Queer Characters in Comics

Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine looks at the most famous Queer Characters in the Comic Book World.

Superhero comics push a lot of story-telling boundaries and often touch on some very topical issues, but let’s be honest, they aren’t always down with the rainbow.

Over the years there have been a lot of characters who would fall into the category of ‘queer’ but not as many who would qualify for the modern definition of LGBTQI. However, there are more (certainly more now than there have been) than you’d expect, and quite high profile ones too. Here’s some of the most recent series to feature major queer characters.


john-constantine-hellblazerConstantine the character has been around since the early 1990s, originating in the envelope-pushing imprint of DC known as Vertigo Comics. However, since 2011 he has been exclusively used in the DC Comics universe, receiving his own title in 2012. John Constantine is a trickster magician, a demonologist, a wizard, and a con man. He’s often only marginally better than the evil he’s fighting and ends up getting a lot of people killed, which doesn’t do much for his love life.

In his original title, Hellblazer, John Constantine had relationships with both men and women of the course of the nearly twenty year run. When NBC decided to make a TV series about the character, they specifically stated that he would not be bisexual, which was disappointing to a lot of fans. However, the series only lasted one season so perhaps any future adaptations of the character will be keep this aspect of the character.

In the most recent comics featuring the character, he hasn’t had a romantic relationship with anyone save Zatanna, but his past and former lovers of both sexes have been referenced repeatedly. The current series, beginning with Constantine vol. 1, is definitely worth reading if you enjoy snarky anti-heroes.

Harley Quinn

harley-quinn-volume-1-hot-in-the-cityOh Harley. Harley Harley Harley. Real name: Harleen Quinzel (because comics!), criminal psychiatrist. Working at Arkham Asylum, she fell in love with the Joker, and decided to bust him out, dressed up as a harlequin and commit crimes with him. She’s the Joker’s “better” half, but he didn’t treat her right so she often goes on crime sprees with her best ‘gal pal’ Poison Ivy. (And yes I’m using ‘gal pal’ in the same way the media does about Kristen Stewart.)

Harley is a fascinating character when she isn’t being used as a foil to the Joker. Originally created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for Batman: the Animated Series, Quinn’s popularity led to her being introduced into the main comics as well. Over the years she’s had a couple of solo series but her most successful is the current run, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. It’s light-hearted and could even at times be called goofy, but every moment is fun.

Away from the Joker (and the brooding of Batman), Harley becomes a loveable anti-hero; still prone to violence and the occasional psychotic act, but it’s made very clear that she sees herself as the good guy. The series revisits the Harley/Poison Ivy relationship and makes it very clear that their bond goes beyond ‘friendship’. The best place to start is Harley Quinn vol. 1, although you could also try the new spin-off series, Harley Quinn and Power Girl.


batwoman-volume-1-hydrologyBatwoman is by far the most high profile of all of DC’s queer characters. Originating in 2005 during the 52 epic, she took the place of Batman in Gotham City while he was off training to become a better Batman. She was a former lover of Renee Montoya, a member of the Gotham City Police Department, and it was hinted during the course of the series that this relationship would rekindle. Batwoman’s latest series began with her in a relationship with Maggie Sawyer, a police captain. While at one point they were engaged to be married, this didn’t quite pan out, but the less said about that the better.

Kate Kane is a different sort of vigilante to Batman – her first volume deals with a supernatural threat stealing and drowning children, whereas Batman is heavily grounded in crime families and mob bosses (and the Joker). In comparison, the other Bat-family titles are light and fluffy (and one of them involves the Joker removing his own face).

A later story arc has Kate in a relationship with a vampire, although that is the result of brainwashing. This series of Batwoman, written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, has been received with much praise by fans – it starts with Batwoman vol. 1: Hydrology.


earth-2The Earth-2 series reimagined the classic Justice Society of America in an alternate universe, one where the Justice League had already fallen to an alien invasion. One of the founding members was Alan Scott, who was given phenomenal power as the hero Green Lantern. Alan was introduced with his fiance who unfortunately died soon after. While Alan hasn’t really had another love interest since then, this was a major step forward, as the origin of the character dates back to the earliest days of comics.

The best place to start with this series is right at the beginning – Earth-2 vol. 1: The Gathering. Sure, it deals with a lot of backstory and Alan’s poor fiancee dies very early on, but it keeps the action coming and the characters are memorable. Volume 1 was illustrated by Australian artist Nicola Scott (who is amazing) and the following volumes were written by Australian writer Tom Taylor (who is also amazing).

As a team book, not every character gets the full focus of the story, so as long as you’re prepared for some of your favourites to occasionally sit a story out, it will be enjoyable. Unlike the other titles, this series takes place in an alternate universe, so you can read it without having to worry about any tie-ins with other books.


catwomanSelina Kyle, better known as Catwoman, has been one of Batman’s villains since the 1940s but has had her own title a number of times since then. Sometimes a villain, sometimes an anti-hero, Selina has been a central part of Gotham for over seventy years. Most recently, she’s played the role of mob boss to one of the crime families in Gotham City.

Selina has been a love interest for both Bruce Wayne and Batman since some of her earliest appearances, and it’s not uncommon for her and Bruce to have married in alternate universes. However, Catwoman came out as bisexual in a highly publicised story featuring an old flame who had returned as an antagonist. While this is a new development in the character’s long history, many other writers have hinted at Selina’s bisexuality. In many instances, flashbacks to her early days as a criminal/activist show her with an extremely close friendship with another woman (who for one reason or another, is no longer around).

The new series builds on these hints and has made them explicit. The storyline involving Catwoman’s new relationship began when Genevieve Valentine took over writing duties and can be found collected in Catwoman vol. 6: Keeper of the Castle.


batgirl-volume-1-the-darkest-reflectionBarbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, doesn’t identify as queer (although fan fiction might beg to differ) but members of her supporting cast certainly are. The initial run in the New 52, written by Gail Simone, introduced Alysia Yeoh as Barbara’s roommate. Alysia is a transgender woman who shares her secret with Barbara, who in turn reveals her secret identity as Batgirl. A later story has Alysia filling in for Barbara as Bat-girl (although not in costume, just carrying a baseball bat) when Barbara has been injured by a villain.

After a change of creative teams, Alysia left the series but was replaced by a number of other characters, some of whom identify as queer. The new creative team of Brendan Fletcher and Babs Tarr had a small setback with some transphobic language regarding one villain, but after seeing fan reaction, they quickly issued an apology and removed the offensive content from the collected trade paperback. This has made the series one of the best in terms of inclusiveness to the queer community.

There are two great runs of Batgirl available – the one written by Gail Simone, starting with Batgirl vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection and the new Fletcher/Tarr series, which starts with Batgirl vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside.


Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.

More of his thoughts on comics and superheroes in general can be found on the Comics Watchtower Facebook page or at his Twitter account @salesreplyfe

Claire Varley, author of The Bit in Between, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Claire Varley

author of The Bit in Between

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

Born in Geelong, raised on the Bellarine Peninsula and schooled in the art of wit and one-liners that don’t quite deliver. Geelong is great; it is a pilot city of the NDIS and directly elected mayors, and when I was growing up it had a zedonk farm.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be fourteen because that’s how old the babysitters of the Babysitter’s Club were. In my head fourteen was a magical age when you were given responsibilities beyond your years and did exciting things like solve pet-napping mysteries and move to California when your parents got divorced and your dad remarried a younger woman named Carol.

When I was eighteen I wanted to be someone who lived in a house with heating because I spent my winter wandering around my sharehouse wearing a doona-muu-muu and feeling sad that I had dragon breath inside the house. But I acknowledged that alongside drowning with a book of Keats’ poems in your pocket, such is the life of a would-be writer.

I am currently 29 and hope, at thirty, to be a) still alive, b) wiser and c) David Sedaris.

Author: Claire Varley

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

That living in a house with heating meant I had made it.

