Dark Thriller Set in the Australian Wilderness
About The Legacy of Old Gran Parks
Southern Australia, 1983. While Middle-aged stalwart Miriam rolls into town in her broken down car, Frankie – a deer hunter – is up in the forested hinterland with her gun.
Meanwhile, fisherwoman Old Pearl sits on her front deck with her dog, a glass of whiskey in her hand, and Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.
But all is not well.
Gran Parks is stirring.
Four troubled women. One restless spirit.
Who will survive?
“Worth every one of the five stars I’ve given it. Just buy it, it’s brilliant.” – Anita Waller, author of 34 Days
Selected Reviews of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks
“Along with its compelling story and intriguing cast, the author utilises some terrific descriptive writing to really bring her story and setting to life. I would recommend this book very highly, and would describe its setting as one of the most well-realised sinister small towns I have had the pleasure of visiting for a very long time.” – Jon Richter, author of Deadly Burial
“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is unique, extremely idiosyncratic and bathed in perfect prose. Blackthorn doesn’t just focus on “writing” a novel – she writes with such eloquence that one finds it difficult to critique her tempo and narrative techniques. Blackthorn’s writing style flows like a river in a barren land. Unobstructed. Understated. Unequalled.” – Renier Palland
“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a very unique, very fascinating but ultimately savage and dark read that I very much enjoyed. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies, you are more than likely going to enjoy this book which starts out a little bit eerie and odd and then turns violent and dark. It was a book unlike any I have read before but I actually really loved it. And the narration was just addictive.” – Big Book Little Book
“This was my first time visiting the mind of Isobel Blackthorn, and it certainly wasn’t boring! The dark humour, gritty scenes and unusual characters all combine to make an entertaining read….Like the recently successful Jane Harper (author of The Dry and Force of Nature), Blackthorn knows how to convey the sinister nature of the Australian setting, making blistering heat tangible, the seaside seem lethal, and the all-encompassing forests claustrophobic….Overall, this is a darkly humorous tale expressed through brilliant prose and intriguing characters!” – Get Litty
“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks has a wonderfully dark, nasty feel to it…This book is chilling. The women in it don’t mess about…” – Bookworm Hole
“This is the first book I have read from Isobel Blackthorn and it won’t be my last. It is such a well written book that I was gripped from the first few pages.” – Helen Loves
“This book had a fair few twists and turns towards the end, I couldn’t have predicted a couple of them, again something else I like in a good book, to keep me on the edge of my seat as I finish.” – Parchment and Quill
“By the end of this reading you’ll be able to feel the grittiness that is this story on your skin and in your hair, and next time you stop in a small country town on your way to elsewhere, you’ll make sure to keep your visit brief…” – Patricia Leslie, author of Keeper of the Way
“I did enjoy this story and would love this to be considered for a TV series or film. It’s very dark and enjoyable.” 5 Stars – Jennifer, Uncaged Books
On the Making of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks
With this dark satire, I started with the setting, a remote town deep in the forest on Australia’s south-eastern corner. I know the town as I have passed through it many times on my way up the coast from Melbourne. Cann River is a coach stop; it’s where tourists pull in for a rest after driving through the forest for about a hundred miles, before they tackle the next hundred. For years, I thought the town would make a terrific setting for a thriller. When my friend urged me on and I committed to the project, fresh ideas flooded in. I was after a unique tale, something that would speak to the heart of what Cann River feels like from an outsider’s point of view, while capturing some of the essence of the surrounds, for the area, known as Croajingolong National Park, is part of the Wilderness Coast and is a UNESCO-declared biosphere reserve. The area is special for another reason, one I discovered when I started researching the story. On the coast nearby is Point Hicks lighthouse, where Captain James Cook first sighted land on the eastern coast of Australia in April 1770. Unable to pull in there or anywhere else for hundreds of kilometres, Cook kept heading north and arrived at Botany Bay and Australia was claimed by the British. My book is as far from historical fiction as can be, but there is truth in there regarding the local area, including Point Hicks.
