Category Archives: Australian noir

Book Review: Australian crime anthology and First Nations science fiction

Is it just me or is there definitely a renewed local interest in short story collections? There seems to be a few more of them being published than is normally the case and I am particularly interested in two that have come across my radar: Dark Deeds Down Under, an anthology of crime fiction edited by Craig Sisterson and This All Come Back Now, a new anthology of first nations speculative fiction, edited by Mykaela Saunders.

First up, Dark Deeds Down Under. The interesting selling point of this book is that it contains 19 crime fiction stories from Australian and New Zealand authors, some well-known, others not so much. As is the case with every anthology not every tale did it for me but there were far more hits than misses, which is unusual. I just want to briefly note the highlights in the collection for me.

Aoife Clifford’s ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Poll’ felt very much in the spirit of TV shows such as In the Thick of It, in its depiction of a political spinner who job sees them stumble across a murder, and the story has a real sting in the tail. No surprises that ‘The Cook’ by possibly my favourite Australian crime writer, David Whish-Wilson, was a terrific yarn about an ex-con speed cook and the troubled relationship he has with his son.… Read more

Spaces available in my online clinic for emerging crime writers

There are a few places remaining in the Writers Victoria online clinic that I am running for emerging crime writers in the second half of 2022, which starts next week.

If you’re keen to start a writing crime novel or short stories but you are unsure where to start, or if you are part-way through a manuscript and need help to finish or polish it, this online clinic will provide deadlines and support as you do so, pushing through blockages and problem passages. Participants will receive individualized feedback, including on structure, setting, pace, character and dialogue. This online course actively encourages sharing of your work with your cohort as well as with the tutor.

This is a completely safe space for you to submit drafts and have commented on by me, and/or to ask those burning questions you may have that you have never been able to get answered.

There is discount for members of Writers Victoria and other state writers organisations in Australia, but because the course is online you do not have to be in Melbourne – indeed, you don’t even have to be in Australia – to take part.

You can find all the information you need by going to this link at the Writers Victoria site here.Read more

My cultural highlights of 2021

In past years, I have always tried to conclude the writing year with wrap up of my top fiction/non-fiction reads. But this year I want to do something a little different and look more broadly at the culture that has sustained me in what has been another difficult and stressful 12 months, dominated, as it has for so many of us, by the Covid pandemic.

Film

As was the case in 2020, Covid meant that I spent far more time than I would’ve liked at home. So, most of the movies I watched had to be on the small screen. One of the standouts for me was a 1953 Argentinian retelling of Fritz Lang’s 1931 classic, M, called El Vampiro Negro or The Black Vampire. Helmed by one of Argentina’s most famous mid-century directors, Roman Vinoly Barreto, the story focuses the panic that engulfs Buenos Aires as children are stalked and murdered by a paedophile. Barreto particularly focuses on a nightclub singer and mother, played by Argentina’s equivalent of Marilyn Monroe, Olga Zubarry, who is the sole eyewitness to the child killer and who fears her daughter may be the next victim. Proof positive that classic noir was not just a North American phenomena, El Vampiro Negro is a powerful film, stunningly restored by the US Film Noir Foundation.… Read more

Phoenix: down Melbourne’s 1990s means streets

The recent inclusion of the 1995 Australian true crime mini-series Blue Murder as an offering on Netflix Australia provided an opportunity for many critics, present company included, to once again laud it as our best piece of true crime television made so far. While not walking back on this claim, there is another show that I would argue gives Blue Murder a run for its money in terms of being a gritty, true life depiction of policing, which I watched recently – the thirteen-part 1992 Australian Broadcasting Commission series, Phoenix.

A lot of 1990s Australian popular culture exists in a rather liminal space for me due to the fact that I spent a large chunk of the decade working in Southeast Asia. I don’t think I saw any episodes of Phoenix when it first came out, but I am pretty sure I caught parts of the first series (there were two) on VHS tapes that my partner’s mother sent us in the post when we were living in Hanoi, Vietnam. I am not even sure if Phoenix has as a current DVD release, as the discs I found were second hand and seem to have been released at least a decade ago.

Phoenix focuses on the Major Crimes squad, an elite group of Victorian cops.… Read more

Wake In Fright at 50: mateship, masculinity and drinking in the Australian outback

Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright turns fifty this year. Based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Australian author Kenneth Cook, it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 1971 and was released in cinemas in Australia on October 9. Despite being five decades old, it is hard to think of comparable piece of cinema that has come out of this country. Wake In Fright is not only a stunning rural noir, it is a blistering take on three of the central features of white Anglo Saxon male culture in 1960s Australia (although much of it is still highly relevant to today): mateship, the romance of the outback, and drinking. Especially drinking.

The central character, John Grant, is a mild-mannered teacher working in a tiny speck of a town called Tiboonda. Its isolation and distance from the coast has obliterated nearly all aspects of civilization, except the ability of the local pub to keep the beer cold. Grant is leaving for his Christmas holidays. He has his holiday pay in his pocket and fantasies of meeting up with his girlfriend in Sydney. All that stands in his way is an overnight train stop in Bundanyabba or ‘the Yabba’ as the locals call it.

Grant passes his night in the Yabba sinking a few beers in one of the town’s many pubs.… Read more