishers want Australian rights and these have normally already gone by the time they see an Australian book. Once you have that deal, you then face the reality that supermarkets dominate the book trade in the UK, making it very difficult to launch new writers because they stock so few titles and the list is dominated by the big names.

Although the US may be an easier place to secure a deal, you risk being the smallest goldfish in the biggest pond - published directly into paperback, ten thousand copies, no promotion, let’s see what happens…

There are so many obstacles it’s hard to know where to begin, but all aspiring writers should concentrate on only one thing - writing the best book possible. Not because it follows a formula or because it’s what they think publishers want - but because it’s what they want to write. Their passion will show through in their words. Once they get the book right, it will be much easier to find a good agent and then a supportive publisher.

Of course, more can always be done to promote Australian authors. Internationally, for example, we should be including writers in events such as the ‘G’DAY LA Australia Week and ‘G’DAY NY Australia Week promotions in America. Authors could also be sponsored to attend literary festivals to promote Australia and their works.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Where did you come up with a question like this? It’s given me nightmares, picturing my fictional characters mingling with other fictional characters. It’s like a breach in the time space continuum - characters walking out of the pages of one book and sneaking into another.

I’ve given it some thought and decided that I’d quite fancy seeing Holden Caulfield from CATCHER IN THE RYE on Joseph O’Loughlin’s couch pouring out his teenage angst about the fakes of phoneys in the world.

Michael Robotham is the author of 4 thrillers, the first titled The Suspect . Michael's second novel, LOST (aka The Drowning Man outside of Australia), won the Ned Kelly Award in 2005 for Best Novel, while his 3rd novel, The Night Ferry was shortlisted for the 2007 CWA Steel Dagger. His latest novel, SHATTER, has been released in the UK and is about to be released elasewhere. Visit Michael Robotham's website for all the details.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Angela Savage

1. Congratulations on the success of Behind The Night Bazaar. Your private detective heroine Jayne Keeney is a devotee of hardboiled crime. Was she based on any hardboiled character or has she been given her own personality? Follow-up: She strikes me as more a resourceful detective rather than forceful, will she be able to continue solo or is she likely to get a sidekick, as we often see with many other series?

It's ironic that my private detective heroine Jayne Keeney is a devotee of hardboiled crime because she's read a few books I haven't! Far from being based on any hardboiled character, she's more like a person I might have been had I made different life choices. That said, I think I've made better choices than Jayne--though whether we'd see eye-to-eye on that is another matter.

When I think of her with a sidekick, I think of it only as a temporary arrangement. Relationships for expatriates tend to be short-lived. Other expatriates come and go, while local people--Thais in this case--have a host of family and other work-life responsibilities that are at often odds with the expatriate lifestyle. An expatriate doesn't make the same commitment to a place that an immigrant does, and Jayne is ethical enough not to set up false expectations or to allow anyone to become dependent on her.

2. There is an undeniably strong sense of place with the Thai setting of Behind the Night Bazaar. Is there any concern that setting future books in the country might affect the appeal to Western readers? Is Jayne going to remain in Thailand?

And here's me thinking the exotic setting is what will appeal to readers! The book was released in German translation in January 2008, which is exciting for me because a lot of Germans travel in Thailand, so much so that German is the first language in several Thai coastal resorts. I'm planning to insert a sympathetic German backpacker into a future novel to repay Germany for being the first to buy the rights to Behind the Night Bazaar outside Australia--a kind of product placement for the whole country...

But to return to your question, Jayne will remain in Thailand for the time being, visa runs to neighbouring countries notwithstanding, though an investigation in Australia is not out of the question.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I've been a member of Sisters in Crime Australia since 1998--my goddess, that's 10 years now!--which has connected me with some great Australian crime fiction. I'm a fan of Kerry Greenwood, Lindy Cameron, Leigh Redhead, Caroline Morwood, and Paddy O'Reilly--though the latter wouldn't describe herself as a crime writer; she just puts crimes in her stories. Beyond the Sisterhood, I read Garry Disher and Shane Maloney and I recently nabbed a copy of The Broken Shore by Peter Temple to take on my overseas sabbatical and see what all the fuss is about. Adrian Hyland's debut novel, Diamond Dove is terrific. Anyone worried about the state of Australian crime fiction should read Scarlet Stiletto - The First Cut for reassurance.

In my limited experience, only having been a published author since mid-2006, the Australian crime fiction scene is characterised by at least as much camaraderie as competition. I feel like I've been welcomed into a family--one only a little more dysfunctional than my own.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

It would be great if local authors got a once-off shot at a weekly column in a major newspaper, or got to write a film or CD review, or showcase a photo, or even got to design the crossword or trivia quiz for a day--anything that gives us exposure and makes people think we might have ideas worth reading about.

I'd also like to see more local content in literary festivals, especially for first-time authors who haven't necessarily been journalists in a past life. And networking opportunities: wouldn't it be great if we feted new authors at social events like we do actors and sports stars (though I personally wouldn't have a thing to wear!).

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

I'd love Jayne Keeney to stumble upon Sherlock Holmes in an opium den in Hanoi--her on a visa run, him indulging in a drug he used in refined form to enhance his understanding of the world. If she could withstand his arrogance and mysogyny, she could learn enough from him to become a truly great detective.

Failing that, I'd like Jayne to end up in an all-night bar in Bangkok with Phillip Marlowe and grill him until he explained what the hell happened in The Big Sleep. And then shag him.

Angela Savage's debut novel, Behind the Night Bazaar was nominated for a Ned Kelly Award. She is currently working on book number 2. You can visit Angela Savage at her website.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Sandy Curtis

1. Your crime thrillers have been strongly relationship based. Do you see this as an important part of establishing a character's personality?

