Archive for June, 2016

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As the title suggests, Wild Life by Liam Brown is not a sober story comfortable within the confines of the ordinary and the every day. Instead, protagonist Adam Britman takes the reader on a downward spiral into a nightmarish underworld.

Adam is an accounts manager for a digital marketing company, husband, and father of two. A self-made success it would seem, only his work style and his own propensity for addiction lead him, with the assistance of his little plastic bag of white powder, headlong into alcoholism and gambling. Adam is Dionysius gone wrong. He doesn’t seem to know it but he’s on the archetypal hero’s journey, one filled with the trials and tests and tribulations of the initiatory transition to manhood. His fall is sudden, dramatic, and absolute. He loses his job, walks out on his family, and ends up, drunk, on a park bench.

He’s found by a trickster figure reminiscent of Santa Claus, and welcomed into a cult of homeless men ruled by a bully bent on back-to-earthing, boot camp style. These are not wild men. They are feral, a by-product of shallow, hedonistic, consumption-driven late-capitalism. And as the story unfolds, the reader wonders if Adam will ever find his way out.

Composed in the style of an older, wiser man looking back on a younger, foolish self, Adam’s is an acidic confession. The wry and self-admonishing prose, laced with gritty hyperbole, makes for a face-paced and intense read.

“No, the pros understand that the best way, the only way, to tell a lie is to swallow it yourself. Better still, you have to let the lie swallow you. You have to commit to it totally; to eat, breathe and shit the lie twenty-four hours a day until it becomes part of you, inscribed not only on each and every strand of your being, but on the genetic code of future generations of relatives yet to be born.”

There’s a forward drive to the writing, and a punchy, urban beat. Little space given over to introspection; Adam is not an especially thoughtful narrator. Yet this is the story’s appeal. And while Adam may not be all that reflective, there is much for the reader to reflect on, not least the nature of depravity.

It’s hard to pull off what is essentially a coming of age story, albeit of a man suffering a kind of arrested development the result of his decadent lifestyle. Brown succeeds with a story of betrayal and brutality, that serves as the antidote to Robert Bly’s Iron John.

(Big thanks to Legend Press for my review copy)

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Liam Brown is a writer, filmmaker and former-life model. His debut novelReal Monsters was published in 2015 and long-listed for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and two children.

www.liambrownwriter.com

@LiamBrownWriter

@legend_press

Enjoy the trailer (I know I did)

Follow the blog tour to:-

http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.com.au/

 

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After reviewing Pia and the Skyman a few days ago, it’s a pleasure to speak with author, Sue Parritt and discover what motivates her to write Climate Fiction.

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Starting with the obvious, tell me a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Bournemouth, a seaside town in southern England. At 19 I married my childhood sweetheart, Mark, and seven months later we emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. We have one son, David. After graduating (B.A. University of Queensland 1982, with majors in English Literature, Drama and French) I worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. I now live in a bayside town, Mornington, in southern Victoria, where I spend many hours writing in my beautiful garden studio built by Mark.

 When did you start writing fiction?

I have always loved books. As a sickly child often away from school for weeks at a time, I read voraciously, immersion in fascinating stories enabling me to forget about illness for a while. My favourite childhood books were: David Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Good Wives, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Moonfleet, a novel set not far from my home. My grandparents loved Dickens and I read most of his works from their nineteenth-century editions. My parents stressed the importance of education, provided a houseful of books, recordings of Shakespearian plays and the opportunity to discuss what I had read or heard. My father, in particular, shared his love of literature with me, often reading aloud excerpts from Shakespeare, poems and the Bible.

Writing has been a passion since my teenage years when I wrote poetry, usually reflecting my feelings about social issues or newly discovered love. During my teens and early twenties, I also entered public speaking competitions, often including snippets of my poetry in my speeches. I spoke about the threat of nuclear war, mental illness, and pacifism.

Since taking early retirement, I have written four novels: Sannah and the Pilgrim, the first of a trilogy, which draws on contemporary conservative attitudes towards climate change and refugees to present a dystopian view of a future Australia. Published by Odyssey Books in 2014, Sannah and the Pilgrim was commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award 2014. The second, Pia and the Skyman was published in April 2016, the third, The Sky Lines Alliance is scheduled to be released in October 2016. My fourth book, Safety Zone, deals with gender equality, pacifism and emerging feminism and is yet to be published.

