Tad Williams, bestselling author of The Dirty Streets of Heaven and many more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Tad Williams

author of The Dirty Streets of Heaven, and the  Otherland, Shadowmarch and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I grew up in Palo Alto, California, the college town for Stanford University and one a birthplace of modern technology. But when I grew up, it was a little slower, less money-oriented, and I grew up with the idea that it was more important to do something I liked with my life than to make money. (Not that money was bad, just that it was a tool, not an important thing in and of itself.)

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I was losing interest in being an archaeologist and beginning to think I’d be a comic book artist for Marvel. By eighteen I had transitioned pretty thoroughly into my “rock star” prep years. By the time I was thirty, I’d realized that writing was going to be a better long-term plan, especially since you didn’t have to work with drummers. But although I worked in suit-and-tie jobs for years, the idea I might do that as a career was poison. I grew up in the ’60s, remember.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That when I felt like I was right about something, I WAS right, that I actually had objective memory of things. And that my personal tastes in music and art were something other than subjective, and that failing to rise to my tastes was an indicator of failure on the part of others. I’m much less certain of things now, and I like it better.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I was one of those people who fell in love with Tolkien early. I read THE LORD OF THE RINGS first when I was eleven or so. I think it was the idea of created worlds and imaginary history that grabbed me. I was also very influenced by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s early Marvel comics and by Dickens. And later, GRAVITY’S RAINBOW knocked my socks off and made me want to be a grown-up writer.

Art, theatre and music are a whole different set of influences. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, THE TIN DRUM, and PERFORMANCE all got into my brain, just for instance.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

At the time, I was beginning to think about artistic projects I could do on my own, in my own (free) time, since I was working a couple of jobs and scheduling was an issue for things like music and theatre. I was living with cats for the first time, so I took that amusement/astonishment and my interest in worldbuilding and came up with my first novel, TAILCHASER’S SONG.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN is the first of a series of angel noir novels about Doloriel, aka Bobby Dollar, an earthbound angel. Bobby tells the story first person, and so it combines my love of crazy situations, monsters, complex worlds, and aggressive fictionalizing, and adds lots of (dark) jokes and a faster pace to my usual suspects.

I got up next morning with a head that felt like the ball from some brutal medieval game, the kind where at least a couple of peasants died every time. But even the horrible throbbing couldn’t make me forget the not-very-bright-thing I’d done the night before — basically told Heaven to go fuck itself. So why wasn’t I standing up in front of a celestial firing squad or whatever it was that happened to bad angels?
— Tad Williams, The Dirty Streets of Heaven

(BBGuru: here is the publisher’s blurb: THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN is the first in a new set of fantasy-fuelled thrillers from the masterly Tad Williams, international bestselling author of The Dragonbone Chair.

THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN is the first in a new set of fantasy-fuelled thrillers from the author George R. R. Martin cites as one of the major inspirations behind Game of Thrones: Tad Williams, international bestselling author of The Dragonbone Chair.

Sure, he takes the occasional trip to Heaven, but his job as an advocate – arguing the fate of the recently deceased – keeps him pretty busy on Earth, and he’s more than happy to spend the rest of his time propping up the bar with his fellow immortals.

Until the day a soul goes missing, presumed stolen by ‘the other side’.

A new chapter in the war between heaven and hell is about to open. And Bobby is right in the middle of it, with only a desirable but deadly demon to aid him.)

Click here to buy The Dirty Streets of Heaven from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

My ideal trifecta is: first, entertained; second, surprised; third, ideas and questions creeping up long afterward. I love genre fiction because I like the tradition and the formality — if you write a mystery, you’d better solve it in a way that makes sense and that the reader thinks is fair — but also that you can be as artistic as you want if you also keep the readers’ interest.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I remain fascinated by Pynchon’s fractalism, by Dickens sweep of character and event (and humor), by Hunter S. Thompson and James Thurber and Barbara Tuchman and Michael Moorcock and many others, and the joy that is sharing a smart person’s mind for a while. I’ve lived thousands of lives by being a reader, and if I can add to that for some others, that’s a pretty cool legacy and a pretty good job.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To get better every book. To keep challenging myself. To have people quiver before me and nudge each other and whisper, “He’s a writer, you know.” And to spread my evil legacy through many other kinds of stories — film, television, games, stage plays, and souvenir commemorative plates.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write and read. Read and write. Don’t just read the kind of stuff you’re writing — in fact, make that a small percentage of your day-to-day experience. Read broadly. Also, write regularly. Don’t waste energy talking about it until it’s done. Be real about the characters and situations you invent. And finish things.

Tad, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Dirty Streets of Heaven from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

US Trailer:

RAY BRADBURY IS MY ‘FATHER’ writes Michael Robotham, bestselling author of Say You’re Sorry

Ray Bradbury 1959

Growing up in a small country town in Australia, my only experience of the wider world came through grainy black and white TV images and the magic of the books that I borrowed from the local library.

I remember being eight-years-old, in July 1969, when teachers assembled the entire school – barely a hundred students – into one classroom. They wheeled in a television and we watched Neil Armstrong emerge from the landing module of Apollo 11. We held our breath. One small step…one giant leap…

Everyone applauded except me. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the enormity of the achievement, but I had already been to the moon and walked on the surface of Mars and smelt the pungent odour of Jupiter. I had travelled the universe with a writer called Ray Bradbury, who is perhaps the reason that I’m a novelist today.

Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, the son of a lineman for the local power company, who moved often for work between Illinois and Arizona. When very young he developed a passion for the books of Edgar Allan Poe and L. Frank Baum, while immersing himself in popular culture such as cinema, comic strips and travelling circuses.

There were tragedies in his early life. His beloved grandfather and his baby sister died of pneumonia – which could explain why a sense of loss haunts so many of Bradbury’s stories and novels.

At the age of fourteen he moved to California and has lived there ever since. After he graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938, he joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction League, befriending writers Robert Heinlein and Leigh Brackett. In 1940 he sold his first story to a literary magazine – and a career began that would span more than seventy years.

Apart from numerous books and short stories, Bradbury wrote for years for both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. He has penned the screenplay for the classic 1956 version of Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck and directed by John Huston.

I wasn’t born until 1960, but I discovered Bradbury when I graduated from picture books to short stories. From memory, the first I ever picked up was The Illustrated Man a collection of eighteen short stories that opens in Wisconsin where two men sit down to share a meal around a campfire and one unbuttons his shirt to reveal a canvas of ink-decorated skin. In the flickering firelight, the images begin to breathe and move. Each of the tattoos tells a story and gives a vision of humankind’s destiny. There were tales of star-travel, Martian invasions, junkyard rockets and technology awakening our worst instincts.

I was mesmerised and went looking for more Ray Bradbury stories, finding The Martian Chronicles, The Small Assassin and his most famous novel Fahrenhiet 451 about a future world where books are banned and burned.

Then I struck a problem. In my small town, I couldn’t get any more of Bradbury’s books. They weren’t available. I made a decision. I wrote a letter to Mr Bradbury addressed to 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, because that was the address on the flyleaf of one of my books.

Months passed. I didn’t expect to hear anything back. Then a parcel arrived at the post office. My mother had to go down and collect it. I came home from school and it was sitting on the kitchen table, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

Inside there were five books – the Ray Bradbury titles that I couldn’t get in Australia – as well as a letter from the man himself, saying how thrilled he was to have such a passionate young reader on the far side of the world.

It was an astonishing gesture – life-defining if not life-changing. Almost from that moment, I wanted to be a writer. I became a journalist to gather material and a ghostwriter to teach myself the discipline, and finally a novelist.

I recounted this story last year, writing an article for a publishing website in America. I quoted Ray Bradbury, who once said: ‘Jules Verne was my father. H.G. Wells was my wise uncle. Poe was the batwinged cousin we kept in the attic. Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers were my brothers. And Mary Shelley was my mother. There you have my ancestry.’

If that’s the case, I wrote, then Ray Bradbury was my father and J.R. Tolkien my eccentric uncle and Steinbeck and Hemingway were my over-achieving older brothers.

About a week after the story was posted on the website, I had an email from Ray Bradbury’s youngest daughter Alexandra. She told me that her father was now in his nineties, still living in Los Angeles and almost totally blind.

‘I read him your story and it made him cry,’ she told me. ‘Dad wanted you to know that you are his son.’

Ray Bradbury died on the June 5, this year. It led to a tremendous outpouring of praise and admiration as people recognised his achievements. I wasn’t alone in crediting Bradbury as being my inspiration. Stephen King, Stephen Spielberg and Neil Gaiman joined a chorus of other writers and directors, who lauded Bradbury as one a literary giant of genre fiction.

I still have my collection of his books, but sadly I have misplaced his letter in one of my many moves between the UK, Australia and Africa. I have a feeling it will turn up one day, pressed between the pages of a book. That’s where all great letters belong.

Guest Blogger: Michael Robotham was an investigative journalist and ghostwriter in Britain, Australia, and the U.S before his career as a novelist. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters. His latest psychological thriller is SAY YOU’RE SORRY.

Learn more at http://www.michaelrobotham.com

Michael, thank you for sharing this wonderful story with our readers.

Michael’s new book Say You’re Sorry is available to buy now from Booktopia.

The chilling new psychological thriller – a truly gripping read from one of the most brilliant crime authors of today

My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago.

When Piper and her friend Tash disappeared, there was a huge police search, but they were never found. Now Tash, reaching breaking point at the abuse their captor has inflicted on them, has escaped, promising to come back for Piper.

Clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and his stalwart companion, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, force the police to re-open the case after Joe is called in to assess the possible killer of a couple in their own home and finds a connection to the missing girls. But they are racing against time to save Piper from someone with an evil, calculating and twisted mind…

Click here to buy Say You’re Sorry from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Sam Bowring, author of The Legacy of Lord Regret and The Lord of Lies, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Book One

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sam Bowring,

author of The Legacy of Lord Regret and The Lord of Lies, Books One and Two of the Strange Threads Duology

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Sydney, raised in Glebe, and I went to Fort St High back when uniforms weren’t compulsory. Looking back on some of my fashion choices, I kinda wish they had been.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Perhaps uninterestingly for any sense of progression, the answer to all of them is ‘a writer’. If we went back to six, I could say ‘the owner of a reptile farm as well as a writer’. As for why, I suppose world-building has always appealed to me – it’s about as close as I can get to being a god or a wizard in real life. I also very much like the flexible hours, and the ability to entertain without actually having to be there.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That getting a hair cut is not important.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

1)   The Hobbit – my first fantasy book, read to me by my dad when I was small.