For me, characters are as important as plot, and having my main characters become involved with each other, emotionally and/or physically, exposes aspects of their personality that otherwise might not be revealed. Raise the stakes by placing them in great danger and giving them impossible choices and you soon reach the core of their psyche, and that’s what readers want to see – the strengths, the weaknesses, the flaws that make these characters come to life. Above all else, a writer has to make the reader care about their characters so they want to know what happens to them – then they keep reading.

2. Reading your website I see that you have a finished novel that is without a publisher at the moment. Could you tell us a little about the book and are we any closer to seeing it in bookstores? And are we likely to see any more of Rogan McKay?

In my sixth book, Fatal Flaw, I further explore the character of Mark Talbert, who readers met in Dangerous Deception. Mark is a government agent having doubts about what he wants to do with his life after his narrow escape from death. When his father is murdered, Mark is reunited with his childhood friend, Julie Evans, and finds what has been missing from his life. But Julie’s father, Ray Galloway, is involved with men for whom terrorism is a means to bring about a shocking revenge.

When Mark is ordered to use Julie to get close to Ray in order to find the terrorists, he has to choose between his work and the woman he has come to love.

As Ray’s closest friends are murdered, Mark and Julie realise there is another killer out there. Someone seeking retribution for a past wrong. Someone who will destroy Mark’s belief in the father he respected. Someone who is willing to kill Julie’s son to reach her father.

Fatal Flaw has two main villains, and the most complex of these is Ruth Bellamy. When it comes to Ruth will you ask yourself how do we define good and evil? Or sanity and madness? Will you feel sympathy or condemnation? Especially when the final truth is revealed. And will you wonder if perhaps there’s a little bit of Ruth in each of us?

The wheels are in motion for Fatal Flaw and I hope to see it published soon.

With regard to Rogan McKay, he will probably only appear as a minor character in future novels, though you’ve just given me an idea …

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I’d love to say I’ve read all the latest Aussie crime fiction, but chaos has been the ruling planet in my star sign over the past few months (no, make that a year) and I’m waaay behind in my reading. But I’m definitely a Gabrielle Lord and Kerry Greenwood fan so can recommend their books.

To me it looks as though the Australian crime fiction scene is becoming more diverse as more of the genres cross. Once crime fiction had to fit within the confines of the main characters being cops, PIs, forensic specialists etc but now even chefs and strippers are dealing with the dead and searching for justice.

It’s great to see more groups such as yours putting in so much effort to promote Australian crime fiction, and it’s very much appreciated by authors.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

There was an “Age” article printed years ago that said that Australian authors had to compete with famous overseas authors whose Australian publishers gave them far more promotional opportunities than they did the home-grown folks. Frankly, I think this situation hasn’t changed a great deal.

Perhaps crime writers have to take a leaf or two from the speculative fiction and the romance writers organisations and start having two-to-three day conferences that alternate between capital cities. These generate a lot of publicity and also act as training grounds and networking opportunities for aspiring writers.

Sisters-in-Crime and similar organisations do a great job, but they are very much based in their city of origin and it’s often not financially viable to attend their events unless you live in that particular city. When you unite authors with a common desire, they are more likely to work together to promote their genre and each other, and Lindy Cameron’s new venture is a good example of this.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Well, I think if Rogan McKay met Hannibal Lecter out at sea, Hannibal would be so out of his element that Rogan would have no problem turning him into “Catch of the Day”.

Sandy Curtis is the author of 5 strong thrillers with the latest, Dangerous Deception, having been published in 2005. You can find out more about Sandy Curtis by visiting her website.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

March '08 New Releases

The month of March finds only two new Australian crime/thriller/mystery releases, but both are from authors with terrific credentials who need little introduction. Interestingly both books have come from the same publisher, which obviously means that not a single other publisher in the land have contributed to the genre this month. they are:

Open File by Peter Corris (pub. Allen & Unwin) The latest Cliff Hardy detective novel is a trip back in time as Cliff recalls a case from the 1980s. I haven't picked up my copy of the book yet but, after more than 30 books, it would be safe to assume that Cliff puts himself in the middle of any number of brutal situations.

Murder on the Apricot Coast by Marion Halligan (Allen & Unwin). This is the sequel to the 2006 published The Apricot Colonel. According to the book's blurb, the 2 characters from the earlier book, Cassandra and the colonel are now married but their lives are disrupted by the spectre of murder. From memory, The Apricot Colonel tended towards the cozy end of the crime genre spectrum so it would be reasonable to assume that the sequel will be likewise in tone.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Lindy Cameron

1. You've done the private investigator thing with Kit O'Malley to great success and a couple of Davitt Awards and a Ned Kelly Award, basing the stories largely around the Melboune locale, now you've tackled the action thriller set on a global scale with your latest book REDBACK. What prompted the switch? And how difficult was it to research the diverse locations?

I was getting so annoyed with the way things were going in the War for Terror that I felt it was time to turn my own attention to the wider world, and channel some of my frustration into fiction.

Also Kit’s world is very Melbourne, very Australian and, being a PI crime, also very personal. I wanted to take on the world.

I also wanted to write the kind of book that would enable me to kidnap, assassinate, or at least comment on, our own politicians. The Americans are always making movies and writing thrillers about ‘the President’ – about him being a good guy hero, or a bad guy, or a hostage, or a clone or lying upstairs in a coma while someone impersonates him.

But we Aussies don’t seem to do that with, or to, our PM. So I thought I would; and, while I was at it, have a go at some other world leaders too; not to mention the shit they’ve all got us into lately.

I also love a good spy/adventure/ action story and wanted to write one with an international feel and flavour, but where most of the main characters are Australian.

2. Bryn Gideon strikes me as a character who will feature in a good many more action thrillers to come? Was that the intention when REDBACK was conceived and is that how things are panning out now?

Gideon was born as a series character: as a gutsy, commanding, resourceful modern Australian warrior chick. She’s the lynchpin of Redback and, along with the rest of her crack retrieval team, will be the focus of the sequel, and its sequel, etc.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I read heaps of Aussie crime and thriller fiction; and not just because – as a National Co-Convenor of Sisters in Crime Australia – I should.