During my employment at the Victorian College of the Arts, I was encouraged by a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television to try my hand at scriptwriting. I have since written several drafts of a feature film screenplay: Feed Thy Enemy based on my father’s unusual experiences in Naples during and after World War II. So far I have been unable to find a producer, so plan to rewrite the project as a novel. My short TV drama script, ‘Last Fling’ (based on a short story, published in ITA 1996) received First Prize in the FAW Whitelight TV Drama Award 2009 and I have also written the pilot for a TV series based on Sannah and the Pilgrim.

That’s an impressive achievement. Every author draws inspiration from other authors. Who inspires you?

I don’t have a favourite author or genre. I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are: Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Jolley.

I am inspired to write by the issues facing our twenty-first century world, such as climate change, refugees, war, inequality. By creating speculative fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ordinary people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable future.

Having just read Pia and the Skyman I’m interested to hear what drove you to write it.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

Pia and the Skyman, is the second book in my trilogy of a future Australia scarred by the ravages of climate change and decades of totalitarian government.

In this tale of loyalty, betrayal and duplicity, I focus on a tiny population forced to flee their home and the ramifications when a significant percentage, including hundreds of children, are refused asylum due to unacceptable difference. I present choices for the reader that are intended to be disconcerting as Pia and Kaire risk not only lengthy imprisonment to help those still suffering in apartheid Australia, but become involved in a conspiracy that if discovered, will see them wandering the universe forever stateless.

Age 20, Pia’s heritage is Pacific Islander and European. She is passionate, volatile, adventurous and unwavering in her determination to help liberate her people from generations of domination by an oppressive regime. Intelligent and savvy, she knows how to survive in a harsh world.

Age 28, Kaire is of European descent. A senior pilot from space station Skyz59, he originally came to Earth on a pilgrimage to experience the world of his ancestors but appalled by the society in which he found himself, now assists those trying to undermine the Australian government as well as those fleeing imprisonment for seditious activities. Naïve, uncomfortable with conflict, especially if it involves physical violence, Kaire still struggles to cope with Earth-life.

Pia and the Skyman took me a year to write, in sharp contrast to Sannah and the Pilgrim, which, including research, took about four years. As the second book in my trilogy, I already knew the central characters and had a good idea of the plot. I spend most weekdays (10-5) writing and occasional weekends if I have a deadline. My dream of becoming a published novelist has been realised with the publication of two novels and a third to be released soon. I took a risk in giving up paid work eight years ago to concentrate on writing but have no regrets. Writing is making retirement the best time of my life.

You can find out more about sue parritt by visiting her website. www.sueparritt.com
find my review HERE
and you can purchase pia and the skyman at AMAZON and all good booksellers

Sue Parritt’s Pia and the Skyman is the second in her Climate Fiction trilogy, following on from Sannah and the Pilgrim, which I reviewed last year.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

From the very first sentence, Pia and the Skyman engages the reader in the action, Parritt quickly and skilfully establishing the backstory carried over from Sannah and the Pilgrim. Sannah’s daughter, Pia, and her former lover, Kaire, are thrown together to help maintain ‘the women’s line,’ a resistance movement in a climate changed future, set up to help free prisoners doomed to a lifetime in underground desert prisons in what has become an ‘Apartheid Australia.’

Then there’s the matter of Kaire the Skyman and his cohort of clones languishing on a space station that was launched many centuries before with the aim of seeking another planet for humanity. Kaire is not without criticism. “How arrogant to imagine they could wreck one planet then move on to another without a backward glance.”

Lies, deceit, betrayal and tragedy along with a healthy dose of passion carry the narrative along in what turns out to be a remarkably engaging read.

Pia and the Skyman is a thoughtful, carefully considered work.   Parritt’s writing is assured, confident and commanding, a steady pace maintained, the use of passive voice creating an emotional detachment befitting the stark conditions of a climate changed dystopia. “Desert desert go away…let us live another day,” the children in the playground chant.

Parritt is adept at creating an edge-of-survival atmosphere without recourse to over dramatisation. Her setting is vividly real, painted with a simple palette, and fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Her characters are deftly portrayed and immediately recognisable.

The scenario Parritt depicts is not far removed from our own current reality, the story a metaphor for our times, and a logical extrapolations of successive Australian governments’ commitment to off-shore detention of asylum seekers in gulags. Environmental refugees are among us now. How many more will there be if we don’t amend our ludicrous dependence on fossil fuels?

There’s a deeply pacifist moral undertone that runs right through the story, carrying forward values of peace and right human relations, values elevated partly through Kaire, who in a fashion represents the higher moral ground. “Down there [in Aotearoa] his fellow settlers were doing their utmost to live a sustainable life, yet still found time to help those at risk in Australia. He wanted to shout out his admiration, tell them never to give up the struggle.”

