The Monday Morning Cooking Club, authors of The Feast Goes On, answer Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here to grab a copyThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

The Monday Morning Cooking Club

authors of The Feast Goes On

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

We all live in Sydney, Australia but we have come from all over: Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, South Africa. And our family backgrounds are even more diverse, reflecting the Jewish community’s melting pot: Hungary, Poland, Russia via China, South Africa, England.

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

When we were twelve we were all consumed with what was in our lunch boxes and pantries. Some of us were getting schnitzel on rye and really wanted Vegemite on white bread.  Some of our pantries were stocked with kosher salami, dill pickles and poppyseed cake and all we really wanted were biscuits from a packet and bought jam swiss rolls. What did we want to be? Like everybody else!

When we were eighteen we were discovering our passion for food. Learning and loving to cook, throwing our first dinner parties and searching for good food. What did we want to be? Grown up and accomplished. mmcc_slider_girlswhite

When we were thirty we were all consumed with motherhood, trying to find the time for a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake and striving to find the right life/work balance. What did we want to be? Less sleep deprived than we were!

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

At eighteen, we were all so sure we knew more than our mothers. As we grow older and wiser, and have 18 year old daughters ourselves, we have learned the adage is true: ‘mother is always right.’

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Growing up, more so than any one event, the continual celebrations that went on in all our homes each and every year for Jewish festivals (passover, Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur) and weekly Friday night feasts for Sabbath eve together with mothers who were committed and passionate about cooking and feeding their families.  2: On a larger scale, the immigration to Australia from countries as far and wide as Vietnam, Greece, Hungary, Russia and South Africa has given our lives in Australia a cultural and culinary diversity which has enriched our national makeup and palate. 3: The creation of our first book Monday Morning Cooking Club – the food the stories the sisterhood’. The years we spent collecting, testing and preserving family heirloom recipes filled us with a great joy, and taught us so much along the way.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Printed cookbooks will never be obsolete. Some of us think that there is nothing more enjoyable than taking your latest cookbook to bed and reading it cover to cover, ogling the beautiful photos and feeling the pages between your fingers.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…Click here to grab a copy

The Feast Goes On features the best loved and most delicious stories from the heart and soul of our community right across Australia. It is not a book of Jewish food per se, it’s a book of recipes from Jewish kitchens, collected from countries far and wide. The book speaks of a community drawn together by food, with intimate and moving stories of sharing and survival, love and hope, friendship and family. It is full of precious family recipes passed down from past generations through to recipes that will become instant family favourites.The book has recipes for every occasion – from every day eating to feasting, light lunches to fressing, comfort food to traditional dishes – which will nurture, nourish and inspire.

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

To find, collect, recreate and publish all those wonderful heirloom recipes from the older generation before they are lost forever. We believe the old recipes still fit so well into our contemporary world.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?
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As a group, without a doubt, we place our grandmothers on the highest pedestal. We look back with wonder on how they managed to nurture and feed their families the most exquisite dishes without any of today’s mod-cons; plucking chickens to produce golden roasts, pickling and preserving anything and everything to get though the winter, home baked bread made from scratch, the lightest of chiffon cakes, flaky pastries crammed with dried fruit and nuts.

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

Our goal is to create a contemporary face for Australian Jewish cuisine. One important part of this is to preserve those treasured recipes from the older generation for our generation, and from our generation for the future. The other important aspect is that we are a not-for-profit company and will continue to raise substantial funds for charity.

10.      What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Always follow your dream, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be dissuaded by the ’NO’s’. Doors open at the most unexpected times!

Monday Morning Cooking Club, thank you for playing!

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

BREAKING NEWS: 2014 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists Announced

The shortlists for this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced.

In their 34 year history, the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have honoured many of Australia’s greatest writers and most significant works. The Awards help to establish values and standards in Australian literature and draw international attention to some of the country’s best writers and to the cultural environment that nurtures them.

Minister George Souris MP, Minister for the Arts welcomed the announcement of the shortlist. “The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards promote national and international recognition of our dynamic literary community and the work of our talented writers,” Mr Souris said. “The Awards continue to support and encourage great Australian writing, and demonstrate the value and importance of reading to the people of NSW.”