Crime fiction in Australia just keeps getting better. We can’t go wrong with writers like PD Martin, Leigh Redhead, Allison Goodman, Kerry Greenwood, Kathryn Fox, Sydney Bauer and Angela Savage, to name a few – and that’s just the girls.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

Anything – something – would be a start! Australian publishers give each new title about two weeks worth of attention on a book’s release. Then they’re onto the next author and book.

Most ‘promotion’ is done by the authors themselves; and by fans who help spread the word. The Internet and sites like yours have been a PR bonus for authors wanting to become known or better known.

Using the internet is really the only way for an author to spread the word outside Australia if they’re only published IN Australia.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Bryn Gideon would love to meet Ripley, Sarah Connor, Xena and Buffy. I doubt I really have to explain that answer.

Lindy Cameron is the author of 3 books featuring Melbourne-based private detective Kit O'Malley - Blood Guilt, Bleeding Hearts and Thicker Than Water. Her first novel, Golden Relic is an epic action adventure while her latest novel, Redback, a first-rate global thriller, is the first of a new series featuring Bryn Gideon. As Lindy mentions above, she is also the National Co-Convenor of Sisters In Crime in Australia. You can read much more about Lindy Cameron by visiting her website.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Peter Corris

1. Cliff Hardy has been an incredibly popular and durable character for you for such a long time (28 years and 32 books). Did you have any inkling that the private detective who visited Bryn Gutteridge in The Dying Trade would still be doing his stuff 28 years later?

No, I had no idea. I wrote The Dying Trade just to see if I could write the kind of recreational fiction I most enjoyed reading at that time. I enjoyed the actual writing so much that I wrote the second book that became White Meat and made a start on the third, The Marvellous Boy, before the first book was published. It took almost five years for The Dying Trade to find a publisher. The McGraw Hill hardback was favourably reviewed; Pan wanted the paperback rights and by then I had two more ready to go. With three published, selling well and attracting attention, I knew that I was on to a good thing – a series. But I never imagined it would run to 30 plus books.

2. What is it that has kept Cliff Hardy so strongly motivated for so long? Do you think he still does it as purely a means of paying the bills or is he the kind of guy who would self destruct if he weren’t kept busy?

In a way Hardy’s career is like mine. I am a compulsive writer, never happier than when I’m doing it, out of sorts when not. Similarly, Hardy found his niche at which he was successful and found satisfaction. I put it this way just to answer the question. I do not think of Hardy as a real person.

3. In the forthcoming Cliff Hardy novel, Open File due out in April, Cliff is without his PEA license. Are we coming to the end of the Cliff Hardy career after 28 years? Could there be life for him in another guise…or a location other than Sydney? And will he ever get over Cyn?

The question is a bit off-beam. Open File is due out in March and it is a retrospective – set back in the 1980s. When I came to write another Hardy book I hadn’t solved the problem of his being without a licence and this was a way around the issue. Retrospective books for serial characters have a respectable history. We are definitely not coming to the end. I am currently halfway through a book, set in the here and now, and I’ve solved the licence problem (I hope). No radical change. People will just have to wait and see.

4. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

Not much Australian crime fiction and not much crime generally. I prefer historical novels when I can find good ones. The only Australian crime novel I’ve read recently that appealed to me was Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore, which I think deserved every plaudit and award it got.

5. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

We are well promoted at home, no complaints there. Some (not me) do OK in Britain and the US and in translation e.g. Shane Maloney. I think publishers should be more active in trying to get into foreign markets. A run of books translated into Japanese could make a splash for example, but it would take energy, guile etc and most corporation publishers haven’t the interest. They’re doing fine with their US and British best-sellers. The independents haven’t the resources or are not quite up to it.

6. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Sorry, with respect, for me this is a non question. My fictional character is an imaginative construct and has nothing to do with other people’s imaginative constructs. Fun for some to play this sort of game, but not for me.

Peter Corris is the author of four series spanning over 20 years. The most celebrated of these is the Cliff Hardy detective series which is now over 30 books strong, the latest book Open File having just been released this month. The other series feature Luke Dunlop, Ray "Creepy" Crawley, and Richard Browning. Peter has also written Australian history books as well as various non-fiction books on the subject of golf, boxing and a biography of Fred Hollows. Visit Peter Corris' web site for all the details about his books.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Chris Womersley

1. You've managed to instil a deep level of hopelessness right from the opening chapter in The Low Road, it's very atmospheric. Were you concerned that readers might be put off by just how bleak the mood is? Taking that thought a bit further, did you write with the reader in mind or did you simply follow where the story took you?

I took it as a challenge to construct a tale that could still be compelling despite its at times rather bleak atmosphere and characters that were still sympathetic despite their flaws. To be honest, there was a part of me that savoured the experience of writing something that for a long time I thought would never see the light of day anyway. It gave me a great freedom. As Pat Barker has said: “You must always ask yourself ‘what is the book I would write if I knew it wasn’t going to be published?’”.

I suspect the reading public has a stronger stomach for different sorts of stories than publishers and other literary gatekeepers give them credit for. Not everyone wants to read the “heartwarming tale of a young boy’s friendship with blah blah blah …”. Not that there is anything wrong with those sorts of stories, of course, but there is room enough for many shades of grey. I created a bunch of characters I was interested in and placed them in a setting I was intrigued by and just sort of followed them along, writing down what they were doing. In some cases it wasn’t pretty.

