Tag Archives: Australian Author

The Book Club by Alan Baxter – a book review

The Book Club by Alan Baxter

As soon as I read the first paragraph, I knew that Mr Baxter wasn’t going to pull any punches in his novella The Book Club. Without giving too much away, this is the story of man whose wife disappears on the way home from her weekly book club meeting, written from his perspective. It could be classed as a horror, or a paranormal thriller, but the main character isn’t hard-bitten or cynical or a terrified teenager as you might expect, instead he is a husband and father caught up in the nightmare of not knowing what has happened – or might be happening – to be wife.

I liked Jason, the protagonist, immediately. He wasn’t too perfect, but his love of his family shone through everything he said or did. He did a few dumb things, but why he did them was believable. Unlike other books I’ve read in this genre, at no point did I feel like yelling at Jason for doing something obviously insane or against his motivations. Nothing annoys me more than a character who is doing things because the author wants the plot to move along.

The secondary characters also had more depth than the average thriller. Alan Baxter made sure than all his ‘cast’ were ambiguous in some way. The police helping him hunt for his wife weren’t angels in blue and weren’t heartless drones. The crew of antagonists weren’t even mildly evil, though they did do some morally and ethically bad acts to protect their reputations. The one person who was poison mean and deliberately cruel was also given believable motivations, even if they were twisted and strange.

The only unexplained phenomena are the supernatural elements. In the context of the story, this makes sense and is even utilised as a major plot point. The supernatural elements don’t dominate the plot; the story is about Jason’s journey and we only see those elements that relate directly to him and his missing wife. My one real problem with The Book Club is that this supernatural element isn’t explored more. I came away with a feeling that the events pertaining to the supernatural elements hadn’t been ‘tidied away’. This might have been a deliberate move by Alan Baxter to heighten the horror, but I still would have liked to have seen more repercussions from Jason’s encounters with the weird and dangerous.

Alan Baxter tends to write dark urban fantasy. In his books I have read, his protagonists have been tough and confident men and women who know how to handle themselves in a rough situation. The Book Club surprised me with both his flawed human protagonist and with the unusual plot twists that the novella took. I would recommend it to the same people who read and enjoy Charles De Lint and Angela Slatter.

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Filed under Australian Author, Book Review, Uncategorized

Why I like Australian Authors

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You might think the easy answer is because I am Australian. But that is only a very small part of the complete answer. I don’t think there is another writing community in the entire world that is as supportive – for both successful writers, emerging writers, baby writers and wannabees  – as the Australian writing community. It isn’t a network of competing, parochial individuals, it is a proper community that opens its arms to anyone with a love of books and authors.

I personally know of many successful Australian authors who bend over backwards to be helpful and encouraging to the newbies. Of course, many writers hold courses or offer services for which you pay cash; writers need to eat and pay rent. And yet, I can’t think of the number of times some lovely person has given me advice or support just because they are kind and thoughtful: Jennifer Fallon, Angela Slatter, Michael Pryor, Ged Maybury, Richard Harland, Gillian Polack, Pamela Freeman, Jason Nahrung, Kylie Chan, Marianne de Pierres, Michael Gerard Bauer, Trent Jamieson, Scott Westerfeld, and the list could go on and on. There are just too many people to mention … isn’t that a lovely thought.

Australian authors write some of the most beautiful books, the best books, the books that linger in your heart and mind years after you have read them. The books you reread to visit with old friends. The books you read to make your heart beat faster and bring a chill to your spine. Books with memorable characters that make you laugh and cry. These authors, in any other country, would be too famous to mingle with us lesser mortals. (Have I mentioned I nearly had kittens the first time I met Jack Dann?) In Australia, they sit down and chat over a coffee.

Remember to appreciate Australian writers and authors. Respect them for the treasures they truly are. Buy their books, for yourself or as presents. Recommend their books to friends. Because that is exactly what they are doing!

