Good Reading : December January 2005
book chat It’s going to be a thrilling Christmas. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after chairing a session with some of the best Australian writers of the genre at a recent writers’ festival. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise.After a few years struggling in the post-Cold War- world, the genre came back with a bang courtesy of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Selling something like 8000 copies a week in Australia (and his earlier books also on the bestseller list) The Da Vinci Code reminded everyone what thrillers were all about: a sit- down-buckle -up-ride-of-your-life. But you don’t have to go offshore this Christmas to go on a great ride.The good news is that in the highly competitive world of the thriller genre,Australians are serious contenders.And you could do worse than combine the skill and style of writers like Sandy McCutcheon, Greg Wilson, Sandy Curtis and Matthew Reilly. McCutcheon, using his background as a journalist and radio docu- mentary producer, has an ability to weave fiction through the desperate facts of inter- national disasters-in-the-making long before they’ve become world headlines. Combine that with Wilson’s understanding of international finance and his ability to inhabit the landscape of his story so well as to disappear into it completely; wherever in the world he is, he writes like a local.Add to that Curtis’ feminine intuition and deep understanding of character.Then mix all of that together with Matthew Reilly’s imagi- nation, not to mention youth, speed and grasp of technology.And it’s pure escapism from the comfort of your beach chair. But what made the writers’ work infi- nitely more interesting to me as I listened to each speak was their respect for their readers. Somewhere along the way writing with an audience in mind has become synonymous with low quality.Yet these authors assume that because we are bombarded every day with images and information, news and popular culture – in print, on television, the computer screen or at the movies – our expectations of them are constantly being raised. But rather than being scared off they revel in the challenge.And we get the ben- efit. Listening to them speak I was excited that each new book is more than a story: it’s the next move in a board game of skill in which the reader is both audience and participant. Sounds like a novel way to avoid the festive madness! BOOK CHAT with Lisa Forrest Top 3 Reads Some of your 3 favourite reads. Keep sending them in! Evelyn Hood April Fool’s Day Bryce Courtenay Bryce Courtenay writes courageously about the life of his precious son Damon, who died from medically-acquired AIDS, and stirs up many emotions − anger, pain, sor row, joy and love. It is a very moving, raw read. Rachel’s Holiday Marian Keyes I loved this story; it’s a funny, roman- tic, insightful read, full of Irish-wit. It also deals with some dark issues − drug addiction and self destruction. Lucky You Carl Hiaasen This book is an absolute hoot, a frolick- ing great adventure about two people who win the Florida lottery. I loved it. Ann McMahon Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen I first read this in high school and have found myself retur ning to it time and time again. Romantic, amusing, insightful and always a satisfying read. Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell This sweeping saga set in the American Civil war is still a firm favourite. Loved the history, loved the characters, loved Rhett! Cloudstreet Tim Winton Warm, humorous and full of love yet with a distinctly Australian flavour. For me, this is one of the great Australian novels.