2. Can you take us through the evolution of The Low Road? Is there anything else in the pipeline for 2008 and beyond?

I wrote a first draft of ‘The Low Road’ in about six months in 2002, when it was my last opportunity to enter The Vogel Award, which is only open to unpublished authors under the age of 35. It was a pretty lousy version of the novel and got nowhere with The Vogel Award but I resurrected it upon starting the Professional Writing and Editing Course at RMIT in Melbourne and basically took the same characters and plotline but rewrote it and tightened it up a lot. The character of Wild didn’t even exist in the initial versions and it was written totally from Lee’s point of view, rather than sharing the point of view between all three main characters, which added a great deal of depth, as well as allowing for tighter plotting. In 2006 it was shortlisted for the Victorian Premiers’ Award for an unpublished manuscript but I still struggled to find a home for it until Aviva Tuffield at Scribe Publications read it and picked it up.

As for 2008, I have started work on a new novel which at this stage is a novel set in rural Australia during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919, which my protagonist believes is a foretelling of the end of the world.

I write short stories as well, with two scheduled for publication later this year – The Possibility of Water in The Griffith Review in May and one called What the Darkness Said which will be published in March in Wet Ink.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I’m unsure what exactly ‘crime fiction’ even is, to be honest, and suspect it’s a label that’s useful from a marketing point of view more than anything else. A good book is just a good book. It’s true that I prefer to read about the darker side of life, but procedural crime fiction doesn’t really interest me. Some of my favourite recent Australian novels include Peter Carey’s The True History of The Kelly Gang and Surrender by Sonya Hartnett, both of which feature crimes and its consequences.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

It’s certainly difficult to be an unknown writer struggling for exposure when there are so many other forms of art and entertainment all vying for an audience, particularly in a culture that places such little value on its artists. Maybe the government could match the millions and millions of dollars spent on Australian cricketers and Olympians and rugby players and soccer players in an effort to provide exposure for Australian writers overseas and around the country?

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Good question. I would like Josef to run into Forrest Gump somewhere along the way because he would probably kill him, which would be good. Wild might benefit from an encounter with The Naked Lunch’s Dr Benway, because they would have quite a lot to talk about and, let’s face it, they might as well just get really stoned. Lee really needs a cup of tea and a good lie down. I hope he might make the acquaintance of Hana from The English Patient, a dedicated nurse who could care for him far better than any of those bums in The Low Road. Perhaps they could even fall in love and set up home somewhere safe, have babies and live happily ever after? There could be a sequel in that somewhere…

Chris Womersley's noir tale of two fugitives searching for redemption is titled The Low Road and was released in 2007. It's suitably dark, atmospheric and full of despair (a little like Essendon's chances this year, heh, heh...sorry). You can check out the latest happenings to do with Chris Womersley by visiting his website.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Alex Palmer

1. Reading your first novel, Blood Redemption, which I have just finished and enjoyed immensely, I was struck by the complexity of each of the principle characters, Paul Harrigan, Grace Riordan and Lucy Hurst. There appears to be an effort made to make all 3 sympathetic characters, would this be a reasonable observation?

This is an interesting question. Starting with Lucy, I wasn’t attempting to excuse her – what she did was terrible - but to explain her actions. I called Blood Redemption a ‘whydunit ‘ as opposed to a ‘whodunit’. For Lucy, I was unwinding the consequences of her past. Abuse of a single individual almost always spreads further than that one person. What I am really interested in and what I try to explore in my books is the psychology of violence and its effects on people. Which is one reason why I write crime because then people who are reading me will know what to expect. With Harrigan and Grace, I was interested in the effects of both dealing constantly with violence as a part of your profession and also being its victim. For Harrigan particularly, this is something I explore at greater depth in Tattooed Man. So I wanted to get into both their heads. Also my 3rd novel is a Harrigan-Grace novel and deals with Grace and her memories of violence, just as Tattooed Man does for Harrigan. If you are going to write three novels with the same characters, I think they have to be complex to maintain the interest. So I didn’t think consciously that I will make these people sympathetic. I thought more along the lines of I want to know who they are and what makes them tick. Your character has to interest, even if you are repelled by them as with a character like Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley.

2. The Tattooed Man comes 6 years after a very successful debut novel. Has the length of the intervening time been attributed to the writing / research process for book #2 or was there some down time after Blood Redemption? And I notice you’re working on a 3rd novel. Will this be a Paul Harrigan / Grace Riordan too?

As I said above, my next novel is a Harrigan-Grace novel, the third. People say I write police procedurals but I don’t see my books that way. I see them more as character driven novels that use that particular structure to make them work. I see crime writing as a highly structured, highly dramatic and artificial genre where you can deal with extreme and intense emotions and that’s why I like it. I like working in that form. Having said that, I found Tattooed Man an incredibly difficult novel to write. It was a very steep learning curve for me. That and the inevitable delays built into publishers’ decision making process, the editing process and the publication schedules increased the time delay beyond all my expectations. Fortunately, my next novel, called the Labyrinth of Drowning is completed and the manuscript is with the publishers as I write. Should it prove acceptable to them, it’s hoped Labyrinth will be out next year. I also have the draft of a quite different novel - a mystery as opposed to a Harrigan-Grace novel – which I will finish this year as well.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

A strange thing happened to me when I started writing crime fiction – I stopped reading it, I don’t know why. This happened when I was writing Tattooed Man and had so much trouble with it. In fact, I had difficulty reading anything, But I think the time has come to start again. So my Australian crime writers are a little older than some starting today, like PD Martin, who I haven’t read yet but intend to. I still have a great love for Peter Corris’ The Empty Beach (minus the movie which was terrible) and there’s also Garry Disher. I have Andrew McGahan Last Drinks on the pile at the moment and Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore as well.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

I always say that if you want to commit literary suicide, write crime in Australia. No one will know you exist and your sales will be small and as for promotion, forget it. Maybe we could stop automatically labelling crime fiction as a lesser form of writing - which is something that happens now in literary circles - and judge on its merits. Some crime is dull and formulaic; other books are well written, gripping and have something to say about the human condition. It all depends on how you use the genre. I think there’s a bit of cultural cringe here as well – we’re still inclined to think we’re second rate. I’d like better coverage in the review pages and in the media. It would be nice if the Ned Kellys were better promoted and reported. But I actually think this problem is common for a lot of Australian fiction as well as crime. It often gets no attention at all. As for overseas, you can get can better sales there than here. Blood Redemption sold better in Germany than it did here.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Good question! I think I’d like Grace to try and gentle a notorious villain into talking about himself or herself, trying to work them out. Seeing what’s human about them. Seeing through to what they really are. Maybe she could match wits with Tom Ripley. Or maybe to be more in the present, she could match wits with the Joker. (I mean no disrespect in mentioning this character, given the tragedy that’s occurred.) Get to know them. Bring them in. She’d win on both counts, of course. Or maybe she could meet one of the very nasty villains of literature – Iago. She’d see through him.