* Georgia Blain - The Secret Lives of Men (More…)

* Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep North (More…)

* Ashley Hay - The Railwayman’s Wife (More…)

* Michelle de Kretser – Questions of Travel (More…)

* Trevor Shearston - Game (More…)

* Alexis Wright - The Swan Book (More…)


* Kristina Olsson – Boy, Lost: A Family Memoir (More…)

* David Hunt – Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia (More…)

* Gideon Haigh – On Warne (More…)

* Michael Fullilove - Rendezvous with Destiny (More…)

* Steve Bisley - Stillways: A Memoir (More…)

* Peter Butt – Who Killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler? (More…)


* Catherine Jinks - A Very Unusual Pursuit (More…)

* Jackie French - Refuge (More…)

* Penny Tangey – Stay Well Soon (More…)

* Katrina Nannestad -The Girl Who Brought Mischief (More…)

* Tony Davis - The Big Dry (More…)

* Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton - Jandamarra (More…)


* Fiona Wood – Wildlife (More…)

* Barry Jonsberg – My Life As an Alphabet (More…)

* Kelly Gardiner – The Sultan’s Eyes (More…)

* Felicity Castanga – The Incredible Here and Now (More…)

* Alison Croggon - Black Spring (More…)

* A.J. Betts – Zac and Mia (More…)


the-night-guest* Fiona McFarlane – The Night Guest (More…)

* Laura Jean McKay – Holiday in Cambodia (More…)

* Margaret Merrilees – The First Week (More…)

* Yvette Walker – Letters to the End of Love (More…)

IN THE NEWS: 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards – Full Profile

The shortlists for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced, with some old favourites mixing with some exciting new authors.

In fiction one of Australia’s brightest new stars Hannah Kent joins established names Tim Winton, Alex Miller and Alexis Wright while 2013 Miles Franklin winner Michelle de Kretser finds herself in the same field as the early favourite for the 2014 gong Richard Flanagan.

Check out the full lists below.


burial-ritesBurial Rites - Hannah Kent

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.

Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul.


Click here for more details…

The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanaganthe-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north

When Richard Flanagan produces a new book, you know it will come freighted with Big Themes. As an essayist, Flanagan is political, provocative, passionate. As a novelist, he is capable of shape-shifting across genres, from high literary gothic to popular psychological thriller.

His latest novel is as eloquent and powerful an affirmation of his empathy and understanding of humanity as anything he’s ever written.

Click here for more details…

Coal Creek - Alex Millercoal-creek

Miller’s exquisite depictions of the country of the Queensland highlands form the background of this simply told but deeply significant novel of friendship, love, loyalty and the tragic consequences of misunderstanding and mistrust. Coal Creek is a wonderfully satisfying novel with a gratifying resolution.

It carries all the wisdom and emotional depth we have come to expect from Miller’s richly evocative novels.

Click here for more details…

The Swan Book – Alexis Wrightthe-swan-book

The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.

Click here for more details…

Eyrie – Tim Wintoneyrie

Tom Keely’s reputation is in ruins. And that’s the upside.

Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.

But even in his seedy flat, ducking the neighbours, he’s not safe from entanglement…

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Questions of Travel – Michelle de Kretserquestions-of-travel

A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.

Click here for more details…


Gardens of Fire: An investigative memoir - Robert Kennygardens-of-fire

In 2009, as the Black Saturday wildfires swept through the state of Victoria, Australia, writer and historian Robert Kenny defended his home in Redesdale. His fire plan was sound and he was prepared. But, the reality of the fire was more ferocious and more unpredictable than he could have imagined. By the end of the day, Kenny’s house and the life contained within were gone.

The years that followed were marked by grieving, recovering, and eventually rebuilding – a process starkly framed by the choice between remembering and forgetting.

Click here for more details…

White Beech – Germaine Greerwhite-beech

One bright day in December 2001, sixty-two-year-old Germaine Greer found herself confronted by an irresistible challenge in the shape of sixty hectares of dairy farm, one of many in south-east Queensland that, after a century of logging, clearing and downright devastation, had been abandoned to their fate.

She didn’t think for a minute that by restoring the land she was saving the world. She was in search of heart’s ease. Beyond the acres of exotic pasture grass and soft weed and the impenetrable curtains of tangled Lantana canes there were Macadamias dangling their strings of unripe nuts, and Black Beans with red and yellow pea flowers growing on their branches … and the few remaining White Beeches, stupendous trees up to forty metres in height, logged out within forty years of the arrival of the first white settlers.