 

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Filed under Australian Author, Personal experience, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

Henry Savery: Australia’s First Novelist

The first novel published in Australia was a crime novel, Quintus Servinton: A Tale founded upon Incidents of Real Occurrence by Henry Savery. It was published in Hobart in 1831.

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Henry Savery’s tomb stone on the Isle of the Dead, Port Arthur, Tasmania

Henry Savery  was born in Somerset, England on the 4th of August, 1791. His father was a successful banker. He grew up to be an unsuccessful businessman … so unsuccessful, that he resorted to forging bills of credit. These bills eventually amounted to over £30,000. He tried to flee to America with 1500 pounds of his partner’s money, but was caught after a rather dramatic arrest. He jumped from the boat that was to take him to America in an attempt to escape the police. He was originally sentenced to hang, but his influential family and friends managed to have that commuted to transportation. He arrived in Australia in 1825.

After his arrival in Hobart,  Savery was retained in government service and worked for the Colonial Treasurer. In 1828, his wife and son came to the colony, and arguments between the husband and wife culminated in Mr Savery’s attempted suicide. Soon after the arrival of his family, Savery was again imprisoned for debt. That was the final straw for his wife. She took their son back England within three months. This was the last Savery was ever to see of his wife.

However, it was while in prison that Savery took to writing. After his release, he was given the position of manager of Lawn Farm in New Norfolk. Quintus Servinton: A Tale founded upon Incidents of Real Occurrence was published anonymously in 1831 to reasonably good reviews from the colonial press. However, he couldn’t stay out of trouble. He managed to have his ticket of leave revoked for tarnishing the reputation of Governor Arthur in the newspapers. He gained a reputation for alcoholism and tried his old trick of forging bills to cover his debts. He was sent to Port Arthur, where he died on the 6th of February, 1842. There is some indication he may have taken his own life – after all, he had attempted suicide before.

It is generally agreed that his writing is more important for its historical value than its literary merit. – Wikipedia

The original edition of Quintus Servinton is extremely rare, with only three copies being listed in Ferguson’s Bibliography. These are held by Dr. W. Crowther, the Mitchell Library, and the Public Library of Tasmania. The book itself is of limited literary merit, but it was the very first Australian novel, and part of the action did take place in ‘The Colony’. For that alone, we should be grateful to Henry Savery.

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Modern reprint of Savery’s Opus.

 

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Filed under Australian Author, Historical Personage, History, Uncategorized, Victorian Era

Australian Steampunk Authors: Michael Pryor

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For the next few weeks, I thought I would share around a few Steampunk Authors from Australia. Australian authors are among the best in the world, and often their books are cutting edge in genre fiction. Okay … this might make me sound like I’m a tad patriotic, but it is completely true. I hold up as my first example Michael Pryor.

Michael Pryor has written quite a few Steampunk genre books. I first came across his work when judging for the Australian Aurealis Awards, when I read his book ‘Heart of Gold’, the second in his The Laws of Magic series. I was immediately hooked. This series has an Edwardian setting, and his protagonist, Aubrey Fitzwilliam, has both a rational, curious, scientific turn of mind and is able to use magic. There are six books in the series, and every one of them is  a winner. Then he went on to write The Extraordinaires,which is so far two books about Kingsley Ward, (an alternative world Mowgli) magician & hero, and Evadne Stephens, a brilliant and talented inventor, juggler, and a driven woman.

I have to admit, if I hadn’t already fallen in love with Michael’s writing, Evadne would have won me over. She is flawed, physically and emotionally, but at no point do her flaws turn her into a damsel in distress. She is the  brains of the duo, and Kingsley is quite happy with that arrangement, because he is remarkable for both his common sense and his understanding above and beyond the rules of British Edwardian society. Evadne is also the one taking charge in their developing romantic relationship. She loves to invent weapons and give them playful names, and she is an expert in all her inventions. She is beautiful, but it isn’t her looks that define her, it is her intellect!

I would recommend any of Michael Pryor’s books, because they are beautifully written, beautifully told, and his Steampunk books are full of unexpected puzzles and solutions.

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Filed under Australian Steampunk Author, Personal experience, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre