Crime Scenes review

The following review appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Sat 14 May 2016 under the heading, Crime Scenes review: A collection of gems from criminally good writers.
Crime Scenes



Crime Scenes is a rich and varied volume of short Australian crime fiction. It opens with Amanda O’Callaghan’s The Turn, a sharp little tale narrated by a former “angel of death” killer, now a cabbie intent on tying up loose ends. Peter Corris’ Three-Pan Creek Gift offers a hard-boiled snippet of his most famous creation, Cliff Hardy, acting as bodyguard for a sprinter, the favourite in a country footrace. (Is his charge actually under threat, or has Cliff been unwittingly drawn into a scam?) With The Teardrop Tattoos, Angela Savage follows a female ex-con out for revenge when a local mother reports her pit bull to the council, while Carmel Bird’s The Good Butler invokes the final fantasies of a terminal cancer patient. Judiciously compiled by Zane Lovitt, this collection is full of compressed gems from notable authors.

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Katherine Brabon wins the 2016 Vogel Award

Memory ArtistEarlier this week, Katherine (Kate) Brabon was announced as winner of the 2016 Vogel Literary Award for her unpublished novel, The Memory Artist.

The way the award is organised meant that less than 24 hours later, Kate became a published author: The Memory Artist, released by Allen & Unwin, was available in bookshops the day after the announcement.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Pasha Ivanov is a child of the Freeze, born in Moscow during Brezhnev’s repressive rule over the Soviet Union. As a small child, Pasha sat at the kitchen table night after night as his parents and their friends gathered to preserve the memory of terrifying Stalinist violence, and to expose the continued harassment of dissidents.

When Gorbachev promises glasnost, openness, Pasha, an eager twenty-four year old, longs to create art and to carry on the work of those who came before him. He writes; falls in love. Yet that hope, too, fragments and by 1999 Pasha lives a solitary life in St Petersburg. Until a phone call in the middle of the night acts as a summons both to Moscow and to memory.

Through recollections and observation, Pasha walks through the landscapes of history, from concrete tower suburbs, to a summerhouse during Russia’s white night summers, to haunting former prison camps in the Arctic north. Pasha’s search to find meaning leads him to assemble a fractured story of Russia’s traumatic past.

Kate’s background is in Russian history — she has a Masters degree from Oxford. Of her decision to write fiction, she says in a recent interview, “It was this really overwhelmingly sad story but I could only say so much in a history essay and so somehow I started writing this novel.” In another interview, she explains, “I wanted a way to represent something that has not happened to me but that affects me in its horror. For my [Masters] dissertation I read oral interviews with people who lived under Stalin’s rule, and I read a lot about the dissidents in the 1960s to early 1990s who fought so hard for truth, information, memory.”

Study buddies: Jen Anderson, Rosey Chang, Kate Brabon and me

Study buddies: Jen Anderson, Rosey Chang, Kate Brabon and me

Kate’s win was especially close to my heart, as we are part of a reading group (we prefer the term ‘study buddies’) at Monash University, where we are all enrolled as PhD students in Creative Writing. Kate started her PhD six months before the rest of us and has been a gracious and generous trailblazer, not to mention an exemplary student. Having some sense of the hard work and care that Kate has put into The Memory Artist, I couldn’t be more thrilled about her win.

It is exciting to see an Australian literary award given to a novel set outside Australia and without a single Australian character. As Kate says, “Australian literature doesn’t have to be set in Australia. There’s a lot in here [the novel] that echoes important considerations for everyone, about the value of art in particular.”

The Vogel Award is Australia’s most prestigious and lucrative literary award for an unpublished manuscript, eligible for writers under 35. The award has launched the literary careers of Kate Grenville, Tim Winton, Gillian Mears and Andrew McGahan, among others.

I trust that Katherine Brabon’s name will one day be listed as among the luminaries whose writing careers were launched by the Vogel Award.

You can listen to Kate talk about The Memory Artist here.

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Introduction to Crime Writing

Thursday 14 April from 6.00-8.30pm, I’m delighted to be conducting a workshop, ‘Introduction to Crime Writing’, for Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries at their Watsonia branch, 4-6 Ibbottson Street, Watsonia, as part of their Write and Publish Makerspace program.

Here’s the course description:

Crime fiction appeals for its compelling plots, vicarious thrills and flawed characters; and also because, unlike in real life, justice is (usually) served.

Combining input with practical writing exercises, this workshop will introduce you to the elements of a thrilling crime read. You’ll learn how to:

♦  Find ideas for crime stories
♦  Develop convincing characters
♦  Plot and structure your story
♦  Set a cracking pace

You’ll also be encouraged to consider broader questions of crime and justice that underpin crime fiction. A list of recommended crime fiction reading and resources will be provided.

In addition to course handouts, I’m also offering book prizes for the most original responses to the writing exercises.

Places are limited, so please book ahead if you’d like to attend. Details are here.



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Newcastle Writers Festival 2016 beckons…

logo2The fourth annual Newcastle Writers Festival is happening on 1-3 April 2016, and I am thrilled to be part of it.

My partner in life and crime fiction, Andrew Nette, and I were initially invited to the festival to be part of the launch of Crime Scenes, an anthology of short crime fiction, edited by Zane Lovitt and published by Spineless Wonders, in which we both have stories.