2)   The Labyrinth – a great movie, stands up easily to all the CGI stuff these days, with such an inspiring and colourful host of characters.

3)   Warhammer (the game) – I have never played it, but looking at all the inventive miniatures set up on a table never fails to make me think up characters or stories.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I guess I feel it’s my native talent. I tend to think in long-form stories, and have a hard time writing anything short unless it’s for kids. I have dabbled in plenty of other stuff though. For example, I also work as a stand-up comic, and you can easily find clips of me on youtube if you’re interested. Stand-up is great because the feedback is immediate, and also you get to drink on the job.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel The Legacy of Lord Regret

In this story the ‘dark lord’, Lord Regret, has been dead for three hundred years, but the damage he caused the world is ongoing, and the fabric of reality is coming undone. Those who slew him (a group of powerful threaders called the Wardens) were changed by the experience, emerging from it corrupted and with strange special powers. The story pretty much started with ideas about these characters – for example the main villain Forger is like a fantasy land serial killer, who literally feeds on pain, growing stronger the more he causes, or the more he takes away. And if taking someone’s pain away sounds like a nice thing to do, imagine the heartless, empty person you leave behind when you rob them of the ability to fear or empathise.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I like to write completed stories with definite endings, as opposed to series that never finish – I find this much more fulfilling and I hope that readers do to. I also hope to give them some weird-arse dreams.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Book Two

I read Robin Hobb quite religiously. She achieves a great balance between the fantastical and human drama. The Farseer Trilogy is especially a favourite.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

There is a large Federation house in Glebe (the suburb where I grew up) that has a big garden and turrets, which I imagine would be excellent to write in. So my goal is to become successful enough that I can one day knock on the door and say:

Me: How much will it take for you to sell me this house?

Them: I’m afraid the house is not for sale – it’s been in our family for generations, and we love it here.

Me: I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood me – how much will it take for you to sell me this house?

After I move into the place, it goes without saying that I will immediately set up a laser tag/mirror maze in the basement.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write it first without getting bogged down in re-reading too much. It is much easier to go back and edit once a work is completed, than to try and get it exactly right the first time. Also, keep an ear out for what publishers are specifically looking for. My first children’s book was written to the specifications of a series for which I knew a publisher was looking for titles. A good start these days is checking websites, since most publishers have submission guidelines and what they are currently interested in.

Sam, thank you for playing.

The Strange Threads Duology


The Legacy of Lord Regret

Legend tells of a time when eight powerful threaders, known as the Wardens, fought each other for control of Aorn. But that was hundreds of years ago now, so why does the earth shake once more? Why does night fall during the day? And what is this scent of earth burning, blowing on the breeze?

Rostigan is a great warrior, reluctantly renowned as Skullrender, champion of the battle at Ilduin Fields. He has since taken to wandering the quieter corners of Aorn, earning his coin through collection of magical herbs. Travelling with him is his minstrel and lover, Tarzi, who hopes he may soon commit more deeds worthy of song and tale, despite his desire to remain apart. Unfortunately for him, she may be right – for when Rostigan and Tarzi travel to the magnificent city of Silverstone, they discover it has been wrenched from the earth.

As they travel onwards seeking answers, they soon learn the rotten truth.

The land, once again, has descended into chaos for the Wardens have somehow returned.

Click here to buy The Legacy of Lord Regret from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


The Lord of Lies

The spellbinding conclusion to STRANGE THREADS …

The world is crumbling.

Having joined the Warden Priestess Yalenna, Rostigan now faces not only those Wardens who remain bent on steeping Aorn in ruin … but also must, somehow, heal the world by closing the Wound in the Great Spell.

Standing in his way is a superhuman, pitiless army commanded by a madman, a sky full of silkjaws, and, worst of all, an old friend, once betrayed, who he must now convince to join him again.

There is only one thing for it – Rostigan must break an ancient oath and use powers he has dared not touch – powers which could tip the balance in favour of the spreading corruption.

Click here to buy The Lord of Lies from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Jesse Fink: The Top 5 Books I Would and the Top 5 Books I Wouldn’t Want To See On A Woman’s Dating Profile

Like a lot of men, Jesse Fink never thought it would happen to him. But it did. His wife of 10 years and mother of his child walked out on him and into the arms of another man.
In that moment he lost his best friend, his soul mate, his family, his identity.

LAID BARE is his brutally honest account of one man’s emotional and mental oblivion after separation and divorce.

Jesse’s search for love and pleasure saw him jump headlong into the freewheeling and sometimes dangerous world of online dating.

Below is his tongue-in-cheek guide to the books you do and the books you don’t want to put in your dating profile…

Top 5 Books I’d Like To See On
A Woman’s Dating Profile

1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Milan Kundera

Suggests sensuality is important to her. Extra props if she has a bowler hat.

2. The Great Railway Bazaar
by Paul Theroux

If she’s into India, I’m sold.

3. Herzog
by Saul Bellow

‘“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me,” thought Moses Herzog.’ I concur. Most of the memorable women I’ve dated do too.

4. The Shock of the New
by Robert Hughes

The greatest art book ever written. Hughes turned me on to art like no one else before or since. If she’s not into art, forget it.

5. Nobody’s Fool
by Richard Russo

My favourite novel. Most people don’t seem to know who Richard Russo is. Which is a minor tragedy.