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boy-lostBoy, Lost – Kristina Olsson

Kristina Olsson’s mother lost her infant son, Peter, when he was snatched from her arms as she boarded a train in the hot summer of 1950. Yvonne was young and frightened, trying to escape a brutal marriage, but despite the violence and cruelty she’d endured, she was not prepared for this final blow, this breathtaking punishment. Yvonne would not see her son again for nearly forty years.

Kristina was the first child of her mother’s subsequent, much gentler marriage and, like her siblings, grew up unaware of the reasons behind her mother’s sorrow, though Peter’s absence resounded through the family, marking each one.

Click here for more details…

Forgotten War - Henry Reynolds

forgotten-warAustralia is dotted with memorials to soldiers who fought in wars overseas. Why are there no official memorials or commemorations of the wars that were fought on Australian soil between Aborigines and white colonists? Why is it more controversial to talk about the frontier war now than it was one hundred years ago?

Forgotten War continues the story told in Henry Reynolds seminal book The Other Side of the Frontier, which argued that the settlement of Australia had a high level of violence and conflict that we chose to ignore.

This powerful book makes it clear that there can be no reconciliation without acknowledging the wars fought on our own soil.

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Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John – Helen Trinca

madeleineHelen Trinca has captured the troubled life of Madeleine St John in this moving account of a remarkable writer. After the death of her mother when Madeleine was just twelve, she struggled to find her place in the world.

Estranging herself from her family, and from Australia, she lived for a time in the US before moving to London where Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Barry Humphries and Clive James were making their mark.

In 1993, when The Women in Black was published, it became clear what a marvellous writer Madeleine St John was.

Click here for more details…

On Warne – Gideon Haighon-warne

Now that the cricketer who dominated airwaves and headlines for twenty years has turned full-time celebrity, his sporting conquests and controversies are receding into the past. But what was it like to watch Warne at his long peak, the man of a thousand international wickets, the incarnation of Australian audacity and cheek?

Gideon Haigh lived and loved the Warne era, when the impossible was everyday, and the sensational every other day. In On Warne, he relives the highs, the lows, the fun and the follies.

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liquid-nitrogenLiquid Nitrogen – Jennifer Maiden

Jennifer Maiden’s poems are like verse essays, subjecting the political issues of our time and the figures who dominate them to a fierce scrutiny, while allowing the personal aspects of experience to be portrayed in the most delicate and imaginative ways.

This is the quality of liquid nitrogen which gives the book its title – the frozen suspension which is risky, but also fecund. It is a substance which permits the most intense and heated interactions, and at the same time, the survival of delicate organisms.

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Autoethnographic – Michael Brennanautoethnographic

Michael Brennan’s third collection of poetry tunes into the feedback loops of consciousness in these fluid modern times. It develops the surrealism of his earlier poetry with an anarchic openness to experience underwritten by anxiety, dysfunction and the endless hunger for community.

Set in a radically changed but recognizable Australia, one that has evolved through the collapse of the West and the rise of Asia, Autoethnographic jaunts into late capitalism, following six characters who struggle to imagine their place in this brave new world.

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travelling-through-the-familyTravelling Through the Family – Brendan Ryan

Travelling Through the Family bring rural Australia to life through a clear-eyed and provocative vision of the way the land and our treatment of animals moulds the people who work with them.

Family, its histories, inheritances and bonds form a powerful core to the collection. There are homages to fathers and daughters as well as self-portraits where the influence of a country upbringing is rendered in sobering, resonant style. Travelling Through the Family is an assured and beautifully crafted new book from one of Australia’s finest contemporary poets.

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Young Adult

Friday Brown - Vikki Wakefieldfriday-brown

Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run – running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.

Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past. She will learn that sometimes you have to stay to finish what you started – and often, before you can find out who you are, you have to become someone you were never meant to be.

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Wildlife - Fiona Wood

wildlife“In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened. A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard. And I kissed Ben Capaldi.” Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

Click here for more details…

My Life as an Alphabet Barry Jonsberg

my-life-as-an-alphabetThis isn’t just about me. It’s also about the other people in my life – my mother, my father, my dead sister Sky, my penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Earth-Pig Fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension. These are people [with the exception of Earth-Pig Fish, who is a fish] who have shaped me, made me what I am. I cannot recount my life without recounting elements of theirs. This is a big task, but I am confident I am up to it.

Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little … odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to ‘fix’ all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life.

Click here for more details…

REVIEW: Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy by Michael Pembroke (Review by Terry Purcell)

Click here for more details or to buy Arthur PhillipOne of the many revelations exposed by this important and interesting new book is that the “DNA of Australians” was not created by either God or Darwinian natural selection, but by Captain Arthur Phillip and his superiors in the British Government in the late 1780s.

Having selected Botany Bay as the replacement for their former North American colonies and as the place to transport prisoners from Britain’s overcrowded gaols, they adopted a new Enlightenment era policy which would see New South Wales offer their convict population the opportunity to redeem themselves and become model settlers in a new land.

In choosing Arthur Phillip to help plan and implement this new policy, history shows us that the British Government chose the right man.

Michael Pembroke’s new biography of Phillip, apparently the first full review of his life ever published, should go a long way towards enabling 21st century Australians to appreciate how much we all owe Phillip and his superiors for their wisdom and foresight.

Not only did he successfully lead the biggest and longest fleet transporting convicts through largely uncharted waters ever attempted to that time, but he did so with minimal loss of life due to his policies and practices to protect all concerned from the diseases normally endemic on long sea voyages.

Pembroke’s comprehensive biography explains how Phillip’s seafaring experience starting as a 9 year old and garnered over a long and colourful career in the British Navy, gave him the capacity to undertake and successfully complete the extraordinary task most Australians would have some familiarity with. His job was to build a new secure outpost in the Pacific for the expanding British Empire.Author: Michael Pembroke

Complementing this experience and his gift with a number of languages, was his intimacy with key politicians and sponsors within the Navy hierarchy and the relatively unusual and confidential tasks he undertook for them over many years.  Hence the unusual and intriguing title of this extremely readable yet authoritative biography Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy.

Having regards to his lowly birth, it is quite remarkable that Phillip achieved so much and died a very wealthy man living out a long and comfortable retirement in the beautiful town of Bath in an era so well recorded by Jane Austen.

Pembroke’s research and the effort he has put into this book, re-creating for the reader the life and times of Arthur Phillip during his long and adventurous life, is impressive.  It has enabled him to recreate for modern readers a very clear picture not only the political and historic events of the latter half of the 18th century when Britain, France and Spain were almost continually at war, but also of what it meant to be a naval officer during those tumultuous times.  Fans of Patrick O’Brian’s naval series set in the same era might well appreciate this book.

This important book is a long overdue tribute to Arthur Phillip and it deserves to be read by any Australian who has wondered about the source of that part of our national DNA about giving everyone “a fair go” regardless of their origins, station in life or religion – regrettably, something our 21st century politicians seem to have forgotten.

Terry Purcell is a solicitor and was the founding director of the Law Foundation of NSW. He is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog.

Will Davies, author of The Boy Colonel, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-boy-colonelThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Will Davies

author of The Boy Colonel

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 Sydney, attended Ryde Primary School before going to live in Leeton in 1960. I attended the local Primary School before being sent to boarding school at Trinity Grammar in Summer Hill for six years. In 1968 I started Arts-Law at ANU in Canberra and completed an Arts degree in 1971. In 1972 I started work at the Commonwealth Film Unit, travelled overseas (1975-76) worked in Hollywood and the BBC in Bristol before setting up my production company Look Films in 1977. Worked producing documentaries for thirty years before closing the office in 2010.

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

At 12 I wanted to be a lawyer and even talked about setting up practice with another 12 year old (who is now a senior lawyer in the Public Service) in the dormitory. By 18, still wanted to be a lawyer but two years of law at university totally killed that idea. At 30 I wanted to win an Academy Award and work forever in historical documentaries.

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

Probably a royalist-monarchist view of the Queen and the place of Australia in the Empire. I now look to the day we can be more independent and shed the “cultural cringe” which still exists, as does a British colonial (convict) attitude to Australians at some levels of British, or should I say English society. I do not feel this from the Welsh, Irish or the Scots however as they suffer also.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

I read history from an early age, glorious battles of the empire, “war books” from the Second World War, even historical comics and colouring in books. Three influential events: the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam War (Kent State killings) and the Great War.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Books – those hard paper things – will never be obsolete. I love the feel and smell of books, the texture, the ability to jump about in a book, check an index, look at photographs or a map, get lost in the pages. I love them and buy too many.

the-boy-colonel6. Please tell us about your latest book…

The book is titled The Boy Colonel and is published by Random House (August 2013). This is the story of young officer who landed on Gallipoli on the second day, went right through the war, was badly wounded, decorated and became a Colonel at the age of 22, the youngest (I believe) in the Empire armies. He returned to Australia in 1918, became engaged in 1919 and was lost in the surf at Palm Beach (Sydney) in January 1920 trying to save a young woman from the undertow.

