Good Reading : August 2007
14 goodreading ı AUGUST 2007 The quote on the cover of Eden from the Sunday Age said Peter Watt was ‘the home- grown version of Wilbur Smith’, but a list of quotes from author-received emails instead of the usual press reviews inside told me he was an author who hadn’t made much of an impact among reviewers. I prevaricated, then figured the book was worth a five buck bet just to discover what a home-grown Wilbur Smith actually was. Reading the book, I discovered that author Watt wasn’t a Smith clone but he certainly wrote in the adventurous epic style popularised by the famous author and others of his ilk such as James A Michener, Herman Wouk and Leon Uris, the big-name big-selling big-epic authors from a recent past when mass market novelists were rich, international celebrities. Eden was a good read, fair fodder for a wet weekend, and while it wasn’t a literary exercise it was a masterful excursion into what is loosely called the airport read. The introductory notes to the book listed five other novels by Peter Watt, and I was even more surprised that I hadn’t heard of him.This guy was obviously a serious writer. Checking him out on the web was another surprise because his home page revealed a riot of colourful book covers, ranging over several titles in several languages, and I realised I had stumbled across that rarity of rarities, a home-grown internationally-published pot boiler author. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that I hadn’t heard of him, because essentially the nature of the Australian book pub- lishing scene is that low-brow and middle-brow writers aren’t really recognised and rarely, if ever, feature in review circles or writers’ festival circuits. Curious about this obviously very successful Australian wordsmith, I contacted him at his northern New South Wales home and, as I sus- pected, he was laughing all the way to the bank as a well-paid full-time internationally published novelist. But he also harboured a bud of bitterness about being virtually unknown at home. ‘I am an airport writer,’ he told me, ‘and I do deliberately aim at the Wilbur Smith-style market. But it’s funny how literary books receive so much attention when most people still stick with the stock standard mass market novel when they want to be truly entertained. ‘My first book, Cry of the Curlew, was published in 1999; it’s still in print and being reprinted every year. It went international and really took off in Canada and Ger many, but Australia’s been quiet. In Germany I’m rated up there among their top authors, and I like that because you’re looking at a population of almost 100 million in that market. I write roughly one book a year. I’ve got seven books already pub- lished, with the latest, The Stone Dragon , coming who’s watt? If you mention the Australian author PETER WATT to anyone, you may well get the response ‘Peter who?’ PETER OLSZEWSKI asked himself the question when he plucked Eden out of the $4.95 bin at his local newsagent’s — then set out to find the answer after he’d read the book.