Category Archives: Non-crime reviews

My top 10 reads of 2018

I reconciled myself long ago to the fact I will never get to the end of a year without thinking I have not read as much as I should have. That said, I have read some great books this year. Fiction and non-fiction, old books and new, in no particular order, here are my top ten reads for 2018.

Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

This year, I read a few bestsellers from the past to see if I can figure out what made them so successful, and this was my favourite. The book that introduced Hannibal Lector, it is a riveting rollercoaster ride into the serial killer mind. Beautifully written and acutely observed. Harris includes some incredible detail on forensics and police procedure without overdoing it. Red Dragon is the perfect mix of elevated airport novel and hardboiled crime story.

Twisted Clay, Frank Walford

Australian writer, Frank Walford’s 1933 account of a murderous young woman,  a pathological liar and sociopath, was banned in Australia until the late 1950s. The story, which contains patricide, sex work, suicide and the young female main character’s burgeoning awareness and enjoyment of her lesbian sexuality, is a wonderfully lurid read. One can only wonder what readers must have made of it in the 1930s. Not surprisingly, they seemed to like it as it was a bestseller in the UK and US, where it was published.… Read more

Interview with Iain McIntyre, author of On the Fly! Hobo Literature & Songs, 1879-1941

Regular readers of Pulp Curry may be familiar with the name Iain McIntyre, my co-editor on Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980, and its follow up, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980, out sometime in 2019. Iain is also the editor of a number of his own books, the most recent of which, On the Fly! Hobo Literature & Songs, 1879-1941, has just come out through PM Press. On the Fly! is an anthology which brings together dozens of stories, poems, songs, stories, and articles produced by hoboes to create an insider history of the subculture’s rise and fall. Iain was good enough to answer a few questions about his latest book, researching hobohemia, and the links between hobo culture and crime writing.

One of the points you make in the introduction to On the Fly! is that while there have been a lot of historical and academic studies about American hobo culture, there is very little currently available in the words of the members of the culture themselves. Where did you get the inspiration for this book?

I’d long been aware of hobohemia’s influence on American popular culture via country and folk music songs, Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp character, etc but it wasn’t until I met some modern train hoppers in the 1990s that my interest was really piqued.… Read more

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

Wonderland at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image

I had never pondered the influence of Lewis Carroll’s stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871). This left me completely unprepared for Wonderland, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image’s latest Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition. The enormous influence of young Alice and her strange world of bizarre anthropomorphic creatures on the large and small screen documented in this exhibition is a revelation.

My review of Wonderland is live and can be read in full here on the Australian Book Review Arts Update site.

My top books of 2016

my-father-the-pornographerIt’s that time of the year for my top 10 reads of 2016. As is always the case, my list is a mixture of new books, old books, fiction and non-fiction. In no order they are as follows:

The Rules of Backyard Cricket, Jock Serong

It took a while for this book to warm up, but about a third of the way through it just goes bang and never looks back from there. An incredibly dark tale of suburban crime set over several decades in Melbourne, as seen through the eyes of professional cricketers Darren Keefe and his older brother, Wally. Don’t let the publisher’s marketing of this book as literary crime fool you; this is as good an example of noir as you will find in Australian crime fiction today. Serong has a beautiful prose style and totally nails the period detail of growing up in seventies/eighties suburban Melbourne.

Old Scores, David Whish-Wilson

Old Scores is the third book by Perth crime writer David Whish-Wilson featuring Frank Swann, former petty criminal, disgraced cop and low rent private investigator.The story is set in the set at the beginnings of the cowboy capitalism that marked Western Australia in that decade. Swann’s peculiar mix of talents is in demand by the state’s newly elected Labour government.… Read more