I’m special, so special*

For those of you who’ve been meaning to read my novels for ages, Text Publishing’s Deal of the Week sees all three available at the special price of AUD$14.99 each, with free delivery anywhere in the world.

Special deal bannerNow’s the perfect time to get hold of a copy of  Behind the Night Bazaar, my debut novel, which introduces Bangkok-based expatriate PI Jayne Keeney. Behind the Night Bazaar won a 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award as an unpublished manuscript, and was later short-listed for the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Book.

‘Coolly elegant with a lovely sense of place, Savage directs her authorial tuk-tuk into the literary precinct without sacrificing the requisite violence, corrupt police, edgy social commentary and the need for her heroine to become a lonely social crusader in the best hard-boiled tradition.’ — Graeme Blundell, The Weekend Australian

Or maybe with all the talk of intercountry adoption reform in Australia, you’d like to read my second novel, The Half-Child, which deals with this very issue. The book also contains the seeds of a romance between Jayne Keeney and handsome Indian bookseller and ICT specialist Rajiv Patel. The Half-Child was shortlisted for the 2011 Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction.

‘This is a gripping novel; an unromanticised travel guide to today’s Thailand; a critique of Western missionary endeavours; and a warning to naïve young people who stumble into volunteer work without the necessary skills.’ — Australian Bookseller & Publisher

The books are part of a series but can be enjoyed as standalone novels, too, meaning you could even start with the critically acclaimed third novel, The Dying Beach, set in Thailand’s exquisite southern coastal provinces. Wrapping environmental questions around a whodunnit, The Dying Beach was shortlisted for both the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction and the Davitt Award for Best Adult Fiction.

‘Angela Savage [takes the reader for a ride]…with wit and a meticulous attention to detail, her gracefully written novels, set so perceptively in Thailand, folding and unfolding in surprising directions…. Savage writes with dry humour and a beguiling sense of place, but a hard-boiled quality of menace underpins the light cleverness of her prose.’ — Graeme Blundell, The Australian

‘With its intricate narrative structure, use of multiple points of view and flashbacks, this is Savage’s most ambitious and accomplished crime novel to date.’ —  Sue Turnbull, Sydney Morning Herald

And did I mention free delivery worldwide?

What are you waiting for? Click here and enjoy!

* Taking a leaf out of crime fiction blogger extraordinaire Margot Kinberg‘s songbook (pun intended), the title is a line from ‘Brass in Pocket’ by the Pretenders.

Posted in Angela Savage, Behind the Night Bazaar, Books, crime fiction, special deal, The Dying Beach, The Half-Child | 4 Comments

Summer reading

The year is six weeks old already, and a blog post is long overdue. I blame it on the PhD: I’ve spent most of the past six weeks preparing for my confirmation panel next month. Still, I did manage to get in some great reading over the summer — none of it crime fiction. I didn’t plan it that way, but I usually end up setting aside one month each year to be crime-free, so to speak, and this year, January was it.

merciless godsFirst up was Christos Tsiolkas’s short story collection, Merciless Gods (2014), which I finished over the new year. In fact, the first fiction I read in 2015 was ‘Saturn Return’, a story told from the point of view of a young man travelling from Melbourne to Sydney with his partner, Barney, to be with Barney’s father when he dies. En route, they visit the remnants of the migrant camp at Bonegilla, ‘a hateful place’ where the narrator’s father had been sent after migrating to Australia. The story was so moving, it made me cry. A great start to the new reading year!

‘Saturn Return’ is only one of many riveting stories in this collection. Normally, I dip in and out of short story collections, but this is one I read cover to cover. Hypnotic.

laurindaNext up, Laurinda (2014) by Alice Pung. Set in an exclusive girls’ school, Laurinda is narrated by Lucy Lam in the form of a conversation with her alter-ego, Linh. Lucy/Linh is Laurinda’s inaugural ‘Equal Access’ scholarship recipient, and the novel covers her experience of Year 10, her first year at the school, as she tries to fit in without losing herself.

The prospect of reading a novel set in an exclusive girls’ school wouldn’t normally excite me, but Pung turns this into a meditation on class, race and power that is sharp and satisfying. Plus her prose makes me swoon. A novel that will appeal equally to young adults and not so young adults alike.

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northThe Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013) is a novel I bought about a year ago on the recommendation of Kirsten Krauth, who spotted its brilliance long before it won a swathe of awards, including the 2014 Man Booker Prize — a worthy winner in my opinion.