Pia conveys values of compassion and goodwill. She acts, decisively and sometimes impulsively, exemplifying the determination and resilience of all the women who sacrifice their own safety for the sake of others in the Women’s Line – a powerful symbol of cooperation, collaboration and resistance founded on principles of solidarity and trust found amongst women in all situations of oppression and hardship the world over.

Through Pia and the Skyman Sue Parritt makes an important statement about the myopia that seems to have befallen our political leaders, especially in Australia. Humanity will be faced with harsh choices if environmental conditions become as brutal as they are in Parritt’s reality. As well they might. And I very much doubt humanity would have the capacity to respond all that differently to that of Parritt’s Apartheid Australia. On the whole we seem incapable of transcending our own selfish, divisive and hate fuelled beliefs. We’ll need a lot of goodwill and far-sightedness to avoid the scenario contained in this trilogy. Sue Parritt might as well be a soothsayer.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN CAN BE FOUND AT ODYSSEY BOOKS

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There are stories that need to be told, stories sidelined, destined to languish on the periphery of our knowledge of history, stories eclipsed by bigger, more sensational stories. Until an author like Michelle Saftich comes along.

Port of No Return is a work of historical fiction, set at the end of WWII, which tracks the stories of four families as they flee their war-ravaged city of Fuime, Northern Italy, for the refugee camps in nearby Trieste, as communist Yugoslavia, under the command of General Tito, claims ownership.

Saftich leads the reader by the hand into the intimate domestic lives of Contessa and Lena and Bianca, and Ettore, Edrico and Roberto, with all of their children, and of course Nonna. Their homes are bombed, their lives under threat. When Fuime was under German occupation, many locals were required to work in the arms factories. The Partisans created lists of the traitors. When they seized control, those men were rounded up and shot, or imprisoned and tortured, and then shot. It’s a familiar story. I’m easily reminded of current times in Syria and Iraq. And to that end alone, this book is an important read.

And as we face a refugee crisis second only to World War II, in Port of No Return Saftich depicts the struggles of millions of refugees displaced across Europe and the challenges they faced finding a place, any place, to live.

The hunger, the awful conditions, and the waiting, endless waiting, are portrayed through the eyes of the characters as they scratch out a day to day existence. It is a story in which hope and despair vie for supremacy.

Saftich portrays her characters with sympathy and sensitivity in confident, down-to-earth prose. The narrative is well-crafted and well-researched. Port of No Return is a story of survival, of hope, of the tenacity of those Italian families determined to have a future. And through it Saftich opens our hearts to compassion, a commendable feat.

ODYSSEY BOOKS, 2015

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With A Single Light Patricia Leslie melds city grit and ethereal myth, the twin demands of Urban Fantasy, to form a perfect unity. The plot is simple, a good and evil battle to save humanity from extinction. Yet there is nothing simple in its execution, Leslie demonstrating both a depth of knowledge of her subject and writerly finesse.

Protagonist Rick Hendry, along with a federal agent, a doctor, an archeologist and a journalist, are thrust into a realm of angels and ghouls through a spate of mysterious deaths and disappearances in suburbs surrounding one of Sydney’s natural parklands. They are joined by a Hunter, one of the Afflur whose eternal task is to protect humanity from the evil Bledray. On the face of it, scarcely a unique tale, but as with most stories that comply with the strictures of genre fiction, the originality is all in the telling.

Urban Fantasy is a blend of crime and fantasy fiction. In A Single Light, Leslie displays mastery of both genres. As I was reading, I could imagine the author producing a fabulous crime novel one moment, an epic fantasy tale the next. Yet A Single Light also contains elements of horror, the reader forgiven for sensing echoes of Stephen King. It’s a fair comparison, Leslie’s storytelling, imbued with a mounting dread, and her detailed depictions of the acts of the Bledray, easily sit inside the horror genre, the quality of writing, fairly compared to King’s.

“A shift in the light; shadows moving across the room, horrendous and distorted, and then settling into a more recognisable form as they reached the windows. The curtains dropped as the window closed. The back door opened with a creak and the shadows left. Only the fan kept moving, blowing warm air and a trail of dust around the room, back and forth back and forth …”

Leslie’s characters are well-crafted and come alive on the page with all their foibles. Equally so, the otherworldly figures, the Afflur and the Bledray. Each shift in perspective clearly defined. Each scene carefully crafted.

“At once her whole form relaxed, hair-neat and pulled back in the cab of the truck-escaped its bonds to caress her shoulders, bright eyes became tired and lined, tight lips softened into a tanned face well-used to travelling at the whim of a hooked thumb and a driver’s caprice.”