Top 5 Books I Wouldn’t Want To See On
A Woman’s Dating Profile

1. The Secret
by Rhonda Byrne

The biggest load of simplistic, new-age claptrap ever assembled and printed on a page.

2.  Shantaram
by Gregory David Roberts

A book countless women seem to have by their bedside table but few have finished… with good reason, from what I’ve seen of it.

3. Swan
by Naomi Campbell

Sort of self explanatory, isn’t it?

4. My Booky Wook
by Russell Brand

I want to punch Russell Brand. Cannot for the life of me figure out what his appeal is to some women. He’s so unfunny and irritating I get in a state just thinking about it.

5. He’s Just Not That Into You
by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

Chances are I won’t be either. Apart from anything else, it’s a monumentally bad book.

Let Jesse know what you think of his list here > @JesseFink < or leave a comment below…

Laid Bare: One Man’s Story of Sex, Love and Other Disorders

One man’s story of sex, love and other disorders.

Like a lot of men, Jesse Fink never thought it would happen to him.
But it did. His wife of 10 years and mother of his child walked out on him and into the arms of another man.
In that moment he lost his best friend, his soul mate, his family, his identity. His wife’s new lover even got his dog.
What came next was a freefall of the soul that would take him from contemplating cutting his wrists to sleeping with hundreds of women.

LAID BARE is a brutally honest account of one man’s emotional and mental oblivion after separation and divorce.

Jesse’s search for love and pleasure saw him jump headlong into the freewheeling and sometimes dangerous world of online dating. He visited brothels and massage parlours. He crossed the Pacific for doomed affairs. He disastrously moved in sight unseen with his high-school dream girl, a woman he hadn’t spoken to for 25 years but reunited with on Facebook. He flew off to Hollywood to connect with yet another beautiful woman he sparked with online and found himself in the kitchen of the real-life Bridget Jones. And he managed to get his heart broken all over again with a brilliant but turbulent young artist.

With remarkable frankness, Jesse opens up about his complicity in the failure of his marriage, his battles with OCD, his struggles as a single dad, his sex addiction and his desperate desire to find love. He shares it all the good, the bad and the ugly.

His chance at personal salvation finally comes in the unconditional love of his eight-year-old daughter.

This time, if he pays attention, he might just get it right.

Click here to buy Laid Bare from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

About the Author

Jesse Fink was born in London, England, in 1973 and raised and educated in Sydney, Australia, by his Australian parents. After working as a senior editor in publishing he branched out into print journalism. As deputy editor of Inside Sport magazine he was nominated for a Walkley Award for Coverage of Sport (All Media) in 2003. He has won or been commended for several Australian Sports Commission Media Awards, and has had his feature writing collected in a number of anthologies.

Fink is the author of the critically acclaimed book 15 DAYS IN JUNE: HOW AUSTRALIA BECAME A FOOTBALL NATION, and the Half-Time Orange football (soccer) column, which first appeared on Fox Sports Australia s website soon after the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He has contributed print features to publications such as Inside Sport, Sport & Style, Dazed & Confused, Jakarta Globe, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Golf Magazine Australia, and has interviewed the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka, Mohamed bin Hammam and Sam Worthington. He currently contributes a weekly football column to ESPN STAR Sports in Singapore and lives in Sydney.

Ed Chatterton, author of A Dark Place To Die, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Ed Chatterton

(aka Martin Chatterton)

author of A Dark Place To Die

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Liverpool, England at the start of the sixties. I went to school in the city at first, and then in the suburbs as my parents moved outwards. It was a state school education all the way through. I didn’t know anyone who went to private school.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

As a child of the space race, when I was twelve I wanted to be an astronaut but I was terrible at maths and scared of heights. At eighteen I wanted to be a film-maker – something that I still want to do. I was at art school and involved with a group making short movies. At thirty I wanted to be twenty nine. For obvious reasons.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I was the very best at what I was doing.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

‘Anarchy in the UK’, The Sex Pistols.

I was, at age 16, really into punk music – a type of music that has been badly misunderstood by anyone who wasn’t there. For me, that music came at the right time and showed me that working class people like myself could do things independently and with flair.

‘Manhattan.’ Film by Woody Allen.

This could have been any of Woody Allen’s earlier movies. Great writing,  music and attitude and a real sense of excitement about his home town. I wanted to be Woody Allen and ‘Manhattan’ made me want to live in New York. I still revere comedy writers above almost any other type of writer.

‘The Angel of the North’, sculpture by Antony Gormley, North East England.

Gormley is an artist whose work I really admire (see 6 below). The Angel of the North is a gigantic piece set high on a hill above a part of urban Britain. For me, as a ‘Northerner’, it is the perfect embodiment of the stuff that is in my blood. I mention this piece in A Dark Place To Die so it might be best to let that speak for me:

‘The sculpture, its sail-like iron wings embracing and defying the wind, had shocked Keane by its scale, its span wider than the Statue of Liberty is high. Like the figures on Crosby beach, the Angel was constructed of the stuff of northern England: iron and steel, yet it appeared light, and was possessed of so much latent energy that Keane would not have been surprised to see it take flight across the northeastern landscape– steam-driven and belching smoke.’

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I have had a career as an illustrator, and as a writer for children. I’ve also been a graphic designer, an animator and a commercials director. The move towards adult fiction has been a slow one but ultimately it’s because I wanted to write stories without the boundaries imposed by writing for children. The book could just as easily have been a movie. I write in a very cinematic way but getting that movie made would be a lot harder than writing the novel.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

A Dark Place To Die is a story of ambition taking place against a huge international drug deal. During the deal (between gangs in Liverpool and Australia) one of the characters stages what is effectively a coup. He then presents that coup to the criminals in Liverpool as something that they should accept. Unfortunately for him, they don’t see it that way. As the dog-eat-dog violence escalates, my central character (Menno Koopman, a retired Liverpool cop living in Australia) becomes embroiled when his estranged son falls victim. I wanted to write a crime novel – being a fan of the genre – but with themes of dislocation, homeland and family intertwined in the narrative. One of the key images is the opening scene of the book which takes place against the real-life backdrop of an art installation by English artist, Antony Gormley. This piece – ‘Another Place’ – is a haunting installation of one hundred rusting iron figures facing out to sea. Anchored in the sands at different points along the beach they are sometimes covered by the tide. One morning, two art students discover an extra ‘iron man’ . . .

(BBGuru: Publisher’s blurb –

A pulsating psychological thriller that takes you from the dark, iron heart of a cold English city to the searing white-heat of an Australian wilderness…

A pulsating psychological thriller that takes you from the dark heart of a cold English city to the searing white-heat of an Australian wilderness…

By Merseyside standards it’s been some time since a decent corpse arrived on his patch, but now, on a bone-cold October morning, Detective Inspector Frank Keane’s wait is over.

The son of Keane’s old boss, the legendary DI Menno Koopman, has been discovered dead twelve thousand miles from his Australian home, lashed to a scaffolding pole on Liverpool’s bleak shoreline. It’s the start of a vicious cycle of violence spanning half the globe.

For Koopman, who turned his back on a thirty-year career in the city to live the quiet life in northern New South Wales, the death of a son he never knew means a return to England and the past he’d left behind.

Koopman has not been forgotten in his old hunting ground – not by his former colleagues, and not by the enemies waiting for him. As the body count rises in Liverpool and Australia, Keane and Koopman’s search for the killer becomes a fight for survival.)

Click here to buy A Dark Place to Die from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop.

7.  What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I have always tried to write books that I would like to read. When I am writing for children I try to imagine what I would have enjoyed as a child. This novel is no different. I’d really like it if people could read it as a straight ahead crime novel on one level, but then grasp the underlying themes and ambition behind the story. The book should leave them excited but satisfied. I always think that good writing – and I’m hoping I fit into that category – does more than just turn the page.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Elmore Leonard’s whole body of work has been a big influence. If I could write something as spare and complete as any of his books I’d be very happy. George Pelecanos who sets most of his fiction against a wonderfully evocative Washington DC is another writer I love; PG Wodehouse, the English humourist who makes me laugh and who I admire for his craftsmanship; Evelyn Waugh, for his acid tongue and wonderful dialogue. There are so many others.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’d still like to write for the movies. If that comes about through writing crime I’d be very pleased. If I get a movie made as good as ‘No Country For Old Men’ I could die happy.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

There are so many old saws about writing but the main one that I’ve found useful is to read a lot. It’s sounds ridiculous but there are plenty of writers around who I think just aren’t readers. It comes through in the writing. In terms of improving the only thing that can really be said is to keep writing. A Dark Place To Die is my 31st book and it feels like I’m starting out.

Ed, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy A Dark Place to Die from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop.

Asa Larsson, author of Until Thy Wrath Be Past, The Black Path, The Savage Altar and more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Åsa Larsson

author of Until Thy Wrath Be Past, The Black Path, The Savage Altar and more

Ten Terrifying Questions


 1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Kiruna, a small mining town 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. We live in an arctic climate, which in many ways affect the way we are and our lifestyle. My grandfather was a famous skier who won an Olympic gold medal in 1936, but he stopped competing at the peak of his career when he converted to Laestadianism, a very strict Christian religious movement. He then became a preacher in a small village close to the city where my dad grew up. Even my mother’s parents were Laestadians. My parents revolted against their religious education by becoming communists and by living together without ever getting married. In short, the kind of freaky childhood that makes you a writer!

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At the age of twelve – a famous writer. At the age of 18 – a nun. At the age of 30 – a tax lawyer (which is exactly what I turned out to be).

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That the Christian doctrine is the only right one. I revolted against my communist parents by joining a free church, where I became a strong protagonist, happily embracing the halleluiah mumbo jumbo they were feeding us on. It all eventually ended badly, of course, ha ha!

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

In the seventies in Sweden you could find many very talented young crime writers. I believe it is part of the reason why you can find so many good Swedish crime authors today. Not the whole reason, but part of it. I was both a reader and a writer from early age. My father loved books and worked in a public library. I was forbidden to read bad literature such as Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” or Nancy Drew. He was a very absent parent, but he always showed interest in my creative projects, so I draw and wrote alone in my room. I had no sisters or brothers.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

When I had my first child, I went through a life crises, or call it an development phase if you like. I thought I would not survive turning 50 (which at the time felt like the end of everything) and not giving myself a chance to write a book.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

In the opening scene of Until Thy Wrath Be Past, two young people are about to make a winter dive on Lake Vittanijärvi in the North of Sweden . They saw a hole in the ice of the lake, where they hope to find the wreckage of an old German air plane. And they die, in panic. Someone makes sure they don’t make it up to the surface. Someone who knows that this plane from WWII will compromise people who collaborated with the Germans during the war. The book is describing a part of our history that we Swedes would rather not deal with, namely that far from being neutral, we on the contrary collaborated with them. In the North of Sweden, German trains with soldiers, weapons and all kind of war support would freely head for occupied Norway. German war ships would anchor in Swedish Northern harbours without even being registered. We built huts and delivered goods to the German troops on the East front.

