NTN: Australia’s top 5 hot new writers

The Australian crime fiction scene is going strong. That’s the good news. The not so good news for anyone reading this outside of Australia, and my guess is that’s most of you, is a lot of locally produced books are hard to access overseas. While local small and niche publishers have embraced electronic publishing with gusto, some of the bigger publishing houses lag well behind when it comes to getting their Australian authors out on ebook.

Line of Sight by David Whish-Wilson
My first pick of new Australian talent to watch for is a case in point, Line of Sight by David Whish-Wilson. It’s publisher, the Viking imprint of Penguin has not released it digitally, and it’s not even available as a dead tree book on Amazon. You might – at a stretch – be able to buy it on-line from selected bookshops. Make the effort because Line of Sight, Whish-Wilson’s second book but his first crime novel, is for my money the best thing to come out of Australia in a very long time (and yes, that does include Peter Temple).

The book is loosely based on the real life murder in the seventies of a notorious Perth brothel madam, Shirley Finn. It’s told from the point of view of Superintendent Frank Swan, a tough as nails old school cop turned whistle blower for the sham Royal Commission established to look into Finn’s murder. Well written and meticulously researched, it’s a wonderful piece of hard-boiled writing and an incisive analysis of the changing nature of corruption in Western Australia. There’s a sequel in the works. I can hardly wait.

Fortunately, you’ll have an easier time getting my other picks.

Prime Cut by Alan Carter
There must be something in the West Australian water because of late they’re producing some seriously good fiction. Prime Cut is Carter’s first book. It was shortlisted for the 2010 Debut Dagger Award and won Best First Fiction at the 2011 Ned Kelly Awards. The story centres on Senior Constable Cato Kwong, former homicide detective and failed poster boy for the West Australian police force’s attempts to appear more ethnically inclusive. Exiled to a small coastal town, he’s called in to investigate the appearance of a headless body.

The town surrounding area is experiencing rapid growth as a result of West Australia’s mining boom, including an influx of crime. It’s dark and funny and available as an e-book by up and coming local publisher, Freemantle Press.
Buy now on Amazon.co.uk

The Brotherhood by Yvette Erskine
Erskine was a constable in the Tasmanian police force for 11 years. That makes her well placed to help meet the Australian crime reading public’s insatiable appetite for police procedurals. The Brotherhood, her first novel, details the aftermath of the murder of well-known local cop. The investigation into his death becomes has to navigate the island’s small, close-knit police force. Things become even more complex when the main suspect is identified as Aboriginal. Well written, with excellent characterisation, The Brotherhood is a dark twist on the police procedural.

It’s available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon in the UK. It’s pricey but worth it.
Buy now on Amazon.co.uk

Watch Out for Me by Sylvia Johnson
Sydney, 1967: four children tell a lie to get out of trouble, setting up a chain of events in which an immigrant is accused of a terrible crime, because he claimed to be in the same place the children claimed to be, when they were not.

Fast forward to the present day. Sydney is on lock-down due to the visit of the American president. One of the four children is now grown up and angry at the inconvenience of security arrangements against a potential terrorist attack. At the same time, there are increasing reports about the strange behaviour of a man wearing a thick overcoat, who seems to be making his way to the scene of the events 40 years earlier. I won’t say any more. It’s an intriguing premise that by some accounts does not quite live up to its potential. Nonetheless, it’s a well-written first book that promises much more to come from Johnson. Better still its publisher, Allan and Unwin, have released Watch Out for Me as an ebook.
Buy now from Booktopia, Australia

Pericles Commission by Gary Corby
This one’s a bit out of the box but will appeal to fans of historical crime fiction. A dead man falls from the sky and lands at the feet of Nicolas, son of Sophroniscus the sculptor one Athens morning in 461AD. The body belongs to Ephialtes, creator of the world’s first, and still fledgling, democracy. And his death could mean civil war. In the absence of a family member to do the job Pericles, a politician and supporter of the move towards democracy, commissions Nicolas to investigate and bring the individual or group responsible to justice.

