The Spies next door: The Americans

The Americans‘While The Americans is not without its flaws, a reliance on high tech gadgets and large-scale violence to move the story are not among them. The show is about as anti-Bond in its depiction of espionage as it is possible to get. Although Philip and Elizabeth do kill people, the main tricks of their trade are manipulation, blackmail and a sharp eye for any human weakness, which they ruthlessly exploit. Global politics, the growing arms race, superpower proxy wars in Latin America and Afghanistan, are frequently referenced, but the impacts are explored through the lives of Philip and Elizabeth – particularly the growing pressure on them to get results.’

My latest post on the Overland Magazine site is on the very underrated television show, The Americans. The anti-James Bond spy series that is also a very good text on 1980s politics, the Cold War and the decline of the traditional left in the United States.

You can read the article in full here.

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A new anthology of short Oz crime fiction & a course for aspiring crime authors

Just wanted to pull on your collective coats with some writing related news. 2016 is going to be a big year for me, writing wise, with a non-fiction book, a novel and stories in a two anthologies all out in the next 12 months.

My first writing scalp for 2016 is the book above, an upcoming anthology of Australian short crime fiction, soon to be published by Sydney based Spineless Wonders. I’m thrilled to have a story in this collection, ‘Postcard From, Cambodia’. I even get my name on the cover along with heavy hitters such as David Whish-Wilson, Leigh Redhead, Carmel Bird, Peter Corris, PM Newton and my partner, Angela savage. It is edited by Zane Lovett, whose debut crime novel, The Midnight Promise won best first crime at the 2014 Ned kelly awards.

Seriously, anthologies of Australian crime fiction are a rare thing, which makes this anthology something of a special event. The book is currently available for pre-order at a reduced price, so get onto it. Ordering information and other details are available here.

My second piece of news is about a course for new and emerging crime writers I’m giving for Writers Victoria on Sunday February 28 and March 6. Over the two days we’ll cover topics such the key conventions of crime fiction, the basics of plotting and structure, how to pace and build suspense, the importance of setting, strategies for completing your manuscript and pitching your book to publishers.… Read more

Mid-summer reading report back

Total ChaosAs has become my practice, it’s time for my annual mid-summer reading report back – short reviews of some of the books I have read so far over the summer holidays. Without further introduction, in no particular order they are as follows:

Total Chaos, Jean-Claude Izzo

I’d never heard of Jean-Claude Izzo, the founder of the ‘Mediterranean noir movement’, until a friend recommended him to me after the attacks in Paris last November. My friend claimed not only were his books good crime reads, they provided a unique insight into the Islamic community in France. I wasn’t disappointed. Total Chaos, the first of Izzo’s so-called ‘Marseilles trilogy’, combines crime fiction smarts with a fascinating examination of immigrant politics in the French port city.

Fabio Montale grew up on the streets of Marseilles with two close childhood friends, Ugo and Manu. Fabio become a cop whose career is going nowhere as a result of his unfashionable focus on preventing crime rather than just cracking heads. Ugo and Manu became criminals. When his two friends are killed in violent circumstances, Fabio investigates what led to their deaths. He discovers his friends where bound up in a complex web of criminal power plays that involve organised crime, the National Front and veterans of France’s various imperial entanglements abroad.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Man Who Fell to Earth

Pan 1976Like so many people, I was enormously saddened by news this week of the death of David Bowie, from cancer at the age of 69.

There is no need for me to replicate all the sentiments that have been expressed elsewhere about Bowie’s passing, except to say that for me, as for so many of you, his death has left a huge hole in my popular culture landscape and the world is a less interesting place without him.

I did want to do something on this site to commemorate Bowie, however. And what better way to pay tribute to the man who once said his perfect idea of happiness is reading, than through books. So, my first Pulp Friday offering for 2016 is dedicated to the wonderful David Bowie: a selection of paperback tie ins for The Man Who Fell to Earth, directed by Nicolas Roeg, released in 1976.

It was only when I was doing research for an article on the ‘David Bowie Is’ exception that toured Melbourne last year, that I discovered The Man Who Fell to Earth was a book before it was a film. The Man Who Fell to Earth was first published in 1961. It was written by US novelist Walter Tevis whose debut work, The Hustler, featured as a Pulp Friday post here in 2013.… Read more

The comfort of crimes past? Why we love period crime procedurals

sherlock-holmes

You only have to take a quick look at the television guide or go to the crime section of your nearest bookstore to know that period crime procedurals – crime stories set in the past – are popular.

Showing or having recently aired on free-to-air television have been Foyle’s War, a police procedural show set during or immediately after the Second World War; Dr Blake Mysteries, set in Ballarat in the 1950s; Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, based on the successful books by Melbourne writer Kerry Greenwood set in late-1920s Melbourne; andAquarius, dealing with the murders committed by Charles Manson in 1960s California. These programs feed into a much wider canon of popular period shows – everything from Downton Abbey, to Mad Men and Wolf Hall, the adaption of Hilary Mantel’s 2009 bestselling Booker Prize-winning novel.

Our desire for period crime procedurals is just as big on the printed page. In Australia alone, there are Sulari Gentill’s books featuring the 1930s sleuth, Roland Sinclair, Robert Gott’s police procedurals set in the newly formed homicide squad in 1940s Melbourne, and Geoffrey McGeachin’s award winning Melbourne police detective Charlie Berlin, to name a few.

What is driving this? Is this a symptom of our refusal to come to grips with modern reality?… Read more