Alex Palmer won a Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Book in 2003 with Blood Redemption and the sequel, The Tattooed Man has been recently released.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - David A. Rollins

1. So far we've seen two "series" with one featuring Australian SAS soldier Tom Wilkes and the other featuring Special Agent Vin Cooper. The first feels more Australian-centric while The Death Trust and A Knife Edge has more of an "aimed at an international audience" feel to it. Is that a reasonable observation?

Yes, it is. I came to the conclusion – rightly or wrongly – that not even Australians are prepared to believe that an Australian can save the world. (I’m sure some of your readers might have a contrary point of view on that). I decided that if I wanted to entertain more people – an international audience along with a domestic one - I probably needed a different style of hero. Tom Wilkes was also archetypically heroic and not a lot of fun to be around (or write about). Cooper is a different kind of hero. He has a laconic, wiseass sense of humour, a lack of respect for authority and he’s not in the least PC. In fact, the guy could easily be an Aussie (except that he’s from New Jersey).

2. What do you have in the works at the moment? Will there be more from Tom Wilkes or Vin Cooper in the future?

Warrant Officer Tom Wilkes is off somewhere doing something seriously nasty and I haven’t heard from him for a long time. I might never hear from him again – those SAS guys live a dangerous life. But you never know, as they say.
Meanwhile, Hard Rain, the third book in the Special Agent Vin Cooper series, publishes in July (Pan Macmillan). In this book, Vin joins forces with Anna Masters again, but she’s engaged to someone else (an attorney for Christ’s sake!) and the relationship is bumpy to say the least. The case takes them to Turkey where the US Air Attaché has been hacked into little pieces, and ends with a conspiracy to poison the water in south-eastern Iraq with uranium hexafluoride (the source material for depleted uranium ammunition). Oh yeah, and there’s also an impending Israeli nuclear strike on Iran to contend with, so there’s a bit going on.
But this book is well into production now, and so I’ve moved on to the next project, one that doesn’t include Cooper. My wife was starting to get a little concerned that I was turning into him. We’d be out somewhere and I’d pass some comment (mostly unkind, probably sexist and undoubtedly cynical) and she’d tell me to put Cooper away.

This next project is a one-off story that’s more thriller than crime. It’s about the crash of KAL 007, shot down by the Soviets into the Sea of Japan in 1983. I’m going with the widely accepted conspiracy theory that it was on a spy mission. Twenty-seven years later, the guy who planned and ran the mission is running for United States President. And then a radar tape turns up, courtesy of a Japanese radar operator who decides to come clean on his death bed, that shows the plane actually made it to Sakhalin Island. It seems the US and the Soviets lied about the crash for their own cruel and devious ends, and that somewhere in Russia there are probably survivors being held against their will. Needless to say, there are desperate attempts to bury the truth once and for all.
A bit of Cold War fun.
In fact, I’m off to Siberia in a couple of weeks to look at gulags and other things. As I write, it’s currently -30C in Ulan Ude, a small city across the border from Mongolia – one of the places I’ll be visiting. Brrr.
When I’ve completed this story, I’ll probably look Cooper up and see what the guy has been doing.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I don’t read Australian fiction specifically, I just read. I’ve recently finished Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore and have had his In The Evil Day beside my bed since Christmas, ready to read. I’ll probably take it with me to Siberia. I think Mr Temple is probably one of the best Australian fiction writers I’ve read, genre or no genre. He’s right up there with Keneally, Winton and Carey in my view.

I’m a huge fan of Nelson DeMille and James Lee Burke. John Birmingham is also a major talent.
The down side to this writing game is that I have to do a lot of research for my own writing and so I don’t get to read as much for the pure pleasure of it. For example, I’m currently ensconced in Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and Ann Applebaum’s Gulag, A History. Interesting, but a little like eating buffalo steak (nutritious and heavy going).

4.What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

Well, a ticket-tape parade or two might work. Hmm. Maybe not.
Promoting a writer (Australian or otherwise) is hard work because writing is such a passive activity (and I suppose we’re talking about fiction writers here - it seems relatively easy to promote a ‘Your diet by the Stars’ kind of book). People like JK Rowling and Dan Brown are the exception, because their books have been phenomenons rather than just books.

People seem to get more excited about books (and go buy them) that have been made into films (and then the lament is usually, as we all know, that the film didn’t stack up to the book). The process probably goes something like – ‘they made a film about it so it must be a good book. With this third-party endorsement, it’s a lower risk investment for me (in terms of time and money) than a book I’ve never heard of.’

Unfortunately, there are a lot more books published than films made, and there are millions of great books that don’t get the Spielberg treatment.

Thinking about this seriously, I began to think that what we need to do is promote reading first, but the phrasing of your question influenced a change of heart. Books with great characters work, and perhaps there’s a clue right there. Maybe we need to find a way to bring a handful of authors to life – their individual character. The few writers I know are a little odd, and ‘odd’ is entertaining. Maybe someone should roll reality TV cameras on that and see what happens.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

I put this to Special Agent Cooper and he said he’d like to meet half a dozen Bond girls in a Jacuzzi with extra bubbles. The reasons for this are obvious.