Also, that skirts and dresses would never be a part of my wardrobe. For some reason my brothers and I have a thing about always dressing in a way that is conducive to suddenly having to run away from something. It’s as if we were conditioned from childhood for an imminent zombie apocalypse. Now, having realised I am not particularly agile or swift, I wear skirts a lot more.

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?

Terry Pratchett taught me that laughter is the best teacher of both compassion and sadness. I revisit Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas every year to remind myself what perfection is. And Solveig’s Song by Edvard Grieg is my go to song for when I need to remember the value of stillness and silence within my work. And when I need the confidence to kill my darlings.

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

Because I legitimately have no talent in any other field. See self-portrait below.


6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Bit In Between is my debut novel. It’s an awkward love story about Oliver and Alison, two young Australians, who have landed in the Solomon Islands looking for their truths. Oliver is writing his second novel and as they settle into island life coincidences start to happen that make him question how much life is influencing his book, and vice versa.

Grab a copy of Claire’s new book The Bit in Between here

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

At its heart it is a story of people, love, life, the paths we choose, and those we don’t. I hope it makes people laugh, then cry, then laugh again and feel guilty for laughing so soon after they cried. As David Foster Wallace said, ‘good writing helps readers become less alone inside’, and I do so hope it does this.

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

When I sit down at my computer I say to myself, ‘pretend you are the love child of Zadie Smith and Steve Toltz and you have been given the task to write!’ Zadie Smith’s ability to capture people is breathtaking and in A Fraction of the Whole Steve Toltz, to me, created the perfect novel. And reading the first page of Under Milk Wood makes me rage against the genius of Dylan Thomas’s mastery of language.

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

My bar is so low – see aforementioned home heating goal. Obviously I would like total global literary domination and to see a statue of myself erected outside the Westfield in Geelong in the manner of Hans Christian Anderson in Central Park, but in lieu of this, I’d be perfectly happy to continue to have opportunities to tell stories that make people happy, sad and content.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read books, buy books, love books and never let anyone tell you to stop buying them because you have too many and the house has become a firetrap.

Write lots – for others and for yourself – because like any skill you need to practice.

When people tell you that no one makes a living from writing anymore, point out that no one has ever really made a living from writing, then go home, put on your doona-muu-muu and write until your heart sings.

Claire, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Bit in Between here

The Bit in Between

by Claire Varley

Writing a love story is a lot easier than living one.

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately. Inexplicably. Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with; happily ever after.

About the Author

Claire Varley grew up on the Bellarine Peninsula and lives in Melbourne. She has sold blueberries, worked in a haunted cinema, won an encouragement award for being terrible at telemarketing, taught English in rural China, and coordinated community development projects in remote Solomon Islands.

Her short stories and poems have appeared in Australian Love Stories (‘A Greek Tragedy’), Australian Love Poems (‘Beatitude’), Seizure online (‘Poll’, ‘Hallow’), page seventeen (‘Once’, ‘Hamlet, Remus and Two Guys Named Steve’), Sotto (‘in the name of’) and [Untitled] (‘The Nicholas Name’, ‘Behind Tram Lines’). The Bit In Between is her first novel.

 Grab a copy of The Bit in Between here

Comic Books: Where to start?

Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine answers the ago old question posed by comic book newbies

It’s a question that gets asked a lot by newcomers to comics. Some characters, like Batman and Superman, have been getting published every month for the last seventy five years. These aren’t really stories where you can just start at the beginning and read through to the end – there’s too much. That kind of history can be incredibly daunting to a new fan. So where do you begin?

The best answer is; where do you want to begin?

harley-quinn-volume-1-hot-in-the-cityComics were originally something that could be bought at every newsstand and rarely had a story that lasted more than an issue. Even today, with epic story arcs and massive multi-title crossovers, there’s still a strong element of the original stand alone nature. For the most part, you can enter at any point in the story and a character will exposit what has already happened. But this can still be a little overwhelming and confusing, like catching only the last two-thirds of a film. Fortunately, there is a much simpler (and more enjoyable) way.

Ask yourself; who’s your favourite character? For this example we’re going to use Harley Quinn (because of reasons), but the ideas can apply to any character. The best thing to do is start with the most recent book featuring that character – you’ll get a good idea of what the character is like when they’re the main focus of a book rather than a supporting character in someone else’s. In this case, it’s Harley Quinn vol. 1: Hot in the City. Did you enjoy that? Awesome! You can try the next one, Harley Quinn vol. 2. But you could also go back and try out some of the classic run, like Preludes & Knock Knock Jokes. It’s a different sort of book, but you get more of the character you love! Or maybe, you really enjoyed the writing style and want to see what else that writer has done. A quick trip to Wikipedia tells you that the author also wrote All-Star Western (hyperlink) – why not give that a try too?

This is a great technique for finding new characters to read about and different styles you might like. It’s also a good way to enter the world of comics. You can read as much or as little as you like just by only sticking with the characters you enjoy. Generally if something is vital to a story, it will be explained, but you can also find out where it occurred and read about it yourself if you want.


Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.

More of his thoughts on comics and superheroes in general can be found on the Comics Watchtower Facebook page or at his Twitter account @salesreplyfe

Who is this Aquaman person and why should I care?

Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine dips his toe into the story of Aquaman and the news of Aquaman: The Movie

You might have seen some of the movie news recently – that Aquaman is getting his own film in 2018 (following Batman v Superman, Justice League and Wonder Woman). You may also be wondering why the guy that talks to fish is getting his own superhero movie. Well, Aquaman’s a little different to what you might think he is.

You see, there have been a number of different versions of Aquaman. There’s the original version way back in the Golden Age of Comics, who didn’t really have superpowers but was able to stay under water for long periods thanks to SCIENCE! During the Silver Age in the 1970s, Aquaman could be found battling undersea menaces with the help of his ocean friends. This is probably the version that people remember – the one that can’t go for more than an hour without needing to return to the water. Later, he became a grittier anti-hero with a harpoon in place of one of his hands. But still, the most common vision of Aquaman is the one from the Silver Age, using his telepathic powers to summon seahorses. All of that is about to change.

aquaman-volume-1-the-trenchThe most recent version was being written by Geoff Johns, who has delivered a fantastic new imagining of the character. Aquaman (or more accurately, Arthur Curry) is an Atlantean prince raised by his human father in a lighthouse on the coast. The first book, Aquaman vol. 1: The Trench is far from the standard superhero adventure. Gone are the criminals, superpowered or otherwise. Instead, Aquaman faces creatures from the darkest depths of the ocean, monsters from before civilisation that have come ashore searching for fresh food and people seem like the best thing on the menu. Tracking them back to their lair, he discovers something that threatens Atlantis itself.

Johns has re-imagined Aquaman as a princely warrior, one that battles horrors more at home in H.P. Lovecraft than a superhero comic. As the series continues, Aquaman is forced to make a decision between his Atlantean heritage and the humans he has chosen to protect, as demons from his past return. Johns has made what could just be another standard superhero book into an epic saga of betrayal, murder and revenge.

All of this has paved the way for the new Aquaman film featuring Jason Momoa. The initial promotional images for the character show a very different style again. The best word to describe Momoa is fierce. There’s no doubt that the new film is going to increase the popularity of this long time character, so now’s the best time to catch up on the latest incarnation. There are currently five books in the Aquaman series, and two in the spin off series, Aquaman and the Others.


Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.

More of his thoughts on comics and superheroes in general can be found on the Comics Watchtower Facebook page or at his Twitter account @salesreplyfe

Adaptation: The Best Comics adapted from Video Games

Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine looks at the best comics to be adapted from video games.

The recent release of the video game Batman: Arkham Knight got me thinking – what fantastic comics have been adapted from video games? The Arkham series has already had a number of digital tie ins from DC Comics, but there are some great other titles that are perfect for people who want to re-live adventures (or need something to read during loading screens).

