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Monday, March 10, 2008

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.

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