David A. Rollins is the author of 4 epic thrillers that deal with global threats on a grand scale. The first two books, Rogue Element and Sword of Allah feature Tom Wilkes while the latter two, The Death Trust and A Knife Edge feature Vin Cooper. You can catch more about David A Rollins on his webiste.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Sydney Bauer

1. Congratulations on your recent Davitt Award win with Undertow, a great achievement for a debut novel. Many would think that an American hotshot lawyer is an unusual protagonist for an Australian author, can you tell us how David Cavanaugh was conceived and what are the main challenges when creating a male/Boston-based/attorney?

Thanks for the kind words! Winning the Davitt was a huge honor, the gang from Sisters In Crime are terrific, they spend their lives supporting crime writers like me which made the win all the more significant given I have so much respect for Carmel Shute and her team. Yes, I guess it is a little unusual for an Australian girl to choose a ‘hotshot’ Boston defense attorney as her main protagonist, but to me the choice was kind of obvious. My background is in TV publicity and programming and as such I spent years working on the Australian launch, scheduling and promotion of shows like Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The Practice, Alias, 24 and so forth. The people who write these quality American dramas, some of whom I was lucky enough to meet, became my inspiration.

Boston is such a great city. I go there at least once a year for research and have a team of fabulous friends/ contacts there now. The city is so beautiful – it’s Harbour, parks – and its history, along with its ‘liberal’ politics but conservative past, lends itself to a great backdrop for action. Besides all that, David is still kind of your likeable ‘every guy’ who surrounds himself by similarly motivated people who juggle the frustrating nuances of the law (and are placed in extraordinary situations) with their every day lives. Of course my main aim is to write novels that take readers on a rollercoaster ride of the unexpected – and leave them stunned by a cliffhanger ending which, I hope I do!

2. Alibi is the 3rd David Cavanaugh novel, which will be published by Pan Macmillan in April. What's in store for Cavanaugh this time?

I have always been fascinated by the world of the Ivy League elite. There is something about the young, wealthy, connected element of the American Ivy League system that lends itself to drama and intrigue (not to mention the picturesque settings it provides!). ALIBI is set largely in a fictional Ivy League University I have called Deane, which was modeled on a series of respected Ivy League establishments such as Harvard. This time David has to defend a good looking, athletic, smart, rich, law student by the name of James Matheson who is arrested for the murder of a beautiful Japanese-American multinational heiress by the name of Jessica Nagoshi. Jessica’s twisted body is found in the greenhouse of her father’s extensive Wellesley Estate and Homicide Chief (and David’s friend) Joe Mannix finds it almost impossible to link the clues together.

To make things more complicated, David has a past relationship with James, the young man in fact reminds David of himself when he first set out on a career in law – dedicated, determined, but still idealistic enough to believe in that justice will prevail.
This one is full of twists and turns and hopefully enough shocks in the final courtroom showdown and beyond to keep readers riveted – that was my aim in any case.
On top of all that I develop the personal relationships that have been growing over UNDERTOW and GOSPEL, Sara is still very much by David’s side and plays a big role when it comes to the impact of the finale.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the crurrent state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

Well, I love Crime Fiction of all forms. So yes, I read the Australian novels and also, given my setting, plenty of US crime fiction as well. P.D Martin is a friend of mine and I have enjoyed all of her Sophie Anderson novels and I enjoy Angela Savages and Katherine Howell. On the US end I love Lee Child, Robert Crais, Richard North Patterson, John Grisham, David Baldacci and Dennis Lehane. As for the Aussie scene, I think the quality and output of Australian crime fiction writers is fantastic. It’s a thriving, growing entity which is great.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

Gosh, this is so difficult. I spent many years working in the ‘dog eat dog’ world of TV, but I think ‘getting yourself out there’ in publishing is even harder. I am lucky enough to have a US publishing deal but achieving this was no easy task. First you need a good agent, preferable based in NY, and then they have to sell your work to the big publishers. My decision to set my novels in Boston was admittedly, at least partially, a commercial one, as I wanted to appeal to an international readership. But it also meant I put the extra pressure on myself to be as authentic as possible – it is my responsibility to make my characters authentic which is why I have the transport myself culturally every time I sit down to write. I do not have experience with trying to sell novels set here in Australia to overseas markets but I can imagine this is doubly hard. It is a very small industry and breaking through is tough.

Promoting yourself locally is also very difficult, there are only a few avenues of promotion and these outlets are bombarded with local publishers trying to market their own books (on top of all the imported stuff). If anything I still believe that ‘word of mouth’ is incredibly important – overall I think it takes patience and persistence and a determination to establish yourself.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Wow! What a great question! Hard to answer, not because I can’t think of one, but because I can think of too many. I would love David to meet Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro from Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie series. Kenzie is a hot shot PI who operates in Boston so it would be easy for them to cross paths. I would also love David to meet Jack Reacher. Reacher is one of my all time favourite fictional characters (created by the amazing Lee Child). Maybe the nomadic Reacher could be passing through Boston when a mysterious murder occurs and David and Reacher have to solve it together.

Now, if you really want to get me going I would (given my background) also love for David and Sara and Joe and the rest of ‘my’ gang to meet the TV ensembles from Boston Legal or The Practice or even West Wing. But give me a crisis that David and Jack Bauer from 24 have to battle together and I am in heaven!

Sydney Bauer is the author of two legal thrillers featuring Boston attorney David Cavanaugh, which is about to grow into 3 with the impending release in April of ALIBI. You can get much more information by visiting Sydney Bauer's website.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Katherine Howell

1. Your first novel FRANTIC has been a big success and congratulations on an engrossing read. The story features 2 very strong female characters in Sophie Phillips and Ella Marconi, both put under extreme pressure. Were you consciously aiming for this powerful dual lead or is that the nature of their jobs? How closely did you draw off your experience as a paramedic for Sophie?