(From the publisher:

It is the first thaw of spring and the body of a young woman surfaces in the River Thorne in the far north of Sweden. Rebecka Martinsson is working as a prosecutor in nearby Karuna. Her sleep has been disturbed by haunting visions of a shadowy, accusing figure. Could the body belong to the ghost in her dreams? And where is the dead girl’s boyfriend, also reported as missing the previous winter?

Joining forces once again with Police Inspectors Anna-Maria Mella and Sven-Erik Stalnacke, Rebecka is drawn into an investigation that centres on old rumours about a plane carrying supplies for German troops in 1943 that never arrived. Shame and secrecy shroud the locals’ memories of the war, with Sweden’s early collaboration with the Nazis still a raw wound. And on the windswept shore of a frozen lake lurks a killer who will kill again to keep the past buried for ever beneath half a century’s silent ice and snow.)

Click here to buy Until Thy Wrath Be Past from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

A feeling for Northern Scandinavia. For the people living in this harsh climate. For our lifestyle, our rough humour. I believe readers are curious people, who want to penetrate worlds and societies that are totally unfamiliar to them.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

A whole lot of Swedish writers who have never been translated of course as they write about Northern Sweden. I like Alice Munroe and Margaret Atwood. Margaret Atwood because her stories have a dark heart, a dark side that slowly reveals itself to you. There is something reminiscent of crime novels in her writing. You think at first: what the h… has happened here?

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I have an extremely ambitious goal: to become a hysterically good storyteller. It makes me so happy when people tell me: “ I read all night long” or: “My husband was totally out of contact”.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be brave, that is the best advice I was given myself. What it really means is up to everyone to answer for themselves.

Åsa, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Until Thy Wrath Be Past from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop


I remember how we died. I remember, and I know. That’s the way it is now. I know about certain things even though I wasn’t actually present when they happened. But I don’t know everything. Far from it. There are no rules. Take people, for instance. Sometimes they are open rooms that I can walk into. Sometimes they are closed. Time doesn’t exist. It’s as if it’s been whisked into nothingness.

Winter came without snow. The rivers and lakes were frozen as early as September, but still the snow didn’t come.

It was October 9. The air was cold. The sky was very blue. One of those days you’d like to pour into a glass and drink.

I was seventeen. If I were still alive, I’d be eighteen now. Simon was nearly Continue reading

Caroline Baum’s Highlights from the September Booktopia BUZZ

What’s your take on coincidence? Sometimes it’s hard not to ask yourself how themes and ideas come to share  the same moment in the ether… so when I read Courtney Collins’ The Burial this month, a remarkable début novel based on the true story of a female bushranger, swiftly followed by Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist, another very polished first novel from the US, the parallels were striking: female characters who were loners, with strong relationships to horses, living outside the conventions of the times. What would they say to each other if they could leap off the page and into each other’s worlds?

There are many differences between these two powerful novels but what links them and all the others I’ve chosen this month is a shared connection to place, anchored in specific locations captured so evocatively that I can almost smell or see them.

In The Burial, the almost medicinal scent of eucalyptus hovers around the defiant figure of Jessie, as she rides across a rugged landscape and into a hidden valleys  searching for freedom.

In The Orchardist I can almost hear the bees buzzing around the apple blossom before the trees begin to bear fruit. Such a lovely place for so much tragedy to unfold.

In Debra Dean’s The Mirrored World, it’s St Petersburg’s court under the reign of the Empress Catherine that sparkles on the page, both glamorous and ruthless.

In Zadie Smith’s eagerly anticipated NW , London comes to life through the local lingo, almost a patois, of four people from a council estate confronting what it means to be an urban citizen in the 21st century

Naughty Howard Jacobson: Zoo Time shifts from literary London to Monkey Mia via a detour to the Adelaide Writer’s Festival with savage mischief, satirising the increasingly desperate landscape for a white male writer lusting after his mother in law.

Tara’s Moss’s Assassin starts in Barcelona before  taking us on the run; Stella Rimington uses Switzerland as her starting point for an espionage plot that disregards borders in The Geneva Trap; Mark Tedeschi’s Eugenia redraws the industrial city of Sydney, its factories, bars and  boarding houses in the nineteenth century to investigate a real life story of identity and crime. And in The Engagement, Chloe Hooper shifts the erotic tension from Melbourne real estate to a country house in Victoria’s wealthy western districts.

You don’t need a visa or luggage to embark on these journeys into worlds both familiar and imagined: with these writers as your guides, you are in the safest of hands.

Click here to view the full version of the Booktopia BUZZ

Book of the Month:

by Courtney Collins

It’s such a thrill when you can plunge headlong into a book that you love unequivocally from the first paragraph and that holds you in its spell for its entirety, never faltering, never releasing you from its exquisite reality.  That’s how I feel about The Burial, a debut that takes the somewhat dusty genre of bushranger stories and gives it an invigorating shake.