From the Publisher:
It was a blustery day on the 25th January 1920 at Palm Beach to the north of Sydney and the surf was wild. Two attempts had already been made to save a young woman caught in an undertow and dragged out when a young man; skinny, gangly and frail and known to be a poor swimmer, threw off his coat and shoes and raced into the surf. As his fiancée and young nephew watched, the sea closed over him and he disappeared. His body was never recovered.

This was the sad and tragic fate of a gallant, highly decorated and promising young man named Douglas Gray Marks. And it was a great loss to a nation whose manhood had been decimated and where the pain of the war remained evident and raw.

Douglas Marks was born in 1895 and educated at Fort Street High School. He had, like so many enthusiastic and patriotic young men, basic military training when he turned up at the drill hall in Rozelle two days after the declaration of war. Before embarking in November 1914, he had received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the AIF.

After a period of training in Egypt, he embarked for the Gallipoli peninsula and landed on the second day. Spending a great deal of time in the dangerous frontline trenches at Quinn’s Post where he was wounded, he remained on Gallipoli until the evacuation in December of that year. Just twenty years old, he was seen as an inspirational young officer, promoted to captain and given acting command of his battalion.

Marks then more…

Click here to buy The Boy Colonel from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I think the understanding and appreciation of the Anzac tradition and the sacrifice of young men from all nations in the Great War of 1914-1918.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Martin Luther King Jnr. A couple of years ago, I travelled the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama, visited his house and joined the march over the Selma Bridge. (I remember that great line in the Barry McGuire’s famous protest song of 1965 Eve of Destruction which went: Think of all the hate there is in Red China, but take a look around at Selma Alabama) This violent history really affected me and Dr King triggered this interest.

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

I think I have achieved all that I have ever wished and even what was once impossible or long range goals, I have achieved. At 12 years old I was told I would never go to university. Getting a degree became a goal as did writing a book. My first book was a children’s series of environmental stories I had published in 1979 and have had eight books published to date so I’m okay with all that. My last challenge is to get a PhD and I’m well on the way to that.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I suggest they read, read and read more. Second, have a strong idea or a strong untold story to make the writing journey worthwhile. Self-publish as a first step so you have a book to show a publisher. Work on the books overall structure and the narrative arc before you write the first word. Don’t start at chapter one, but perhaps in the middle of the story so you can get you “voice” and write chapter one last. Good luck.

Will, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Boy Colonel from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Tom Trumble, author of Rescue at 2100 Hours, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

rescue-at-2100-hoursThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Tom Trumble

author of Rescue at 2100 Hours

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 Melbourne. I went to school at Melbourne Grammar and studied at Melbourne University.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

At 12 I wanted to play cricket for Australia, at 18 I wanted to be a musician, and at 30 I wanted to be an author (and I was).

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

I strongly believed the Melbourne Football Club would win a premiership within five years. At the moment, I seriously doubt they will win a premiership in the next fifty.

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 love art and music, but neither art nor music inspire me to write. Books are a different matter and there are so many that have inspired. But if I had to name three…

1) “The Power and the Glory”, by Graham Greene

2) “Stasiland”, by Anna 689251-tom-trumbeFunder

3) “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” CS Lewis.

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

I’m not sure if there are too many “artistic avenues” open to me. I’ve barely played my saxophone in years and the last time I picked up a paintbrush was in prep. But I am and always have been passionate about stories, and anyone who can read can write a book.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Rescue at 2100 Hours is the true story of a group of Australian airmen stranded in the jungle of Japanese-occupied Timor during the darkest days of World War II. With the aid of a 200kg portable radio transceiver, they managed to make contact with Darwin and arranged a rescue by flying boat on Timor’s remote northwest coast. The rescue attempt failed. Malaria-ravaged and starving, the men were taken to the limits of their endurance for 58 days. When a 300-strong Japanese patrol was sent to hunt them down all hope seemed lost, until they received a strange signal from sea – an American submarine had been dispatched to their position. With the Japanese closing in, only courage and luck would keep them alive. I have a personal connection to the story. The leader of the group, Flight Lieutenant Bryan Rofe, was my grandfather.