I always wanted to use the paramedic angle, but I also wanted to develop a series. Having a paramedic protagonist as the ongoing character was going to be a problem, though, because it wasn't plausible to have her rush about the city solving crime or going through some incredibly difficult and traumatic experience in each book. Detective Ella Marconi was the answer: she could give the procedural angle on the story, she could provide access to information about the case that the paramedic could never have, plus she was another point of view so allowed the reader a break from the shellshocked mind of Sophie.

I drew from many of my experiences as a paramedic for Sophie, mixing and matching elements of what I'd been through so her cases are not lifted entirely from real life but do stem from there. I like to use the little things that only a paramedic could know: what it's like to crouch in the backseat of a crashed car, caring for the trapped passenger while the driver sits dead behind the wheel and rain pours down outside, for example, or how blood flows off the stretcher and onto the ambulance floor and out under the back door as you're rushing a dying patient to hospital. How you feel about the ones you can't save.People are fascinated with what goes on behind the ambulance's darkened windows, and the books let me show them.

2. THE DARKEST HOUR, your second book will also feature Detective Ella Marconi I believe. Can you give us an overview of what's in store for her?

In THE DARKEST HOUR Ella has been given a temporary spot in the homicide squad and is desperate to make it permanent. What she needs is a good strong open-and-shut case, and she thinks it's fallen right into her lap when a dying man tells Paramedic Lauren Yates the name of the person who stabbed him. But as she works the case, Ella starts to find a few things don't add up - and then Lauren comes to the office, desperate to withdraw her statement ...

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I love Australian crime fiction. Leigh Redhead is a favourite, as are Peter Temple and Gabrielle Lord. I have all Kathryn Fox's and PD Martin's books too. It seems to me that the scene is healthy and growing, especially when you consider how many Australian crime novels are now being published overseas and getting great reviews if not winning prizes (eg, Adrian Hyland's Diamond Dove and Temple's The Broken Shore).

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

That's a good question. I think we're doing pretty well, with blogs like these discussing the books, and organisations like Sisters in Crime who work so hard to bring readers and writers together and let the wider reading public know what's happening in the crime fiction world. I guess every author would like more exposure for their own books but there is only so much media space out there, and so many books are being published. I think writing a good book that grows its own good word of mouth is what matters - and the writing part is certainly the only bit of it authors can control.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who > would you like it to be and why?

I think Ella would get on well with Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. I can picture them putting their feet up and having a good yak!

Katherine Howell's first novel, Frantic was published in 2007. The Darkest Hour is her second book and will be published later this year. You can find out more about Katherine Howell by visiting her website.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Peter Temple

1. Congratulations on the success of The Broken Shore - the Dagger must come in very handy. After 8 novels and 5 Ned Kelly Awards, it must be a somewhat bemusing experience to be "discovered" by the rest of the world. I couldn't imagine it's a bad thing but has the demand on your time increased greatly this past year or so?

Strange to say, the major consequence of winning the Dagger has been being discovered in Australia. Over the years, I have always enjoyed better reviews than sales in my own country. Then came the Gold Dagger and, thanks to the media blitz organised by Text Publishing's high-revving publicity manager, Kirsty Wilson, THE BROKEN SHORE began to sell from Port Douglas to Port Hedland. Outside Australia, the award triggered rights sales to countries where very few Australians have been published, and that is gratifying. I'm happy to report that demands on my time have increased.

2. The word on the street is that your next book is going to be another Joe Cashin novel. Is that right? Do you envisage him as being a long-term multi-volume protagonist or will Jack Irish reassert himself? And on Jack Irish, how did he come to have such a diverse array of interests?

The word on the street is wrong. Joe Cashin has had his book. He features only briefly in TRUTH, the new book. Jack Irish, on the other hand, is waiting in the wings for his next appearance. Jack came to have such a range of interests because I didn't want him to be one of those one-dimensional protagonists who exist without friends and any real interests except their digestion and unremarkable music. I tried to create a man with loves and loyalties and pursuits and passions.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the crurrent state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I'm too scared to read much crime fiction while I'm working on a book, which is all the time. I think both Kel Robertson and Adrian Hyland (and no, the fact that they are published by Text does not influence me) will write novels that erase the genre boundary.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

My experience with THE BROKEN SHORE tells me that the very best promotion is booksellers getting behind a title. Apart from that, what we need is a national festival of crime writing and a major sponsor for the Ned Kelly Awards. (Why doesn't WestPac put up $50,000? They have a close link with Ned Kelly. A branch of the bank from which they are descended was held up by the Kelly Gang.)

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

I am very fond of Shane Maloney's Murray Whelan, and I sometimes think that Jack Irish should run into him. It would go something like this:

'Jack, you know Murray Whelan, don't you?'

Whelan gave me a professional two-hander: handshake, firm but not too firm, clasp on upper arm, affectionate but not intimate.

'Jack,' he said. 'How are you, you ageing Brunswick Street lust object?'

'Fine,' I said. 'Haven't seen you since you were helping Peter Batchelor hand out dodgy how-to-vote cards.'

Peter Temple is Australia's most acclaimed crime author in terms of recognition through awards with 5 books picking up the Ned Kelly Award and then the CWAA Duncan Lawrie Dagger (Gold Dagger) with his last novel The Broken Shore. The Jack Irish series is edgy, provocative and laced with a quietly cunning humour thanks to an easy to identify with protagonist while the stand-alone novels are atmospheric and smoothly plotted.

There is more to read about Peter Temple here

Monday, March 03, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Geoff McGeachin

1. The humorous spy novel is not a field that we see many books cover these days, yet the James Bond movies often tend towards the whimsical and are very popular. Is there a touch of James Bond in the acting Director-General of D.E.D, Alby Murdoch?

Alby is of course out of a job as acting DG after crossing the Defence Minister. He also wasn’t well suited for management as he realized after discovering that six months into the job he was already eight months behind in his paperwork. Unlike Mr. Bond Alby is just stumbling through, very much like the rest of us.