I have not read this book, but by all accounts it’s an intriguing fictional romp based on real historical events with a large cast of deftly drawn characters, from slaves to high priestesses. There’s a sequel in the works. There’s no sign of an ebook from the publisher Penguin, but it’s available in paperback from Amazon.
Buy now on Amazon.co.uk

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  1. Gary Corby Reply

    I like being described as a bit out of the box!

    The cover you’ve displayed of Pericles Commission is the US edition, which is published by St Martin’s Press. Penguin Australia publishes the local edition and they are a joy and pleasure to work with. The Oz cover is quite different, and it fascinated me how two completely different approaches could express the same story.

    On the question of international availability…since it’s also published in the US, the book’s available pretty much everywhere. The majority of my sales are in US & Canada, their population being largest, but I’ve had fan email from South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, and a lot from the UK.

    On your eBook question…Pericles Commission is available for download on kindle, as a NOOK Book, on kobo, on iTunes, and at Google’s eBook store.

    That sequel you mentioned released yesterday in the US, and releases Jan 4 in Australia. It’s called The Ionia Sanction. Book 3 in the series is written. I’m now working on book 4, when not writing incredibly long comments on other people’s blogs (sorry about that).

    Thank you very much for giving the book a mention. I appreciate it!

  2. PulpCurry Reply

    Thanks for your corrections. I never really thought about this until I wrote this piece, but it’s interesting how difficult it is to source concise and comprehensive information about the availability of books. As a book buyer, I shop globally, but information is still presented on a nation state basis, so to speak. Dare I say that this is just one example, among many, of how some of the players in the Aust book trade need to pick up their act.

  3. Bernadette Reply

    Nice round up Andrew and I agree with your selections of those I’ve read (am just finishing THE BROTHERHOOD and think it is one of the best books from any country I’ve read all year – outtanding for a debut author). Haven’t read the Syliva Johnson one yet. Another debut author I really enjoyed this year was Chris Currie’s THE OTTOMAN MOTEL which was a twist on a missing child story (the parents went missing leaving their son alone in a creepy coastal town).

    I really do hope the new local eBook market places will offer more chances for local authors to get their books more widely accessed, assuming publishers sort out the geo restrictions mess and wak up to the fact it’s nearly 2012.

  4. Gary Corby Reply

    Hi Andrew,

    I have Line of Sight and Prime Cut on the shelves behind me, and very excellent they are too. I like your taste in books, you’ve inspired me to go get The Brotherhood and Watch Out For Me. As it happens, David Whish-Wilson is a fellow Penguin.

    I can only speak for my own experience, but I reckon the local publishers could teach the overseas guys a thing or two about how to do it right. My experience with Penguin Australia has been uniformly excellent.

    I totally agree that more Oz books deserve to make it overseas, but with the best will in the world, Australian publishers can’t just push a button to make it happen. The thing is, all the world’s major imprints are owned by just five or six mega-companies. Each mega-company has divided the world into fiefdoms that more or less match the international copyright law regions.

    So an Australian publisher who wants to push a book overseas can’t just do it; they have to convince their sister company in the target country that this Australian book deserves their space. This applies equally to ebooks: electronic rights are always linked with print rights. (Try selling print rights alone to a publisher and see how far you get.)

    Every sister company naturally tends to favour its home-grown authors first, there’s limited space for imports, and a book that competed well in Australia suddenly must stand up against every fine book on the planet! This isn’t easy, believe me.

    The final decision whether a book goes overseas isn’t made by the local publisher; it relies entirely on finding an overseas imprint that thinks they can sell it.

    The good news is, there are some Australian authors who do better overseas than at home. I recall reading that Michael Robotham sells vast numbers in Germany, for example. To a certain extent, style and voice play differently to different cultures.

    What the locals could do (I think)is what you suggest: publish their catalogue as ebooks and serve them out of Australia. Though there might still be legal issues with that, as, for example, you can’t buy quite a few ebooks from Amazon, Google eBooks or B&N if you’re an Australian resident.

    As you say, the whole system of book availability on a nation-state basis could use some re-work.

  5. essaysamurai Reply

    Such a lot of talented writers and interesting works in this article. Some are known to me but I am sure that all are worthy of attention, certainly will order and read in the nearest time. I hope to see more articles with bigger list of talented writers because I am sure this list is not complete.

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