Here’s a selection of some of my favourites:

Tomb Raider

tomb-raiderLara Croft – Tomb Raider. Lara has been robbing tombs for a couple of decades now, and Dark Horse Comics have been right there with her. Dark Horse has had a long history of adapting other media to comics (no doubt someday I’ll get around to talking about their Aliens books) and Tomb Raider was one of the first. However, the one I’m talking about now is the adaptation of the latest iteration of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider vol. 1: Season of the Witch, written by Gail Simone and following the events of the excellent new video game.

Here, Lara is a young woman, not quite the seasoned adventurer players are used to. Simone hits the right level of action and mystery to keep the reader interested but doesn’t simply re-tell the events of the game. It’s about Lara coming to terms with what happened to her during the game.

Many characters, plot points, and locations from the game reappear, but it’s also accessible to new readers whose only knowledge of Lara is that she raids tombs.

This is an ongoing series and is currently being written by Simone with assistance from Rhianna Pratchett, the writer on the video game the series is adapting. With these two at the helm, the series really captures what made the game great.

Halo: Escalation

halo-escalationOne of the best-selling video games of all time, of course Halo makes the list. Halo: Escalation follows directly on from the events of Halo 4 – the galaxy is at peace following the epic war between humanity and the coalition of alien races known as the Covenant. However, it is not an easy peace.

The story follows the crew of the UNSC Infinity as they are charged with a protecting a peace summit between some of the warring Covenant factions. Things refuse to go smoothly and negotiations break down. Standing on the brink of renewed hostilities between the species, the human forces are drawn into the conflict against their will – but as events unfold they discover that deep behind enemy lines is a UNSC warship, long thought lost, raising the stakes dramatically.

Much like the game series it’s based on, the Halo: Escalation books are action-packed struggles with treachery and mystery woven in. This series will appeal to fans of science-fiction, military adventure or anyone wanting to know more about the Halo universe, as they expand on the worlds that the games started to develop.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

injusticeIn an alternate version of the DC Universe, things did not go well. The Joker managed to confound Superman, leading to the Man of Steel destroying Metropolis and accidentally killing his wife, Lois Lane.

Bent on vengeance, Superman takes the ultimate step and does what Batman has never been able to bring himself to do – kill the Joker. After that, there is no turning back. With little humanity left in him, Superman begins to remake the world in his image, forcing the other superheroes to choose their side – with him, or against him.

The game takes place five years after that, when the heroes of the regular DC Universe come through a dimensional rift and discover Superman ruling the world with an iron fist, and Batman the only person still fighting against him. Injustice: Gods Among Us – Year One, written by Australian Tom Taylor, takes place during those five years, as Superman rises to power and crushes the resistance against him.

What began as a fighting game has become a New York Times best-seller! While the original story was met with some dismay by fans (Superman, does after all, become a villain), Taylor delivered an astounding series full of pathos and wit. It chronicles the fall of a titan, while delving into just what exactly these superhero vigilantes stand for: is it justice, or is it vengeance?


Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.

More of his thoughts on comics and superheroes in general can be found on the Comics Watchtower Facebook page or at his Twitter account @salesreplyfe

GUEST BLOG: What Fiona Read – The July Round Up (by bestselling author Fiona Palmer)

0000006166After a crazy few weeks spending my days on a big Case quadtrac (instead of wheels – picture a triangle tracs) tractor for seeding, it was nice to be home and to start the book that has been sitting on my bedside table for ages — and, I mean ages. I’m talking about Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. It was actually last year, while in Perth promoting my book The Sunnyvale Girls that I found out Graeme and I were signing just hours apart and the store front widow was decorated with only our books. Yes, I was a little excited to be rubbing shoulders with Graeme, and not one to miss an opportunity, I asked if I could leave a copy of The Rosie Project for him to sign. On my return the next day I was greeted with a lovely surprise. Not only had Graeme signed my copy of his book but he also left a signed copy of The Rosie Effect. It made my day! And now, finally, I have just finished it and the hype was right, it was a very enjoyable book. I must say I loved being inside Don’s head, it really gave a new perspective on life and trying to understand what life is like for him. It was funny and so heart-warming. Definitely a great book club book.

