• David Whish-Wilson has written lots of books. His latest was The Coves and fans will be pleased to know Frank Swann will be back next year via Fremantle Press. Please note he didn’t write one of the books in this photo, it’s just the next on the australianrules.com.au bookshelf.
Kent Anderson – Green Sun
This was my introduction to Kent Anderson’s writing, but I’ll be going back for more. Green Sun is a crime novel that works by deep characterisation and strong, concrete descriptive writing. Its melancholy tone perfectly suits the story of an older recruit going back to the streets of Oakland to get his hours in, before hopefully getting a better posting somewhere quiet. Anderson’s character, Hanson, is a Vietnam vet, former cop and academic much like the author himself. Hanson’s observations of his day-to-day feel authentic, unromantic and perfectly weighted. The story builds by accretion of detail rather than forced plotting. By turns brutal and tender, this was a standout in my reading this year.
The Deuce, Season Two, HBO
Fuck I love this show. I can’t remember the last time I watched television and savoured every second of every minute of every episode across an entire series. Hardly surprising given the quality of the writers (Megan Abbott’s episode was simply brilliant) and actors (Maggie Gyllenhaal is incredible) and the complexity of the story – the deft, multi-layered and patient narrative describing the birth of the modern porn industry, of various sub-cultures and their embeddedness in the political and social fabric of Times Square, NYC.
Steve Hawke, The Valley
My Fremantle Press stable-mate Steve Hawke has really lifted the bar with this multi-generational story of the Western Australian frontier, focussing on the Bunuba lands of the Kimberley region. Initiated by a brutal murder in the 1920s, the novel charts the consequences across four generation of a family whose secretive lives are centred on a hidden valley that once sheltered frontier war hero Jandamarra. As the descendants trickle from the valley to work the nearby cattle stations, an incident in Broome brings a father and son home to country, seeking answers. The narrative skilfully moves backward and forward through time, as well as laterally, resulting in a circular storytelling style that deftly gathers all the strands of history together as the novel veers toward its startling conclusion.
Dorothy Porter, The Monkey’s Mask
For the hell of it I re-read this Australian crime-novel-in-verse from the late 90s, using it in effect as a late-night lullaby – reading a few pages before diving into sleep. Porter has sadly left the Australian literary scene, dying in 2008, but the enduring popularity of this novel is testament to her ability to communicate a fully-realised crime story using the most minimal of forms, and in language so spare and sharp that each phrase and image often suggests more than the pages of many fleshed-out doorstop crime novels by lesser writers – a real masterclass in creating atmosphere and character.
Alan Carter, Heaven Sent
Carter just gets better with every new novel and his fourth Cato Kwong novel is evidence of that. Focussed largely on my Fremantle hometown among the city’s homeless population, the novel has a more fluid narrative style than previous work – with the POV shifting between a larger cast of characters, allowing Carter to get a rounded perspective on the policing of a series of brutal murders. This is great stuff, and fully justifies the rave reviews the novel’s been getting.