The narrative is well-paced, the reader carried along by the dramatic tension established from the first page. A perfect mix of action and introspection, held together with vivid descriptions, never overdone, enshroud the reader in a reality so convincing, the very existence of A Single Light’s fantasy figures endures beyond the page.

Leslie’s prose is commensurate with the Urban Fantasy sub-genre, which demands both the earthy realism of crime and the imaginative transcendence of fantasy. It’s a fine balance, one that Leslie achieves with flair. The voice is unselfconscious, mature and poised, absent the pretensions of over-adornment, or the stilted prose the result of an overuse of Occam’s razor, one that plonks the reader in an emotional desert. Evident in Leslie’s writing, is a balance of sophistication and simplicity that will satisfy those after a work of substance while remaining immediately accessible to the page turner reader.

ODYSSEY BOOKS, FEB 2016

Today I’m in conversation with Michelle Saftich, author of the acclaimed novel Port of No Return (Odyssey Books, 2015), a work of historical fiction I reviewed earlier this year.

 

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Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia. I have also spent time living in Sydney and Osaka, Japan. What I love most about each city – I love Brisbane’s warm weather, Sydney’s harbour and Osaka’s food!

So, where are you now?

I am still in Brisbane, living with my husband, who is an accomplished musician and singer/songwriter and who helped to edit the first drafts of my book, and my two school-aged sons; not to mention my demanding black cat!

When you you decide you wanted to be a writer?

By the age of six, I knew I wanted to be a published author and that dream never wavered. As soon as I could read, I fell in love with books and wanted to write them.

My grandmother is a playwright and I have always felt a connection with her. As a young girl, I would sneak into her writing area, ogling her huge, heavy typewriter, scanning all her press clippings about her plays and I longed to have such a space of my own. I can recall sitting on her lap at age nine, reading to her an eight-page story I had written, just for fun.

Authors love books. What are some of your favourites?

I have read broadly, exploring a range of genres and authors. As a younger reader, I loved historical fiction and romance. I treasure such books as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Jane Austen novels and I loved Wild Swans by Jung Chang. I have enjoyed biographical novels about Marie Antoinette and early writers such as Mary Shelley. I like stories about strong, inspiring women and works that inform and educate as well as entertain.

What inspired you to write port of no return?

I was greatly moved my grandparents’ true story of having to flee their Italian town, with their children, at the end of World War II. At that time, their city, Fiume, a beautiful portside city, was taken and absorbed into Yugoslavia – lost to Italy forever.

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In May, 1945, Yugoslav Partisans came down the hills into the city of Fiume and began rounding up those Italians, known to have worked with the Germans during the war, and executing them.

My father, a great oral storyteller, had told my sister and I a few snippets of his parents’ plight. He was fond of telling how his mother had stood up to the Yugoslav Partisans when they had come knocking on their door, seeking to arrest and kill her husband. She had shown great bravery in telling them that her husband had left her for another woman, and was not at home.

Inspired by these family tales, I decided to do some research about the city and came across a startling post-World War II conflict. Hundreds of thousands of Italians fled the region as the Yugoslav Army moved in, leaving behind their homes, their livelihoods, their friends.

I decided to write about their experiences.

How long did it take you to write?

It took two years to write. I talked to other Italians who had fled Fiume – ones who could remember being shot at trying to cross the town border to escape, ones who could recall the Partisans coming down the hills.

I have tried to capture their fear, their loss, their desperation – while informing readers of this little known conflict that affected so many.

Personally, it has been wonderful to write about and record my family heritage, while giving the people of this region a voice. I have felt honoured to tell their story and have loved every word of it.

There’s a whisper of a sequel. To find out why, read Port of No Return, and, like me, you’ll be left wanting more.

You can find Port of No Return at Odyssey Books

at Amazon and all good booksellers.

Meanwhile, here’s how you can connect with Michelle:

Website https://michellesaftich.com/

Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/msaftich/?fref=ts

Twitter  @MichelleSaftich

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26102499-port-of-no-return

Lately, I’ve started getting into book reviewing. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much and it’s becoming something of a compulsion.

Sometimes I post my reviews here on my website. I reviewed Inez Baranay’s Ghosts Like Us, for Newtown Review of Books.

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“Ghosts Like Us is a poetic, ambiguous and subversive exploration of the nature of history and remembering.” Read the whole review here: http://newtownreviewofbooks.com.au/2016/06/09/inez-baranay-ghosts-like-us-reviewed-isobel-blackthorn/

If you are of an intellectual bent, you love the 1980s for its second-wave feminism, or you are into the processes artists go through in their acts of creation, then this is the book for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it.