Click here to buy Rescue at 2100 Hours from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

rescue-at-2100-hours7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

This is a character-driven history. I wanted to write a book where the reader gets a sense of what it’s like being caught up in warfare through the experiences of the characters in this story. When they finish the book, I want the reader to have got an idea of what it’s like to be strafed by a Japanese fighter; what it’s like to be caught in the middle of the drop zone during an enemy paratroop drop; what’s it’s like to be bombed from the air and shelled from the sea; what it’s like to jump from a plane from 300 feet while being shot at from the ground; what it’s like to suffer malaria, beriberi, dysentery and jungle rot and watch your best friend die and be forced to take his shoes before you bury him because your shoes have fallen to bits; what it’s like to swim through shark-infested waters in the dead of night towards a tropical island crawling with Japanese soldiers; and, ultimately, what it’s like to be rescued when you’ve given up all hope of survival.

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

There are so many from writers which to choose. But, having just finished a work of narrative non-fiction, I have a new admiration for authors that have written books in this field. People like Stephen Ambrose, Laura Hillenbrand, Michael Lewis, Anna Funder, Alex Kershaw and Chloe Hooper.

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

I set myself the goal to have five books published by the time I was 35. I’ve got two books published and I’m 32. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read and write. Repeat these activities every day.

Tom, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Rescue at 2100 Hours from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Review of Michael Fullilove’s Rendezvous with Destiny by Terry Purcell

Michael Fullilove’s Rendezvous with Destiny has been met with glowing reviews from all quarters. Terry Purcell shares his thoughts.

In 1939, America was nervous and parochial; yet in 1940, she began to re-arm and re-mobilise; and by the end of 1941 she was at war and her course was set towards global leadership.

This important new book by the Lowy Institute’s Michael Fullilove commences when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was still leading his predominantly isolationist country out of the Great Depression and despite ill health was still weighing up whether he should run for an unprecedented third Presidential term.

However, Germany’s invasion of Poland on the first of September 1939 made Roosevelt realise that he had to continue to lead America.  Once re-elected he needed to quickly acquire a deeper understanding of what was really happening in Europe, the nature of any threat it might pose for the US, and whether there was any possibility of a negotiated peace.

The focus of Rendezvous with Destiny is on the steps Roosevelt took through the astute appointment of 5 special envoys during 1940 and 1941 with both Democrat and Republican backgrounds to undertake this task.  He relied on five uncommon individuals – a well-bred diplomat, a Republican lawyer, a political fixer, a former presidential candidate and a tycoon.

The first sent was Under Secretary of the State Department Sumner Welles who visited France, Germany and Great Britain during “the phony war” in early 1940 in order to see whether Hitler had any interest peace. He also wanted to get a firsthand understanding of the capacity of France and Great Britain to respond to German’s threats and the role Italy might play.

While little overtly came from this initial foray, Roosevelt had a much better understanding of unfolding tragedy in Europe which was confirmed by the fall of France within weeks of Welles’s return.

Welles was followed in July and August 1940 by Republican war hero and lawyer “Wild Bill” Donovan to see if the British could hold out against a German invasion.

Next to go was Roosevelt’s most trusted aide and long term adviser Harry Hopkins in January 1941 to assess Britain’s needs and also to help Roosevelt get a better understanding the new idiosyncratic British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

This was to be the first of several missions Roosevelt sent the ailing Hopkins on during that year including visiting the Soviet leader Stalin to assess USSR’s capacity to withstand the German invasion and how the US could assist in terms of arms and munitions.

Hopkins’s first visit was quickly followed by defeated Republican Presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie sent to shore up support for Roosevelt’s Lend Lease program, the proposed basis for supplying Britain with much needed armaments, oil and food.

The final representative was Averell Harriman, a wealthy and politically ambitious Democrat with extensive management experience.  He was sent by Roosevelt to ensure the smooth running of Lend Lease program to ensure the British got what they needed, initially to defend themselves against invasion, and then to carry the fight to Germany in North Africa.

Taken together, the missions plot the arc of America’s transformation from a reluctant middle power into the global leader.

Of the five envoys, Harry Hopkins was the real star of Roosevelt’s strategy, who, despite ill health and no foreign relations experience, was the person charged with establishing a basis of trust and gathering vital intelligence initially with Churchill and later with Stalin.  Roosevelt knew neither and politically or personally had little in common with them as individuals, yet Hopkins’s judgment, charm, high intelligence and self-effacing nature ensured that a strong working relationship was quickly established between these truly unlikely allies at a time the world needed them working together.

