by Michael Robotham Sphere RRP $32.95
Review by Jeni Caffin
I am selfishly seizing this page to talk about one of my favourite authors participating in the Byron Bay Writers Festival, and indeed one of my favourite books of the year. The author is Michael Robotham, twice winner of the Ned Kelly Award for best Australian Crime Novel and the novel in question is Bleed for Me. I pounce upon every book that Robotham pens and if you are yet to make the acquaintance of this master of the genre, I suggest you hightail it to the book store today. There is simply no denying it: Michael Robotham never puts a foot wrong in terms of plot, character or structure and Bleed for Me is the work of a writer at the top of his game.
This is Robotham’s sixth crime thriller and the third featuring the Parkinson’s suffering protagonist, clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin. We first met Professor O’Loughlin in The Suspect and shared his terrors and agonies in Shatter. The character is a superb creation: “I’m losing my brain without losing my mind” he tells himself and the progress of the disease through the books is compelling, convincing and at times extraordinarily moving. It parallels the frailties and flaws of a credible human being, a man whose personal life has unravelled further with each successive book and whose capacity and need for love and physical reassurance leads him into damaging and ultimately tragic encounters.
by Brenda Walker Penguin/Hamish Hamilton $29.95
Review by Susie Warrick
Brenda Walker’s small bag is packed and her friend is waiting, to drive her to the hospital. Before she leaves the house, she pauses to consider which book she will place in the bag. From a wall of well-thumbed books she selects a slim volume, Samuel Beckett’s Malone Dies.
Walker first encountered Samuel Beckett when she was nineteen and a student, and each week would read aloud from the Beckett trilogy with an old and kindly Buddhist tutor, in a room that smelled of stone and autumn.
Decades interwoven with books and reading have passed since then, but the Irish writer’s book is the right choice for the hospital bed, she knows with certainty: one of the books of her life, a book that steadies her and that she never tires of reading.
It is this intimate connectedness with books that lies at the heart of Walker’s recent memoir, Reading by Moonlight.
Four years ago, Walker was diagnosed with breast cancer and her ordered world turned upside down. She turned to two healers, doctors and books, and Reading by Moonlight is the story of her journey to recovery.
The chapter headings chart the bare course of this book: preface, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction and survival. Walker takes the reader on her journey through the five stages of her treatment, from radical surgery to silicone implant. Her account is unflinching and honest and the reader will want to travel with her, to see her safely through.
by Steve Cannane. ABC Books ppb RRP $27.99
Reviewed by Mungo MacCallum
Australians, as everybody knows, are best in the world at everything. In particular Australians are best in the world at sport, and of all the sports at which Australians are best in the world, cricket is the one at which Australians are best of all.
We didn’t actually invent it, but we taught the Poms (and the rest of the world) how to play it properly. It’s true that just occasionally Australians lose at cricket, but when we do it’s almost always because the other side cheated , as in the Bodyline series of 1930, or else because the other side contained players who were so freakishly good they should have been subject to both drug testing and handicapping, like the great West Indian teams led by Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards. Otherwise they couldn’t possibly have won, because as everyone knows, Australians are the best in the world.
Right, now having got that clear, the question is: Why, and how? To what must we attribute this supremacy? The easy answer is that it is just a natural phenomenon; as Australian fauna evolved to be marsupials, Australian people evolved to be cricketers. But closer analysis suggests that there were particular features of the environment that aided this development.
by Patrick Holland, Transit Lounge, August 9780980571790
Reviewed by Angela Meyer
Grey North lives in the small town of Mary Smokes, outside of Brisbane. Grey’s mother dies giving birth to his little sister, Irene, and from this traumatic event the novel, and Grey’s character, emerges. On the night his mother dies, there is a cruel juxtaposition – fireworks and the delighted squeals of children on show rides, while Grey has just found his mother bleeding on the floorboards. His relationship with his sister begins as one of resentment, later turning to protection and attachment, as she begins to more resemble the mother he has lost.
Grey becomes involved with the boys he used to watch at night, the ones his mother called the ‘Wild Boys’, as he imagines the ‘nights of the wild boys charged with secret meaning’. He becomes close to the half-Aboriginal boy Eccleston. Grey’s father is a drunk and a failure, and Grey has no concept of the ‘heritage’ his grandmother speaks about. The past, for him, is just his mother.