True, the material Collins has to work with is a gift, based on the true story of Jessie Hickman a former circus rider turned bushranger who roamed the Widden Ranges of NSW in the early part of the twentieth century. In her version of events, Jessie is on a freedom quest, fleeing  an abusive marriage, resorting to murder, but finding tenderness and redemption  in a valley of fellow horse rustlers, who accept her into their company providing her with a brief respite and sanctuary. But  there’s an aboriginal tracker on her trail, a man with whom she has an emotional connection, a man with whom she could perhaps have shared a different destiny.

Gritty, but romantic,  gothic and yet realistic, Collins deploys an impressively assured arsenal of tools, roping the reader in as smoothly as Jessie rustles horses, branding our consciousness with her narrator’s  disquieting voice from the underworld with prose that is visceral yet poetic, compelling and unsentimental.

Comparisons will be made with other works of contemporary fiction about Ned Kelly and Captain Starlight. For me, this is up there with the very best.



A feast for crime readers this month with new books from some of the most popular names in the biz, women at the top of  their game in the genre.

You can’t get past the fact that with Rimington, the Dame knows of what she speaks. There is always, for me at least, the frisson of knowing that she has been part of this world of British Intelligence. But while things may have moved on since the end of the Cold War (and this plot references those times) , the motives of the bad guys  don’t change: it’s merely the weapons and threats at their disposal which are different.

Rimington’s plots have got tighter with experience. Now she moves her pawns across the board with greater confidence, criss-crossing the globe, embracing the complexities of technology and satellite systems as part of the world of global terrorism and counter espionage.

by Stella Rimington

The Geneva Trap is the sixth in the Liz Carlyle series and again confirms her cynically cool-headed approach to the often byzantine internal MI5 dynamics while a more personal sub-plot gives us the chance to see Liz’s softer side.

Blurb: Geneva, 2012. When a Russian intelligence officer approaches MI5 with vital information about the imminent cyber-sabotage of an Anglo-American Defence programme, he refuses to talk to anyone but Liz Carlyle. But who is he, and what is his connection to the British agent?

At a tracking station in Nevada, US Navy officers watch in horror as one of their unmanned drones plummets out of the sky, and panic spreads through the British and American Intelligence services. Is this a Russian plot to disable the West’s defences? Or is the threat coming from elsewhere?

As Liz and her team hunt for a mole inside the MOD, the trail leads them from Geneva, to Marseilles and into a labyrinth of international intrigue, in a race against time to stop the Cold War heating up once again…


by Gabrielle Lord

Death By Beauty Gabrielle Lord’s latest, demonstrates her acute sense of topicality: ageing, genetics and even the current craze for vampires all get a work-out. The big news is that Gemma is now a mother, and finding that the demands of parenting and private investigation are hardly compatible.

Perhaps too eager to prove she’s still got what it takes professionally, she breezily takes risks that no sane mother should contemplate, luring a suspect through an internet dating site. Meanwhile  her own heart is divided between Mike, the sincere and caring man she lives with and Steve, the father of her child and a hopeless old flame cop who is under suspicion for corruption.

Lord is clever at giving Gemma access to information through her close personal  friendship with police detective Angie. Their jaunty camaraderie also offsets the gruesome  aspects of  a particularly grizzly  series of murders involving beautiful young women.  She’s also up to date on the latest in forensics: bet you don’t know what a palynologist is.


by Tara Moss

‘It’s illuminating to know what you’re worth dead’ – is the great opening line to Assassin, Tara Moss’s latest sleek, international thriller, in which her ex model turned PI Mak Vanderwall has to disguise her striking beauty to evade assassination at the hands of a powerful Sydney family with blood on their hands.

Moss loves the contrast between society power and glamour and the grubby world of contract killers, enhanced here by a series of picturesque locations, beginning with the seductive streets of Barcelona. And she loves mixing it with the forensic experts who provide her with background information and detail to help thicken her plot.

The high adrenaline pace suits her athletic Glock-accessorised super-heroine.  But she’s about to discover that she and Gemma Lincoln have something more than their shared profession in common…..

Click here to order Assassin + FREE copy of SIREN


by Zadie Smith

Novels don’t come much more eagerly awaited than this in the world of literary fiction. Smith has outgrown the prodigy status that began with White Teeth, demonstrating  her mature poise with On Beauty . Here she’s mashing up class, race and geography with her incredible talent for believable street  dialogue, creating a  layering  patchwork of patois from a north west London council estate. Her quartet of characters navigate their daily urban social lives negotiating complex webs of identity, love and  friendship,  absorbing a constant barrage of pop culture, advertising, social media  and white noise that thrums around them with its  Afro-Caribbean beat, hairweaves,  addictions, desires, deals and petty crimes.

Its a heady, dazzling, potent mix and Smith pulls it off with her usual cool panache, contrasting the brutality and beauty of London as it is lived in by foreigners and locals, expressing an ambivalence about the city she knows so well, colliding public and private worlds, pulsating to a score of clashing rhythms and cultures.


by Chloe Hooper

There are two sides to Chloe Hooper. The brilliant, courageous, methodical, even-handed, unflinching journalist who documented the death of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island turning it into a work of enduring  importance in The Tall Man, one of the most compelling, unsettling and significant reads of recent years.