The central character is Dorrigo Evans, a doctor in the Australian army, who is taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War, and sent to the notorious Death Railway camp in Thailand. The story interweaves this horrific experience — told from the point of view of Dorrigo and fellow Australian prisoners, as well as the Japanese camp commander Major Nakamura, and his superior Colonel Kota — with a love story that precedes the war, and an account of both Dorrigo and Nakamura’s post-war lives.

A number of readers I know concurred that the novel gets off to a slow start before hitting a point where it’s hard to put down. I found myself coming to the end of a long reading session, only to realise I’d been holding my breath.

This novel ticked all my boxes: heart-stopping, intelligent, innovative and deeply moving. I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading it.

Nice WorkMy other fiction read of the last six weeks is Nice Work (1988) by David Lodge. I also read Lodge’s wonderful work of literary criticism, The Art of Fiction, over the summer (a great resource for writers) and I was at a point in my PhD research where I needed to escape into fiction without straying too far. Nice Work is a novel about the relationship between Dr Robyn Penrose, a feminist lecturer of English literature theory at the fictional Rummidge University, and Victor Wilcox, Managing Director of a struggling engineering plant. The two meet through a PR exercise designed to bring the Industry and the University closer at the time, under Thatcher, when both the Industry and the University are threatened by government cuts and the rising power of financial services industries.

Nice Work is engaging, witty and unpredictable, and has the added bonus of explaining aspects of literary theory, making me feel that, although I was reading it for pleasure, I could count it as study. Satisfying on both counts.

I read a hell of a lot of academic writing over the summer, too, but I’ll spare you those details. As for my current read, it’s a thriller with a twist. But more on that later…hopefully within the next six weeks.

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 wrap-up

awwbadge_2014It’s appropriate that Amanda Curtin has reminded me to write a wrap up of my Australian Women Writers Challenge reading for 2014, seeing as how her stunning novel Elemental (2013, UWA Publishing) was the first book I read and reviewed for the challenge. I’ve spent the rest of the year raving about it, recommending it and buying gift copies. I’m delighted to report that everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it, especially my mother for whom the character of Meggie Duthie Tulloch rivals Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion as her favourite ever literary heroine.

Like Amanda, I read more books by Australian women writers than I reviewed, though the absence of a review is no indication of my feelings about the book. Again, I’ve raved about, recommended and bought gift copies of several books by Australian women writers, which I have not reviewed.

Overall, I read 20 books for adults written by Australian women in 2014, 11 crime novels, four literary works–three of them short story collections, and five non-fiction books.

Here are the nine books I did mange to review (or write up an author interview) on this blog for the AWW Challenge; those marked with an asterisk, I also reviewed for Radio National Books and Arts Daily:

Elemental — Amanda Curtin (2013, UWA Publishing)
The Lost Girls* — Wendy James (2013, Michael Joseph)
Holiday in Cambodia — Laura Jean McKay (2013, Black Inc.)
Beams Falling* — PM Newton (2014, Penguin)
Through the Cracks* — Honey Brown (2014, Penguin)
Every Word — Ellie Marney (2014, Allen & Unwin)
A Morbid Habit* — Annie Hauxwell (2014, Penguin)
What Came Before* — Anna George (2014, Viking)
Let Her Go* — Dawn Barker (2014, Hachette)

The following books by Australian women writers I didn’t manage to review but did mention in end of year wrap-ups:

A Murder Unmentioned — Sulari Gentill (2014, Pantera Press)
Foreign Soil — Maxine Beneba Clarke (2014, Hachette)
Only the Animals — Ceridwen Dovey (2014, Penguin)

Other books by Australian women writers I read this year (with links to writers festival write ups, where relevant):

Madame Bovary’s Haberdashery — Maurilia Meehan (2013, Transit Lounge)
Moving Among Strangers: Randolph Stowe and My Family — Gabrielle Carey (2013, UQP)
Last Bets — Michaela McGuire (2014, MUP)
Where is Daniel? — Lindsay Simpson & Jennifer Cooke (2014, Pan Macmillan)
Honeymoon Dive — Lindsay Simpson (2010, Pan Macmillan)
The Zigzag Effect — Lili Wilkinson (2013, Allen & Unwin)
The Lying-Down Room — Anna Jaquiery (2014, Mantle)
A Second Chance for Justice — Asher Flynn & Kate Fitz-Gibbon (2013, Cambridge Scholars Publishing)

