Book review: Beautiful Revolutionary

I first came across Melbourne author Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s work when she participated in a Noir at Bar event I helped organise last year. That night she read one of the tales from her short story collection, The Love of a Bad Man. It is tempting to view her debut novel, Beautiful Revolutionary, as an extension of that collection – twelve terrific stories told from the point of view of the lovers and wives of various bad men in history. Indeed, if I remember correctly, one of the pieces in The Love of a Bad Man concerned the Reverend Jim Jones, a very bad man and the central focus of Beautiful Revolutionary.

Woollett’s novel spans the period of history from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in June 1968 to the events that occurred in November 1978, when over 900 people died from drinking poison at the People’s Temple Agricultural Project, better known as ‘Jonestown’ in Guyana, founded by cult leader, Jim Jones. When I was younger, I remember Jonestown being described as a mass suicide but, as relatives of the dead have since pointed out, it was really a mass murder, as all but a few drank the poison under duress.

Although we never hear the story from his point of view, the book revolves around Jones, a self proclaimed socialist saviour, but also a sexual predator, quack faith healer and an increasingly unhinged demagogue.… Read more

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‘It was never meant to be a game’: my monograph on Norman Jewison’s Rollerball

I have been pre-occupied with my Phd and various other commitments, so I’ve been a little bit slow off the mark to publicise my latest book, a monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction classic, Rollerball, out now on various platforms in the US, UK and Australia, through Auteur Publishing.

The book originated out of my curiosity to see whether I had it in me to write 40k based on a single film. The film I chose, in consultation with the publisher, was Rollerball. Only you can be the judge as to how good a job I have done, but I’ll let you all in on the first rule of writing a film monograph, make sure you like the film because you not only have to watch it numerous times but immerse yourself in everything to do with it.

I have always like Rollerball, ever since first seeing it twenty years ago. But I didn’t realise until I got stuck into researching the film for this book, just what a good viewing experience it still is and what a chilling dystopian vision it remains.

Rollerball depicts a future dominated by anonymous corporations and their executive elite, in which all individual effort and aggressive emotions are subsumed into a horrifically violent global sport, remains critically overlooked.… Read more

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Girl Gangs, Biker Boys & Real Cool Cats at the Bendigo Writers Festival

I am thrilled to be taking part in the 2018 Bendigo Writers Festival. The Festival, which takes place from August 10 to 12, is one of my favourite local writers festivals.

First up, I’ll be talking all things pulp fiction and the book I co-edited, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys & Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction & Youth Culture, 1950-1980, with fellow pop culture fiend, John Richards, at the La Trobe Art Institute, from 10am on Saturday, August 11. Copies of the book will also be for sale at the Festival.

On the Friday morning, August 10, from 9.30am to 12.30pm, I’ll be running a ‘Crime Starter’ workshop for new and emerging crime writers . I’ll cover the elements of a thrilling crime read and the rules of the genre, as well as providing tips on how to push through blockages and problem passages in your manuscript.

I’ll also be taking part in the festival debate ‘You Can Judge A Book By Its Genre’, with a group of talented writers.

So if you are in Bendigo or its environs and want to come to any of the events, grab a copy of the Girl Gangs book, or just say hello, it would be great to see you.

The full program for the Bendigo Writers Festival is available here.Read more

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Pulp Friday: Interview with book cover designer, W. H. Chong

W H Chong is book cover designer based in Melbourne. From his first cover design job, a souvenir booklet to mark 1990 Collingwood AFL Grand Final victory, he has gone on to become Design Director for Text Publishing and has won multiple awards for his covers for young adult fiction, crime, classics and literature. Below is an interview I did with him on what is involved in a good cover design and his favourite cover designs from the science fiction reading of his youth. It originally appeared in the now defunct online magazine Spook, in August 2015.

How did you get into book design?

The correct answer is by accident. I started designing newspapers in the eighties and then I started doing magazines in the early nineties. When Text Media [now Text Publishing] started as an imprint of books run by Diana Gribble in the nineties, I was there, so I did the design. Because in the old days, people just did stuff. It was all very much a case of people putting something together that they were learning how to do as they went along. Design just needed to be done. Some of it included books. That was no big deal. There was no specialty. You weren’t learning to be a neurosurgeon; you were just doing things with scalpels, so to speak.… Read more

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Book review: Clarence Cooper Jr’s The Scene

San Francisco based crime writer Domenic Stansberry recently sent me a copy of a book he has just put out through his very cool looking small publisher, Molotov Editions. The book is a re-released edition ofThe Syndicate by a little known Black crime writer, Clarence Cooper Jr.

I hope to write about the Molotov Editions reprint of The Syndicate, the cover of which is included below, in a future post. For now, however, I want to talk about the Cooper novel I have read, The Scene, also published in 1960. And if The Scene is any guide I am pretty sure I will dig The Syndicate.

The book set in a nameless US city, and deals with the bleak, dead end lives of the junkies, prostitutes and criminals who populate an area of it, known as ‘the Scene’.

A myriad of characters shift in and out of the story: there’s Rudy Black, a ruthless, showy pimp and up and coming pusher, part of a network of dealers working for a mysterious criminal called ‘the Man’, who controls the flow of narcotics in the Scene: Black Bertha, who also deals to support her and her daughters but doesn’t use herself; and Miss Dalton, the Man’s loyal secretary.

The novel also focuses on two cops.… Read more

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