Fullilove’s influential book is a highly recommended good read and fills many gaps in the understanding of Roosevelt’s leadership and vision in preparing America for war, a role long overshadowed by the later victories in Europe and in the Pacific and by the cold war struggle which so dominated the headlines for the next fifty years.

Click here to buy Rendezvous with Destiny from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


Terry Purcell is a solicitor and was the founding director of the Law Foundation of NSW and is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog.

David Hunt, author of GIRT, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

girtThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

David Hunt

author of Girt

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 Paddington Women’s Hospital: an 11½ pound monster, with a pointed head, jaundice, a thick pelt of black back hair, and an undescended testicle. People laughed. I liked that. I’m now a 125kg monster and still have the dorsal fur and a desire to make people laugh, but thankfully my head is now a nice round shape, I’m no longer an interesting shade of yellow, and the penny has finally dropped.

I was raised in middle-class comfort and schooled at a boy’s-only public school, at which I was periodically asked to cut my long hair, to stop wearing Dunlop Volleys and a dirty-old-man blue raincoat, and to bathe more frequently.

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

At twelve, I wanted to be eighteen; at eighteen I wanted to be thirty; and at thirty I wanted to get back in touch with my inner-child and be twelve again. I guess this means I always wanted to be someone else. Or to have had/have/to have a TARDIS.

At twelve, I also wanted to be a zoologist because my dad was one and David Attenborough was way cool. At eighteen, I wanted to be an actor and I was prepared to work with animals and, at a pinch, small children. At thirty, IDavid Hunt_bw wanted to be a public servant. Aging really does kill ambition.

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

At eighteen, I believed I was bulletproof, windproof and overproof. Now I believe I was a dickhead.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

I’m answering this question on the basis that my career path is writing, although it’s been more of a career small porch that has had many other paths leading up to it and I’m now standing in front of a big black door and I have no idea what’s behind it. I hope whatever it is doesn’t bite.

My mother read me The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when I was tied to a hospital bed after being circumcised as a four year old. Three years later she read me John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids and I was absolutely terrified. She would now be reported to child protection authorities for this, but both books had a profound impact on me and gave me a love of storytelling.

I did my first university revue at the age of 18 and found that I could make people laugh as a writer and performer. That felt good.

I had a mid-life crisis at 39 and decided that if I didn’t do something creative before I was 78 then I would beat myself to death with my own Zimmer frame. Fear of failure can be a great motivator.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

I love paper. I love the way it feels. I love the way it smells. I love the way it goes all wavy and sticky-together when you drop it in the bath. I love books of all shapes, sizes and genres, although I refuse, as a matter of principle, to read anything by E. L. James.

Books will never be obsolete, although perhaps writers will be. It’s only a matter of time until a Chinese supercomputer can punch out a Fifty Shades of Grey rip-off every five picoseconds.

girt6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My latest (and only) book is jauntily titled Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia.

Girt is a narrative history of Australia from when people first started calling Australia home about 60,000 B.P. (Before Peter Allen) to 1824, when this great continent was formally given its current name. It selectively mines historical facts, ignores inconvenient truths, and is more biased than an unloved billiard table. In short, it is like every other Australian history book.

My favourite thing about Girt is the footnotes. I also really like the index (which I encourage anybody who reads this and then reads my book to read). Melbourne’s Herald Sun gave it a lovely review, which ended with the words “a tad culturally insensitive.” I would like those words on my tombstone, please.

I wrote Girt because I wanted to tell great stories about Australia’s past through the distorted lens of the present and because I thought I could do that in a way that would make people laugh as they learned. I also wrote it because a very nice publisher (Black Inc) offered to commission it on the basis of a 5,000 word piece on the Burke and Wills expedition I’d submitted to (and had rejected by) a magazine.

Click here to buy Girt from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

To give the gift of irony to the irony-deficient.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

In terms of writers, Iain Banks and John Irving. Banks’ The Wasp Factory is the best debut novel that wasn’t written in the 19th century and his ability to switch between the drabbest and grittiest British realism and light but the-wasp-factoryastonishingly intelligent space opera never ceases to amaze. Irving is just a genius.

In terms of real people, Gandhi (passive resistance and loincloth), Einstein (smarts and crazy hair) and Governor Philip Gidley King (effective administration and ability to convince his wife to take in the two bastard sons he had fathered upon his convict mistress).