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the wonderful books for young readers by Australian women writers, which I’ve enjoyed reading with my daughter Miss Eight in 2014, including:

The Garden of the Empress Cassia — Gabrielle Wang (2002, Puffin)
The Pearl of Tiger Bay — Gabrielle Wang (2004, Puffin)
The Ghost in the Suitcase — Gabrielle Wang (2009, Puffin)
The Meet Pearlie books in the Our Australian Girl series — Gabrielle Wang (2013, 2014, Puffin)
Truly Tan Spooked! — Jen Storer (2013, HarperCollins)
Truly Tan Freaked! — Jen Storer (2014, HarperCollins)

Here’s wishing all the Australian women writers and readers of Australian women writers a wonderful New Year in 2015.

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Books that blew my mind in 2014

It’s a gift for a reader to pick up a book that takes you by surprise and blows your mind.

I had the great fortune in 2014 to stumble upon several books that did this — all of them short story collections, three released in 2014, five by Australian authors. I cannot recommend these books highly enough.

short stories 2014Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap (2006, Grove Press) was one the first anthology to blow my mind in 2014. It contains seven beautifully crafted stories, most set in Thailand. Lapcharoensap’s stories tackle injustice and inequality at times with poignancy, at times with humour, always with bite. (See here for a full review).

Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay (2013, Black Inc) is a stunning collection of intimate stories set in different historical periods in Cambodia, told from the points of view of Cambodian and non-Cambodian characters. (See here for a full review).

The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill (2012, Black Inc) contains some of the most striking and innovative work I’ve ever read. What O’Neill does with the short story form is almost beyond belief, and every story packs an emotional punch. Breathtaking.

Maxine Beneba Clarke says she tries ‘to write beautifully about ugly things’, which is exactly what she does in Foreign Soil (2014, Hachette). Stories of heartbreak and horror are told in the language of poetry and hope. Riveting.

Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey (2014, Penguin) got bumped up my TBR pile when it was shortlisted for the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for fiction. Each story is told from the point of view of a different animal associated with a significant historical figure, many of them writers. Crazy, brazen and astonishingly good.

Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas (2014, Allen & Unwin) will see me out for 2014, a remarkable collection from a writer who can be relied on for pushing readers out of their comfort zone.

Heartfelt thanks to all these authors for inspiring me, as a reader and a writer. I take joy in commending these books to others.

Now it’s your turn. Did you read any books, short story collections or otherwise, that blew your mind in 2014?

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Top 10 Crime Reads 2014

I was asked recently by the team at Radio National Books and Arts Daily to do a wrap-up of my Top 5 favourite crime reads for 2014.

I’m sure I’m not the only author or reader for whom this is a daunting prospect, akin to naming your favourite child (admittedly, an easier prospect for me as I have just the one!).

The first thing I decided was to focus on Australian crime fiction. This wasn’t about parochialism on my part. Rather, I noticed that reputable sources in the UK and US confined their top crime fiction picks to local authors and figured it was appropriate, since I was ‘appearing’ on the national broadcaster, to tout the local writers — all the more so given that the national broadcaster’s TV counterpart, The Book Club, elected to review only one Australian book in 2014. Happily, Books and Arts Daily supported this approach.

Second, in light of the number of books I’ve read this year (60 so far), I settled on ‘memorability’ as a key criteria. I figured that the novels that stay in my mind do so because they are in some way(s) outstanding.

Third, and this criterion was imposed by Books and Arts, the novels had to be released in 2014.

Top Crime Reads 2014Based on these criteria, here’s my list in alphabetical order (with hyperlinks to my reviews):

Sweet One by Peter Docker (Freemantle Press)
What Came Before by Anna George (Viking/Penguin)
In The Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
Beams Falling by PM Newton (Penguin)
Life or Death by Michael Robotham (Hachette)

And here’s what I would have added with license to talk about my Top 10:

Top Crime Reads 2014_2Through the Cracks by Honey Brown (Penguin)
A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill (Pantera Press)
A Morbid Habit by Annie Hauxwell (Penguin)
The Lost Girls by Wendy James (Michael Joseph/Penguin)
Quota by Jock Serong (Text)

Listen to Thrilling summer: Best crime reads of 2014 here.

And stay tuned for more end of year wrap ups to come…

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24

I’m not usually one to post personal stuff, but today marks 24 years that my partner Andrew Nette and I have been together as a couple.

That’s half our lifetimes.

