If Sulari Gentill didn’t end up being a writer, she certainly could have been an actor. She held her audience spell bound on Tuesday night when she read the pivotal second chapter of her book, A Few Right Thinking Men, in art deco hall in which the action was placed.
Now Cello’s Restaurant, the room is a newly refurbished 1927 heritage jewel, complete with high ceilings, chandeliers, fabulously detailed plaster work and even potted aspidistras and palms. You can’t get anything more 1930s than aspidistras! If it felt authentic, it is because is was, for it was in this room, in a building stamped with masonic symbols, that the scene is set for the intriguing action that is played out in the rest of the book.
Gentill clearly is a woman of many talents. She can hold an audience in her thrall, no doubt a skill honed by her years as a champion debater and public speaker. In fact she is a surprise package. This debut novelist is former student of astrophysics, a lawyer by profession and a truffle farmer by occupation. Somewhere in all of that, she found the energy to be one of the five authors (of 700 so far) whose manuscript was chosen to be published by the newly formed PanteraPress, whose mission is to be the new home for the next generation of Australia’s best-loved authors.
As an aside Pantera has a refreshing approach. They thrive on unsolicited manuscripts, they refer to the “diamond mine” rather than the “slush pile” and they have a strong philanthropic foundation at their core. Who could argue with all that?
A Few Right Thinking Men is a crime novel set in Great Depression Australia. There is plenty of intrigue and just the right amount of romance and two very appealing protagonists – the well-connected and artistic society man Rowland Sinclair and his gorgeous muse Edna, who takes him out of the squattocracy and into bohemia.
What is more interesting to me, is the evocation of Australia at that time. Gentill’s fascination for the period comes from “her marrying the 30s”, a reference to her historian husband’s specialisation, not his birthdate! While fascism and communism battle it out in Europe, this country was riven by huge political differences. Armed militia from both the left and the right threatened law and order. Communists, unionists, the old guard and the new guard all contested political ground as plot, counter-plot, all supported by thugs of various persuasions, foment secession movements and the country hovers on the brink.
Gentill has written an immensely readable first novel, and has the second Rowland Sinclair story under her belt already. Get used to her name. We are going to be hearing a lot more of it.
Click here for Gentill’s answers to Ten Terrifying Questions.
Click here to for an extract and the book trailer
A Few Right Thinking Men is available now. RRP $29.95, Booktopia price $23.95