Then there’s Hooper the novelist, whose previous, much-heralded fictional debut, A Child’s History of True Crime flummoxed me and many others. Now she’s written a much less artificial but still enigmatic contemporary gothic erotic thriller that will intrigue some readers and irritate others.

Just what is Liese Campbell, her unreliable narrator, playing at when she entices  awkward bachelor Alexander Colquhoun into a sexual game to pay off her debts? Redefining the term open for inspection, Liese uses her job as a real estate agent to arrange encounters with Colquhoun before accepting an invitation to stay at his pastoral property in Victoria’s Western Districts.

Some may think she’s got what’s coming to her. But then, what does Colquhoun really want and what is the secret in his shadowy past? Just who is setting a trap for whom here, who is the stalker and who is the prey?

The Engagement raises tantalising questions. Hooper knows how to create tension and build a mood of atmospheric uncertainty with dark material. Her prose is elegant, cool and  poised. And Hooper’s sense of timing in delivering this classy slice of sexual and romantic intrigue is uncannily impeccable given the appetite created by Fifty Shades of Grey and its many imitations. Talk about having your finger on the pulse.


by Howard Jacobson

‘Cheeky Monkey’  is how novelist  Guy Ableman’s mother-in-law, Poppy,  also his object of desire, describes him.  She’s not wrong. Ableman, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jacobson in many of his opinions and his garulous, ribald, caustic  satire, is a piece of work: insecure, horny, competitive, incensed and frustrated by the implosion of the literary world.  His  publisher has committed suicide, his agent is in hiding and the audience for his work is getting older and smaller  by the day. To make matter worse his gorgeous wife Vanessa has decided, after years of empty threats, to write her own novel.

This hilarious, farcical completely un PC romp takes a scattergun approach to literary  and social pieties. What it lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in comedy. Playful, mischievous, provocative, irreverent, Jacobson is at his best – and worst –  here.  It’s as if winning the Booker has freed him from any vestige of  inhibition; he’s luxuriating in  being offensive, mocking and self-indulgent, playing to the gallery,  relishing the role of joker/jester.

Literary fiction rarely mocks itself, especially in times when it is something of an endangered species, but this is about as entertaining as it gets.


by Amanda Coplin

How does a first novel appear that is so assured? Where is the beginner’s stumble or novice’s wobble? Not  here, in this beautiful, lyrical, story set in a remote  part of the American northwest at the turn of the twentieth century.

Talmadge is a solitary orchardist growing apples and apricots. One day two teenage girls steal his fruit at the market. Both are pregnant and seeking sanctuary. He asks no questions, but leaves food out for them, as he might for an animal. When  armed men arrive in the orchard, things take a tragic turn. Talmadge finds himself foster father to an orphaned baby girl, Angelene, with the wise counsel of his spinster friend, Caroline Middey.

But while Angelene blossoms in to a sober young woman,  tending to the orchard with the skill she has learned from Talmadge, their life is not destined to be peaceful for long.

Fans of Annie Proulx will welcome Coplin’s quiet unshowy  style and slow unfurling of a story that takes its own time, following a rhythm set by nature. Fans of Richard Ford will appreciate  the spare prose, finely drawn evocation of country and understated compassion that  characterise this sombre gem. As satisfying as a draught of unsweetened cider.

Click here to read a review of The Orchardist by Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach


by Debra Dean

I am something of a Russophile. Can’t resist a troika,  sable hat,  the stirring soulfulness  of Russian church music, the sight of birch trees in the snow…. I’m  a sucker for all that.

But I’m also something of a factoid pedant, always on the prowl for a jarring note, or an inaccuracy, but I could not fault  this. Probably because the author is clearly a Russophile herself,  having previously written The Madonnas of Leningrad.

There are  three sisters at the heart of this story- this is Chekhov country, after all –  but the book focusses on  Xenia, who has the gift of prophecy from childhood. When tragedy strikes, she retreats into grief and becomes a soothsayer,  living on the streets of St Petersburg despite the rescue attempts of her younger sister Dasha, who narrates the story of her family with innocence and charm.

Dean contrasts the extravagant glamour of the Imperial court played out at opulent balls and other grand social occasions with its petty  ruthlessness, as the Tsarina exercises her power in demonstrations of  capricious cruelty.

This is the classiest kind of historical fiction, authentic and atmospheric, capturing both the sweep of history on the big canvas with the domestic intimacy of a typically privileged family anxious to maintain its position.



by Mark Tedeschi

Mark Tedeschi is adept at cross examination. As chief prosecutor for the DPDD in  NSW, he has overseen some of its most high profile convictions. Now he applies his  forensic legal mind to a historical case that has fascinated him for decades: that of Eugenia Falleni,  a nineteenth century Italian migrant woman who, having  been raped on the journey to Australia,  assumed male identity, becoming Harry Crawford and marrying not once, but twice. Accused of the murder of her first wife, Eugenia’s true identity was revealed and became a public scandal, as details of her bedroom manoeuvres became sensational fodder for the press.

Tedeschi applies a cool rational mind to this overheated material, and makes it clear how poorly served Falleni was by her defence who missed  several opportunities to demonstrate her innocence in a trial full of twists and turns that involved testimony from the daughter she had abandoned and the stepson who failed to suspect her erratic behaviour.

Methodical in its attention to detail, this is a riveting reconstruction of  legal and social history.



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