With the setting vivid in my mind, I wanted to do something different with the plot. I’d just been offered a publishing contract by a small American horror imprint for my dark psychological thriller, The Cabin Sessions, and thinking I might pen something else dark, I started exploring tropes and conjuring characters. I already had one character, Miriam, who was born in a shelved work, and with her I knew I wouldn’t be writing anything stereotypical in the genre. When I made a conscious decision to subvert the gothic horror stereotype of the damsel in distress victim in need of rescuing by a heroic male protagonist, three other characters came to me. In the centre of Cann River is a crossroads, and a crossroads is a powerful symbol. I decided to make full use of that symbol as well.
I will be honest and say that I enjoyed writing the whole book. This is my fifth novel and it was pure entertainment and often hilarious to write. Some works are a real labour. ‘Gran Parks’ was not one of those books. It was as if the four protagonists rolled up their sleeves and had their say and all I had to do was keep up with their voices as I wrote. Almost like taking down dictation.
There wasn’t a hard scene so much as a lot of tricky scene changes to manage as I switched perspectives from character to character. I’m a pantser and I could only be one character a day and I would forget where I was up to, where the others were and so on. I had to keep a close eye on what day it was and what time of day. I wanted to make things clear and easy for the reader to follow. That was the most important part of the whole story for me in the writing. All along my aim was to sweep the reader along for the ride. I didn’t want them to stumble trying to figure things out.
Extract of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks:
It was three deep at the bar. Friday, a scorcher of a day and the loggers were in town slaking their thirst. The generator out the back was taking the strain but what with having to open the fridges every few seconds, Gloria wondered if it would cope.
The teachers from the local primary school were in, as was the Postmaster. The farmers had come into town for the chook raffle, and while the men got pissed, their wives were seated in the lounge drinking lemon squash.
Gloria looked around for her husband. He was off shift and should have been helping her behind the bar but he was nowhere to be found. She had young Jim from the general store in, re-filling the fridge and pulling beers, and Beryl, a farmer’s wife and as hardworking as they come, in the kitchen, cooking the meals.
Gloria had never known it so busy.
They’d taken over the hotel twenty years before in 1931, after the first owner dropped down dead of a heart attack while he was pulling a dark ale. Back then, Gloria’s husband, Frank, had been young and fit, and Gloria able, and they’d bought the pub with the proceeds from the sale of her recently deceased father’s farm.
The day they moved in the trouble started. Gloria never could figure out why. First it was the put downs, then came the ridicule. It wasn’t long before he was knocking her about. He seemed to think she was his to do with whatever he liked. Being a mean-spirited, woman-hating man, that translated into the sorts of acts a man would have done jail time for if he’d done it to someone other than his wife.
The night before had been the worst she’d ever known. Her body was bruised head to toe. It hurt to inhale and she was sure he’d cracked a rib. She had to stand behind the bar serving her beery eyed regulars as she explained away her fat lip and the cut above her eye.
Gloria was no mouse. She was a big-boned bushie’s daughter, as deft with a chain saw as she was with an iron or a whisk. It wasn’t fear that brewed in her. It was anger.
With every full glass she passed across the bar, that anger deepened.
Six o’clock shaded into seven and then eight. By nine the meals were over, Beryl had gone home and the clientele had thinned. At ten she had the lounge all wiped down and straightened out, and the last of the drinkers had staggered outside.
She paid Jim out of the till and let him go, closing the saloon door behind him on the best night’s trade she’d ever known. She went behind the bar to clean up, thinking the night’s takings would cover the doctor’s bill and then some.
She was drying a tray of pots when Frank appeared. From his swagger, she could tell he’d been drinking somewhere else.
‘Get me a beer,’ he snarled.
She didn’t answer.
Instead, she walked away.
He growled at her. She felt his growl as though it were a goblin clinging to her back.
She kept walking, rage pulsating in every cell of her. She went into the lounge and on through to the kitchen. Frank was close behind her.
There was nothing in his eyes but hate.
He took a step forward and she took a step back, sidling by the long kitchen table.
There was no escaping what he was about to do to her. Soon, he’d have her cornered.
Seeing no way out of the kitchen, she let him approach.
Three more paces and behind her was the stove. Beside the stove was a drawer. In the drawer, were the knives.
There was no time to open that drawer. He’d be on her in an instant.
Panic stirred, familiar, like toast.
Then in her side vision she saw Beryl hadn’t finished clearing up. The cleaver was still on the bench.
Gloria glanced out the window.
Frank followed her gaze.
Her hand gripped the cleaver.