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

To be happy. To make other people happy. To write another book. To give up my day job. To arrest my hairline’s creeping retreat. To lose a little weight. To enjoy many more egg and bacon rolls (note to self: incompatible with previous goal). To not steal and chew other people’s pens. To wear comfortable shoes more often.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

In the immortal words of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory and Quality But Overpriced Footwear, “Just Do It.”

David, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Girt from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

The Election Collection: Books To Make Voting Easier #ausvotes

All Australians over the age of eighteen must vote in the Federal Election on 7th September, 2013. Surprisingly, there are many voters who have yet to decide who they will vote for. Some seem completely perplexed.

Never fear, The Election Collection is here. A fail-safe guide to the election using one of humankind’s greatest achievements – the book. Yes, the book.

Who knew the humble book could help you make a decision?

Chris BowenThe Labor Party



Further reading: Change We Can Believe In: Barak Obama’s Plan To Renew America’s Promise by Barack Obama, A Journey : Tony Blair, Back To Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton.

Tony AbbottThe Liberals


Tony SpeaksCons:

Further reading: Decision Points by George W. Bush, When Things Went Right: The Dawn of the Reagan-Bush Administration by Chase Untermeyer,  Not for Turning : The Life of Margaret Thatcher by Robin Harris.

Gone but not forgotten

The Greens



Further reading: The Rabbits by John Marsden & Shaun Tan, Watership Down by Richard Adams

Julian AssangeWikiLeaks Party



Further reading: Dreaming Too Loud From Arthur Philip to Julian Assange by Geoffrey Robertson

an-incredible-race-of-peopleKatter’s Australian Party



Further reading: They’re a Weird Mob by Nino Culotta

Clive PalmerPalmer United Party



Further reading: Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler




  • The Outsider  by Albert Camus
    Further reading: Independent People by Halldor Laxness

    The Donkey Vote

    The Pros and Cons in One Song

Peter FitzSimons, author of Eureka Stockade: The Unfinished Revolution, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Peter FitzSimons

author of Eureka Stockade: The Unfinished Revolution, Mawson, Batavia, Kokoda and many more…

Six Sharp Questions


1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Eureka Stockade: The Unfinished Revolution, details the birth of democracy in Australia. Our version of the Boston Tea Party, it was the moment when Australians insisted that they had rights, rights that they were prepared to fight for, the British bayonets notwithstanding.

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The best moment was being at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. The worst moment? I dinkum can’t think of anything particularly bad this year – touch wood!

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us?

Yes, I love this part, where one of the diggers, is exhorting his brethren to take it further, and fight!

Typically, Thomas Kennedy goes further.

“The press,” he says, “has called us demagogues, who must be put down. But I for one will die a free man, though I drink the poison as Socrates of yore. We have come 15,000 miles, and left the enlightenment of the age and of the press, not to suffer insult, but to obtain greater liberty. We want men to rule over us, [not such as we have.] Most of all, we have to think of our children, who will grow up in this great colony, and all of us must never forget their own dearest interests.”

And yet, he asks, is this the way to proceed? Constantly signing petitions and passing resolutions, all for no result?

“Moral persuasion,” Thomas Kennedy says, with everyone leaning forward as before, to catch every word, “is all humbug. Nothing convinces like a lick in the lug!”

Love that “lick in the lug,” line! It wonderfully summed up the view of the vast body of diggers – we have had a gutful, and are now going to take arms against a sea of troubles.

 4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it?

I don’t really think I am – primarily because I love what I do. Though, I must say, when I am in full writing mode, I am doing one of two things: either writing my book, or resenting the fact that I am not writing my book. I am involved in many activities and travel a lot, but wherever I am, I always have my laptop close, and write my books in planes, trains, automobiles and hotel lobbies, as well as at home, lying supine on the coach. Overall, though, I have noticed that I am at my most productive when on long-haul flights, where there are no interruptions.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

Writing books is hard. Of course I want my books to sell. Thus, in the range of the many subjects I want to write about, I do choose the ones that will sell well in the marketplace.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only three books with you. What do you take and why?

Charles DickensGreat Expectations: most impressive novel ever written, in my view.

Kahlil Gibran -  The Prophet – the values it evinces, without any religious gibberish, are wonderful.

Bob DylanThe Complete Lyrics of Bob Dylan. Even without him singing, and instrumentals, his lyrics are poetry for the soul:

Suddenly, I turned around, and she was standing there,

With silver bracelets on her wrist, and flowers in her hair,

She walked up to me so gracefully, and took my crown of thorns,

Come in, she said, I’ll give ya, shelter from the storm.”

Peter, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


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