FullSizeRenderBut as festival director extraordinaire Rosemarie Milsom is never one to miss an opportunity, since we happen to be there, we’re also going to be chairing a couple of panels, too. As a result, I got gifted a truly stunning festival pre-reading pile (right). Times like these, I love my life!

My official festival gigs are as follows:

The romance and reality of life in another country.
With Nancy Knudsen and Patti Miller. Hosted by Angela Savage
Sat 2 April, 2016, 11.30am-12.30pm, Hunter Room, City Hall

Partners in Crime: The role of the short story in crime fiction
Discussion & book launch.
With Zane Lovitt, Andrew Nette and Angela Savage. Hosted by Jaye Ford.
Crime Scenes to be launched by Barry Maitland.
Sat 2 April, 2016, 3pm-3.45pm & 3.45pm-4.15pm, Mulubinba Room, City Hall

Reality Bites
Fiction writers discuss how real life inspires and infuses their work.
With Fleur Ferris, Jaye Ford, Rod Jones and Charlotte Wood.
Hosted by Angela Savage.
Sun 3 April, 2016, 11.30am-12.30pm, Civic Theatre.

I can barely contain my excitement (or my nerves) at the thought of participating in these sessions.

I had the great pleasure of being part of the second Newcastle Writers Festival in 2014, and I can’t wait to be part of this one. When not chairing sessions, I’ll be trying to get to as many sessions as I can on this amazing program, and catching up with friends.

If you’re in Newcastle on the first weekend in April, please do drop by and say hi.


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Review of Australian Fiction: a new short story

RAF_VOL17_ISS_5Have you discovered the Review of Australian Fiction yet?

RAF publishes two short stories in every issue, pairing an established writer alongside an emerging writer, across a range of genres.

For a modest subscription fee, you get these two short stories by Australian writers delivered to your inbox every fortnight for 3 month, for reading on any e-device. Brilliant!

And if you sign up today, your first issue will include a new story by me and the über-talented Aoife Clifford, whose debut novel, All These Perfect Strangers, has just been released to critical acclaim.

My own short story in RAF Vol 17, no 5, ‘The Odds’, was inspired by my PhD research into IVF and surrogacy. It is the story of a woman who, after spending fruitless years on IVF, decides to take revenge on her doctor.

So if you want to enjoy some great reading while supporting Australian writers, subscribe now.

Special thanks to Sulari Gentill, Samantha Bond, and Aoife Clifford for their feedback on ‘The Odds’.



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Divided hearts: Win free movie passes to Brooklyn



This is something new for me: to mark Valentine’s Day, I have ten double passes to the movie Brooklyn to give away to Australian readers of this blog.

Brooklyn (watch the trailer here) is based on a novel by Colm Tóibín, the story of which is summarised on Tóibín‘s website:

It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.

Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home – and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma – a devastating choice between duty and one great love.

Brooklyn 1Played by Saoirse Ronan in the film, Eilis’s story is about the divided heart of the immigrant. While I’ve never emigrated from my home in Australia, I can empathise, having spent more than seven years of my life in Southeast Asia. When I’m there, I miss my hometown of Melbourne. When in Melbourne, I miss being there. I’ve often described myself as having a divided heart.

The film of Brooklyn has been nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, the latter written by novelist and screenwriter extraordinaire Nick Hornby.

If you’d like to see Brooklyn, I have ten double passes to give away, valid nationally in Australia (though check fine print for exclusions). All you need to do is leave a comment on this post to say why you’d like to see Brooklyn. Do you have a divided heart? Do you love great writing? Does the historical period appeal to you? Or would you simply enjoy seeing a great film for free?

Leave a comment, then email me your postal address via angelasavageos(at)

First ten people to leave a comment win. (If you have trouble leaving a comment on this blog, try here)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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The Half-Child – now with Teaching Notes

Writer Angela Savage Book Cover - The Half-ChildI am excited to announce that comprehensive Teaching Notes for my second novel, The Half-Child, are now available, thanks to Michael Blenkins, Executive Teacher, English and the Arts.

In terms of genre, content and style, The Half-Child is accessible to mature students in Year 10 studying in a teacher-directed learning context, though probably best suited to English students in Years 11 and 12, especially those studying crime fiction genre or undertaking humanity studies in Asian Studies, Geography or Modern History. He notes that studying The Half Child will enable students to satisfy the Cross-curriculum priority Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia.

Michael’s teaching notes outline a variety of ways in which The Half-Child can be studied to address both the language and literature requirements of the Australian Curriculum (English), and provide teaching and learning activities to address a range of specific learning outcomes.

The notes also suggest different levels on which The Half-Child can be studied as an independent text or in conjunction with other texts, namely:

  • Close study of text
  • Critical reading
  • Comparative study
  • Genre study

Bangkok HiltonI particularly like Michael’s suggestion that the novel’s “complex content will also accommodate teaching strategies underpinned by broad thematic or conceptual approaches. Ethics and Justice, for example, would function as a plausible theme to be explored in and through the narrative.” Michael’s other ideas that could be examined through a thematic study of The Half Child include:

  • Deception & Corruption
  • Wealth & Power
  • Social & Professional Facades
  • Culture & Thailand (in conjunction with other texts linked specifically to Thailand e.g. Bangkok Hilton, documentaries).

A comparative study between The Half-Child and the miniseries Bangkok Hilton? — Bring it on, I say!

Heartfelt thanks to Michael for having developed this fantastic resource, and for allowing me to make it available as a free download here: Teaching Notes_HALF CHILD.

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