As to humour I guess I’m one of those people who can spot the hypocrisy and absurdity that exists in much of modern life and it comes out in my writing. To think there are people out there who know better and will do the right thing by us and look after us is pretty silly. I want to believe but I’m always disappointed so I push the other way, making the situations more extreme and funny and much to my horror way too often finding I’m not far from the truth. Alby does his job and he’s good at it but he can see the underlying silliness of it. The reviewer who called Alby a “highly competent larrikin’ actually got him in three words. The world weary secret agent is a cliché and I prefer to think of Alby as post-cynical.

2. Is Alby going to be called into action again? Will he continue to have the same luck with women?

Alby is already well back in action. On unpaid leave following an unfortunate comment disparaging the new head of DED he is shooting stills on a movie in Vietnam. The movie is about a dead war hero who it turns out isn’t as dead as people think. Soon after this discovery choppers start falling from the sky, people go missing and Alby discovers he has an appointment with the bottom of the Mekong. The story runs from Saigon to northern Thailand, through Laos to Dien Bien Phu, Hong Kong, Canberra and finally Darwin. And Alby is heading for a showdown with four women, three of whom can outsmart and outshoot him and a fourth who is a much better cook. Both Alby and I are looking forward to seeing how this one comes out.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

This whole writing thing only started for me in 2003 and hit me hard timewise. Combined with teaching and taking photographs to pay the mortgage has filled up days way too much. Lindy Cameron's REDBACK is on the bedside table but on hold till I meet the deadline for the new Alby book.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

The internet has promise with sites like austcrimefiction, crimespace and crimedownunder really getting the word out. The TV book programmes are always a tad literary in their leanings and you’d reckon a smart cable channel could fill up some air time with a regular crime and thriller book show. It would be cheap to do, there’d be no shortage of guests and to set the right dark and shadowy mood you would only need to use one light so there’s a big cost saving right off. Let us just say there have been primary discussions regarding this scenario.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

My agent once suggested that Alby could get together with Tara Moss’s Mak Vanderwall in a jointly written thriller. Having once been married to a six foot American fashion model Ms Moss holds no fears for me but I’m not sure how Alby would cope with Ms Mak. However the thought of George Smiley taking over from Gwenda Felton as the head of DED could be interesting. I’m damned sure George would have Alby’s number right from the get-go.

Geoff McGeachin is the author of two bitingly clever spy novels, DED Dead and Sensitive New Age Spy, that are unmistakably Aussie featuring Alby Murdoch. A 3rd novel Fat, Fifty & F***ked is based around a fugitive adventure that features encounters with all sorts of mad buggers, rounding off a trio of very entertaining humorous crime novels.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot : Adrian Hyland

Congratulations on the success of Diamond Dove, I thought the Ned Kelly Award was well deserved. You spent a lot of time in NT, working with aboriginal communities and your understanding of their cultural beliefs are strongly conveyed in the book. But you also told the story from a female's perspective. How did you prepare for that?

I wouldn’t say I prepared for it. I spent many years living in Central Australia, where I saw indigenous women like Emily Tempest – courageous, witty, willing to fight for family and community – every day of the week. They were my inspiration.

I might add that I originally wrote the book from the perspective of a young whitefeller, but it wasn’t working - too autobiographical – so I wiped him out of the book and allowed Emily to step onto centre stage.

2. I believe Emily Tempest will be making a reappearance, is that true. Can you tell us a little about what's in store for her?

Yep: she’s back! Hate to say it, and all of my Aboriginal friends will probably be after me with nulla-nullas, but I suspect Emily is about to join the NT Police. I know, I know, she can’t quite believe it herself, but the Police have these positions known as Aboriginal Police Aides, and Emily, much against her better judgement, is currently being persuaded to enlist as one.

Her motivation? The car that comes with the job.

Mine? The only way I could think of getting her involved in more nefarious activities without testing the reader’s credulity – plus setting up a good scenario for her to have a running battle with her redneck bosses.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I read it all the time. Do we count Dorothy Porter as a crime writer? Admire her work immensely. Thoroughly enjoy my Text stablemates, Kel Robertson, Angela Savage and Gary Disher. Love Leigh Redhead books: the world needs more sexy, eccentric detectives with a taste for Alt Country.

Sorry to follow the pack, but the twin peaks of Oz Crime for me are Messrs. Temple and Maloney. With those two maestros in our midst, the genre is thriving – I reckon it’s responsible for much of the best writing being done in the country right now (not all of it, mind you – some of the crime writers – well, what can I say? Their writing is a crime in itself)

Just read Paul Toohey’s book on the Falconio murder – The Killer Within – thought it was a brilliant portrait of the outback sociopath and the world which produces them – I had a few run-ins with the odd sociopath myself, and Toohey’s portrait is chillingly accurate. One of my more literary friends spotted me reading The Killer Within and asked why I bothered with such things. My spontaneous response – to ask whether you think we learn anything about Bob Dylan by fossicking through his garbage, my answer being a rather reluctant yes - strikes me as an insight into why we read crime in the first case.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

Strewth. I’ve got no idea. Promotion obviously isn’t my strong suite, which is why I find myself dragging my weary arse out of bed to head off to the day job.

I’ve always liked the Irish policy of not taxing the income of writers. Hopefully now that the rodent’s left Canberra and the shackles are off the imagination we may see a Renaissance: more Arts Council funding, more author visits to international festivals, more support for festivals and writers’ centres. But I’ll believe it when I see it. Scrapping the GST on books would be nice – scrapping it on everything would be better.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

How about a threesome involving Emily Tempest, Simone Kirsch and the outrageous Andy Dalziel? Or maybe Ken Bruen’s Brant? They’re much of a muchness. Soundtrack by Kinky Friedman.

Adrian Hyland's debut novel Diamond Dove (Moonlight Downs) won the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for best first novel. He is currently at work on a second novel that will also feature Emily Tempest.