Ang & Roo 1990

Melbourne, 1990

Over the past twenty-four years, we’ve lived in five countries, had ten different addresses, and travelled in 16 countries together. We have plans for more.

AN & AS That Luang 1994

Vientiane, 1994

We’ve produced one child, six books/book deals and numerous short stories between us. We have plans for many more books and short stories, too.

Prague, 1998

Prague, 1998

Like all couples, we’ve had good times and bad. Things can get rowdy at times. But mostly, we live together very well.

And & Roo_Hampi_2005

Hampi, India, 2005

It’s not Andrew’s style to go public on this stuff, but I hope he will indulge me in celebrating this milestone.

And & Roo_2011_Krabi

Krabi, Thailand, 2011

The traditional gift for a 24th anniversary is a musical instrument. So it seems appropriate to briefly sing Andrew’s praises.

Thank you for 24 amazing years, my love. Thank you for being my toughest critic and staunchest supporter, my partner in life, parenting and crime fiction. May time never dull the fire in your belly nor the brightness of your mind.

To borrow from WH Auden, you are ‘my noon, my midnight, my talk, my song’.

I look forward to many more years of wonder together.

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Author blog hop

It’s my pleasure today to participate in the Meet My Character blog hop tour at the invitation of my Text Publishing stablemate Anne Buist.

anne-buist-5-lachlan-woodsAnne is a shocking overachiever. Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, she has over 25 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry, and works with Protective Services and the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. And she writes fiction. Medea’s Curse, her first psychological thriller, will be released early-2015. In Medea’s Curse, Anne takes the gut-wrenching topic of mothers who kill and turns out a smart, provocative thriller that is way more fun to read than the premise suggests.

Now it’s my turn to introduce my character and tag the next authors on the tour. I’ve invited two very different crime authors Andrew Nette and Ellie Marney to take the blog baton after me.

Andrew-Nette_Mark-Krajnak_JerseyStyle-Photography_102014_8100Andrew Nette is a Melbourne-based writer of hard-boiled crime fiction, a reviewer, film lover, pulp scholar and lover of all things noir. His first novel, Ghost Money, a crime story set in Cambodia, was published in 2012 by Snubnose Press. Beat Girls, Love Tribes and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 – 1980, a non-fiction book he is jointly editing, will be published by Verse Chorus Press in late 2015. He is one of the founders of Crime Factory Publications, and reviews films and books for The Los Angeles Review of Books, Guardian Australia and Overland to name a few. He also happens to be my real-life partner.

Ellie MarneyEllie Marney was born in Brisbane, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about kid’s literature at libraries and schools, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Her partner and four sons still love her, even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go. Ellie’s short stories for adults have won awards and been published in various anthologies. Her Every crime series for young adults commenced with Every Breath (2013), followed by Every Word (2014). The third book, Every Move, will be released in 2015.

Check out their blogs (here and here) on Thursday 11 December to meet their characters.

Seeing as how I’ve already introduced Jayne Keeney PI, the main character in my three crime novels before,  I thought I’d do something different and introduce the characters in my work in progress.

Meet My Character

1.      What is the name of your character?

There are three main characters in my current work in progress: sisters Anna and Meg, both Australian, and Mukda, who is Thai.

2.      Is she fictional or a historic person?

All characters are fictional, although I’ve drawn on extensive research, including personal blogs, for inspiration.

3.      When and where is the story set?

The story is set in Melbourne, Bangkok, Sisaket and Phnom Penh so far. It opens in 2008 and continues into 2010.

4.      What should we know about him/her?

Anna has returned to Melbourne after having lived and worked for more than a decade in Southeast Asia and is finding it hard to settle down. Meg has been married to Nate for more than ten years and has almost given up on her dream of having a baby when she learns about commercial surrogacy in Thailand. Mukda is a divorcee from Thailand’s northeast, who is struggling to provide for her extended family.

5.      What is the personal goal of the character?

Anna wants to find a home, although she probably wouldn’t put it that way. She needs to find a way of bridging her life in Asia with her life in Australia. Meg wants a baby and is prepared to pay a woman in Thailand to gestate it for her, despite Anna’s disapproval. Mukda wants financial security for her extended family, including her mother and son, and also likes the idea of making merit by helping someone else to have a baby.

6.      Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Titles often come last for me. The file for this one is called ‘The Surrogate novel’.

7.      When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

I am writing this novel as part of my PhD in Creative Writing. I have until mid-2017 to get it done, but I’d like to have it finished and with a publisher for consideration long before then. Wish me luck!

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