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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 18th

Book & Publishing News:

* Australian history students, awaken: Alan Frost is having another word on the “Why Botany Bay?” debate in his new book “Botany Bay: The real story”. I’ll talk about it later in the year.

* REVIEWERS: “The Blurb’ would welcome some new reviewers. Send us your review of anything you’ve read lately, about 2000 words, and we will likely present it [and/or you] on an upcoming program.

* “Can the book survive?” was put to four well-known book people [including publisher Richard Walsh] by “The Age” Weekend magazine, as they were asked to assess four of the latest e-book offerings. Have you some thoughts on this? Ring in and tell us, or email.

* “WOMEN ON THE ROAD” is an exciting initiative from Aireys Writers Group. Coming up mid-Feb. More later.

* WHO WON THE BOOKER PRIZE FOR FICTION ION 2010? His book was reviewed on this program late last year. Be the first to tell us and you can pick up $75 worth of books from “The
Blurb”. Phone The Pulse Reception or email.

* “BOOK-TO-FILM” Number 4+: I started to watch Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s’ Dracula’” last week…Bram would have been turning over in his grave [boom! boom!]…The 1970s’ film by Stanley Kramer of the 1968 minor classic “Bless the Beasts and the Children” was on one of the new digital channels recently: A fine film of a very good novel by a Glendon Swarthout; probably hard to find these days…And I am waiting with baited breathing for the new “True Grit” film, screening Feb 27th. I loved the understated novel [which was an early English text for this teacher in NSW around 1970]; the first film version was great with fat, overweight John Wayne as fat, overweight “Rooster Cogburn” - who doesn’t quite prove to be of “true grit”.

* The “What Is Poetry?” discussion continued in the pages of “The Age” last week, thanks to a nice little piece by traditionalist David Campbell who was mourning the passing of knowledge of the “classics’ of “The Banjo” and Lawson…Well, a bit of the verse each wrote might be “classy” poetry, but not much according to most reasonable criteria. The point needs to be made, however, that too few English teachers READ poetry much less feel like they can or want to TEACH it.
The next day’s “Age” printed a good letter from a Melbourne primary teacher who maintained her school did all sorts of things poetic from Prep to grade Six…My remarks refer to secondary schools I taught in for 40 years in two states….What do you think? Does it matter?

This Week’s Poem:

This week’s poem is “Gardeners” by Bruce Dawe, a hymn of praise to his wife.

I see you as a gardener
who plants in other’s hearts
those seeds and precious seedlings
from which each flower starts
- your seeds are all those kindnesses
and seedling deeds that grow
and flourish in your presence
wherever it is you go.
I’ve seen your goodness also
beneficent as rain
to arid soils of suffering Bring hope and life again.
One spring you brought me happiness
and even now you feed
me with your love and beauty
who otherwise were weed…

In prayers, in thoughts, in words as well,
In all you seek to do
- I see Jesus walking,
conversing there with you,
as gardener to gardener,
considering each way
to make a sad world brighter,
day by gospel day.[2010,”Madoona” magazine.]

Author Interview: Katherine Howell author of “Violent Exposure”

Bernard had the pleasure of talking with Gold Coast-based Katherine on “The Blurb” last week.

Here is a summary of what she had to say:

Sydney-born Katherine now lives on the Gold Coast and is completing a PH.D [on female detectives in contemporary fiction] while continuing to write her crime procedural novels about the work in Sydney of one Ella Marconi.
Katherine’s professional background provides a rich perspective to her writing as she worked for 14 years as an ‘ambo’ paramedic. We spoke about the immediacy of the human crises paramedics encounter every day – and how [ I would say very successfully] Katherine incorporates this in the four books published so far.
We talked about establishing authenticity in crime fiction [without resorting to the near-porn of some TV series?] and Katherine mentioned Michael Connelly and early Patricia Cornwell as some examples. She feels it is very important to get the ‘factual feel’ right.
Bernard was delighted when she cited JAMES LEE BURKE as her favourite detective writer with our PETER TEMPLE as another worthy mentor. She tries to keep to a discipline of at least 1500 words a day though not necessarily on a continuous project.
In the meantime she is working on a Ph D thesis [on female protagonists in crime fiction.]

This Week’s Review: ‘Violent Exposure” by Katherine Howell

I have always derived great relaxation from reading crime fiction, especially in recent years when there was so much other “heavy stuff” to get through. As a kid, it was John Buchan, Ellery Queen and Edgar Wallace. Agatha Christie I found boring. Of late, as listeners to this program would know, we have had available to us heaps of very good novelists in this genre, both overseas and here in Oz. Katherine was new to me, so I read not just her latest, but the previous “Cold Justice”. She now has four books featuring her murder investigation policewoman, Ella Marconi.

What sets Katherine’s books apart from her Australian colleagues is not only the freshness of her main character – she is so ‘natural’ – but more so the ‘naturalism’ of the crime scenes the reader encounters. No, I don’t mean “Silent Witness”, etc–style gore. You see, Katherine brings to her writing what every writer does, I suppose – her own previous life. It’s just that pre-professional writing, Katherine was an “ambo” paramedic, for 14 years. Not only, then, do we get factual realism; she also brings us right into the personal experiences of these modern-day heroes. Indeed, though her paramedics are, on one level, supporting actors, their presence in each of the novels I’ve read are what holds the books together. And I mean that in the most positive sense. Think about it. Murder scene… there are going to be paramedics around, aren’t there – before the ubiquitous [on out TVs] CSI types get there. Ambo’s have long been sort of heroes of mine – and the SES people: they are there at all those horrible “accident” sites, night after night. What about their trauma? Katherine indirectly asks and answers this question.
Anyway I am sold on Katherine’s writing, especially on the newest book: I could see real development, particularly in the subtlety of the plotting here. The reader is led for a bit, up a cosy garden path: woman bashed, husband missing, as is a young female employee of the pair. Ah, domestic violence, we crow. Another procedural...Boring. Well, Katherine is too good for that. As we cruise the streets of Sydney, either in the ambulance or with Ella, we recognise that there is more to urban crime than gangsters.
Meanwhile, Ella’s romance is not so romantic and we get to know her Mum and Dad as Dad encounters illness – which happens with the parents of early-middle age cops!
Katherine’s Sydney is not so far as interesting as Peter Corris’ – or Garry Disher’s or Shane Moloney’s Melbourne for that matter [much less Rankin’s Edinburgh or Burke’s “bayou country”…I wonder why she didn’t try BRISBANE, a bit overlooked by our crime writers [though brilliantly depicted on the screen in that hilarious David Wenham Film…the name of which name escapes me.] The great David Malouf did some wonderful work with Brisbane…
Anyway the crime fiction of Katherine Howell is well worth a look.

SCORE: ***+
Katherine Howell: “Violent Exposure”.Macmillan pb, pp 312, rrp $ 32-99.

Next Week:

Next week I will be speaking on air with Geelong-educated veteran piano maestro Max Cooke as we discuss his recent memoir, “A Pedagogue on the Platform”.

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