Category Archives: Australian noir

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

Postcard From Cambodia

Back in 2016, I contributed a story to an anthology of crime fiction published by Spineless Wonders, called Crime Scenes. The story, a piece of noir writing called ‘Postcard From Cambodia’, was set in Australia and Cambodia, and I have always thought it was one of my better short fiction efforts. An abridged version of ‘Postcard From Cambodia’ was performed live a couple of years back at a bar in Sydney and was broadcast a couple of days ago on community radio 2RPH as part of ‘Little Fictions On Air’ program along with a brief commentary. For those who are interested, you can listen to the story being read by the show’s presented, Kate Liston-Mills, here.

It is certainly an experience listening to one of your stories being performed on radio, but I’ll let you be the just of whether it works or not. If you do enjoy the story I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Crimes Scenes. It is available in hardcopy from the Spineless Wonders site, and for your Kindle here. It has some terrific Australian crime stories, including work from the late Peter Corris, Tony Birch, Leigh Redhead, Angela Savage and David Whish-Wilson, among others. … Read more

Carter Brown and the Australian craze for faux American crime fiction

Author photo of Alan Yates aka Carter Brown in 1955

In 1950s Australia, one author – writing pulp novels about detectives and cities he’d never visited – gave birth to a phenomenon. I’m over at the CrimeReads writing about Australia’s most successful, least critically recognised, 20th century author, Alan Yates aka Carter Brown, and the popularity of faux American crime fiction in post-war Australia. You can read the entire article at their site here.Read more

10 great Australian westerns

To mark the UK release of The True History of the Kelly Gang (2019), Justin Kurzel’s bold reimagining of the sage one of Australia’s most famous myths, bushranger Ned Kelly, the British Film Institute asked me to write about my ten favourite Australian westerns. Not only is Ned Kelly Australia’s most famous bushranger – the name given to convicts who had escaped and survived Australia’s harsh environment to become outlaws – his legend forms a mini industry in film and television. In addition to Kurzel’s, Kelly has been the subject of eight films. The Kelly filmography forms part of a larger of body of Australian westerns, made by overseas and local concerns. You can read my piece in full at the BFI site here.

   … Read more

M and my top 10 reads for 2019

It is no exaggeration to say I have been eagerly anticipating Samm Deighan’s monograph of Fritz Lang’s 1931 film. I love the film and I am a big fan of Deighan’s movie writing, so the combination is bound not to disappoint. And it didn’t.

As Deighan puts it in her introduction, M ‘exists in a liminal space between urban social drama, crime thriller, and horror film’. It was arguably the first serial killer film, long before the FBI coined the term in the early 1970s. Anchored by a superb performance by Peter Lorre as the paedophiliac child killer, Hans Beckert, it was certainly the first motion picture in which a serial killer was the central protagonist. Another crucial innovation was the way in which Lang depicted the character of Beckert in a not entirely unsympathetic light. This same sensibility would have a influence on some subsequent serial killer cinema, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror/thriller, Psycho.

Deighan discusses M’s broader social and political themes, including the film as a critique of modernity and a text for Germany on the brink of totalitarian control, appearing as it did a year before the Nazi’s assumed power and Lang had to flee the country.

Another fascinating aspect of the book is the discussion of how the themes in M would echo in Lang’s subsequent work, particular the threat of the lawless mob violence and what is perhaps the director’s most defining idea, how even the most noble individual is capable of brutal murderous thoughts and actions.… Read more