Patrick Holland’s sentences are tight yet lyrical – swift, like the passing of time in this novel. Soon Grey is in his twenties and a severe kind of attachment has formed between him and his sister, Irene. This is a novel about a very small group of isolated people who have gone through trauma, change and loss, and so cling to each other – seeming casual, carefree about it at times; and at other times openly intense – desperate to hold on. The depth of their attachment is often uncomfortable for the reader, but this is because Holland never tells you too much. He gives space for the reader to interrogate the characters’ motives.
by Robert Forster, Black Inc RRP $27.95
Reviewed by Sam Cutler
I read Robert Forster's The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll: collected music writings 2005 - 09 with great interest, having spent a large part of my life down in the rock and roll 'trenches' of which he speaks. I welcome Forster's reflections on music and the creative writing process as one welcomes the writings of prisoners on the experience of imprisonment: there simply is no substitute for genuine experience ! Forster has tons of experience and comes across as a calm, dignified and unpretentious man who as a member of The Go Betweens produced some calm, dignified and unpretentious music, with several of his songs being achingly beautiful
anthemic musings upon Australian life. He is undoubtedly a master of his craft.
Forster’s writings on music possess the same stirring and uncomplicated ethereal quality which informs his songs and anyone who aspires to write contemporary pop music would do well to read this book. In reviewing the book I feel a little like a patient being asked to examine his own doctor, for though I was a tour manager and looked after famous musicians, I was never a performer as such. Nonetheless I can bring an 'informed perspective' to the task, having witnessed the 'creative process' first hand upon countless tours and in endless hotel rooms where only a guitar has saved several people I know from being driven terminally crazy. This is a great book and I heartily recommend it to all, and having said that I now feel comfortable
in expressing my only reservations!
Reviewed by Michael Smee
The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa by Murray Waldren HarperCollins 2009
Chris Dougherty toyed with the pseudonyms Brett Orlando and Dorky Bladder before finally settling on Reg Mombassa, and the rest, as this biography documents so well, is history. Written by Murray Waldren, author, journalist and artist, this meticulously researched and lavishly illustrated book provides a wonderful insight into the enigma that is Reg Mombassa.
Chris Dougherty was born in Papakura, in suburban Auckland, in 1951. At the age of four, he told his mother he was going to be a painter when he grew up. ‘The stuff I drew was mainly what young boys draw, basically soldiers and guns and warships.’ He studied art after moving to Australia at the age of 17 and started playing music with some friends from art school.
What began with belting out ‘Gloria’ in the garage eventually evolved into Mental As Anything, one of Australia’s most outrageous and energetic rock bands. Murray Waldren has called on a wealth of friends and family to round out the story with countless recollections and anecdotes, documenting a memorable time in Australian musical history. Considering the sometimes frantic lifestyle, not to mention the alcohol and marijuana consumed on the Mentals’ rise to fame, this in itself is a remarkable achievement. The many photographs and posters throughout the book provide a wonderful background to the text. There are also some great tips from Reg Mombassa on motel cookery (basically involving boiling a variety of foodstuffs in an electric jug).
Reviewed by Lucy Clark
At the water cooler. At the school gate. At the Parents-of-Teenagers Anonymous meetings, one of the biggest issues in the 21st Century is negotiating cyber-space.
Negotiating time spent there, worrying about what dangers lurk there, wondering how it actually works (for the Luddites among us) and deciding whether its effects are good, bad, or indifferent – these things are a constant cause for concern.
A very funny and thought-provoking new book by columnist Susan Maushart is the story of how one family came to grips with the electronic media’s intrusion on family life … by banning it completely.
“Over a period of years,” writes Maushart, “I watched and worried as our media began to function as a force field separating my children from what my son, only half-ironically, called RL (Real Life).”
So In The Winter Of Our Disconnect (Bantam, $34.95) the mother of three teenagers bravely pulls the plug on computers, IPods, mobile phones, and televisions, and enters a six-month period of screen-free time known as The Experiment.