the-sunnyvale-girlsAnother book I rate highly is one that came recommended from my writing mate, Margareta Osborn – Danielle Hawkins’ Dinner at Rose’s, with a wonderful cover quote from Liane Moriarty. Two great recommendations. It is a lovely story about Jo, who goes back to her small hometown after her best friend and boyfriend are caught out; and she visits her honorary aunty Rose and her nephew Matthew. You need to read this book just for Rose alone. You’ll never meet such a funny character, a bit eccentric but she has some great pets. It was a great love story, lots of laugh-out-loud moments and maybe a tear or two. This is one book that will leave you with a smile.

Speaking of Margareta Osborn, I just finished reading Rose River. I was enjoying it so much and tried fitting in a few chapters each night before sleep took over after a long day of work. Toward the end I even took it out on the tractor to find out how it ends! I had a GPS system after all and didn’t need to steer. But I didn’t factor in the bumps and found myself a little ‘tractor sick’ from having my head down. But I didn’t stop, I still wanted to know! Rose River is a light, heartfelt read that was highly entertaining in true Margareta style. She has lively characters, charming small communities and a sexy farmer to boot. I love a good romance story, and this one was perfect with Stirling, a gorgeous motorbike-riding farmer and city girl, Jamie who is more suited to the country than I think even she realised. Set in the East Gippsland mountains, what more could you want.

Stay tuned for a few more book recommendations/reviews.


Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth. She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance. She has attended romance writers’ groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm. She has extensive farming experience, does the local mail run, and was a speedway-racing driver for seven years. She spends her days writing, helping out in the community and looking after her two children.

Pre-order your copy of The Saddler Boys here

the-saddler-boysThe Saddler Boys

by Fiona Palmer

Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the swarm of inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew.

As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her life in Perth and the new community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she’s really made of – and where she truly belongs.


‘Fiona Palmer just keeps getting better.’ Rachael Johns

‘Palmer’s passion for the land bleeds into the story, and her scenes are vivid and genuine, just as her characters are.’ Book’d Out

‘Fiona Palmer has well and truly earned her place as a leading writer of one of Australia’s much-loved genres.’ Countryman

Pre-order your copy of The Saddler Boys here

VIDEO: Steve Toltz on his brilliant new novel Quicksand

Steve Toltz’s first novel, A Fraction of the Whole, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the 2008 Guardian First Book Award. He chats to Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach.


by Steve Toltz

The literary event of 2015. Steve Toltz follows his extraordinary debut, the Booker-shortlisted A Fraction of the Whole, with a novel that’s just as edgy, hilarious and compelling: Quicksand, at once unmistakeably Toltzean and unlike anything that’s come before.

‘Why should I let you write about me?’

‘Because you’ll inspire people. To count their blessings.’

Aldo has been so relentlessly unlucky – in business, in love, in life – that the universe seems to have taken against him personally. Even Liam, his best friend, describes him as ‘a well-known parasite and failure’. Aldo has always faced the future with optimism and despair in equal measure, but this last twist of fate may finally have brought him undone.

There’s hope, but not for Aldo.

Liam hasn’t been doing much better himself: a failed writer with a rocky marriage and a dangerous job he never wanted. But something good may come out of Aldo’s lowest point. Liam may finally have found his inspiration. Together, maybe they can turn bad luck into an art form.

What begins as a document of Aldo’s disasters develops into a profound story of love lost, found and betrayed; of freedom and incarceration; of suffering and transcendence; of fate, faith and friendship; of taking risks – in art, work, love and life – and finding inspiration in all the wrong places.

Quicksand is a fearlessly funny, outrageously inventive dark comedy that looks contemporary life unblinkingly in the eye. It confirms Steve Toltz as one of our most original and insightful novelists.

Grab a copy of Quicksand here


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