My second Melbourne Writers Festival gig was The Morning Fix at Feddish, Federation Square. Billed as a ‘stellar line-up of crime lovers’, my fellow miscreants were RJ Ellory, Peter James and Mark Dapin, with Chris Flynn as moderator.
I could tell this session was going to be fun from the exchange of emails that flew around a week or so before the event. I asked Chris whether use of strong language was an issue, as I was thinking of reading a foreplay scene. He assured me that it wasn’t. Then I started reading King of the Cross.
A few days later I contacted Chris and the other panellists to say, ‘OK, now I’m half-way through Mark Dapin’s book and I’m reassured that strong language won’t be an issue. In fact, I’ll probably sound like Enid Blyton by comparison.’ Mark replied that, yeah, he’d meant to reassure me about the strong language. I told this story at The Morning Fix on Friday…but I am getting ahead of myself.
Mark Dapin kicked off the session with a reading, or rather a reenactment, of the first chapter of King of the Cross, aided and abetted by his mate and ‘man of a thousand voices’ Cam Smith. Mark read the part of interviewer British journalist Anthony Klein, while Cam channelled the interviewee, 80-something Jewish crime lord Jake Mendoza.
The performance did justice to Mark’s filthy and funny prose, featuring immortal lines such as:
A lot of people still call you ‘Mr Big’. Why is that?
Because I have a shlong like a roll of vorsht.
Take the tape out of his machine, Lazarus. Smash it, unwind it, and make him eat it.
He can wash it down with Vitto’s fucking dishwater coffee, which cost me three dollars fifty and he hasn’t even touched a fucking drop.
The novel was short-listed for a Ned Kelly Award for Best First Book, and Mark kept referring to it as ‘my soon to be award-winning novel’. In fact, it did go on to win later that night but again, I am getting ahead of myself.
Next up was Peter James, an international best-selling thriller writer, film producer and screen writer, who is published in 33 languages and divides his time between houses in London (Notting Hill) and Sussex — in other words, someone who I was delighted to be around in the hope of having some of his success rub off on me. He was also totally charming and friendly, which is not what the audience would have derived from his reading from his latest novel, Dead Like You, a creepy homage to homicidal shoe fetishists.
RJ (Roger) Ellory followed, another best-selling and award-winning British author of eight novels, all of which are stand alone, rather than part of a series — which I find impressive — and set in different times and places in the USA. Roger read the first chapter of his new book, Saints of New York, which had its world premier release in Australia only the day before. The story opens with a bloodbath, literally: a murder-suicide that takes place in a bath tub. To call it gritty is an understatement, but Roger’s reading was so compelling, you couldn’t look away.
I’d asked to go last in order to ensure that my Dad, who was travelling to the event on V-Line, made it on time (which he did). I told the story of being reassured that my language would not be too strong after reading Mark Dapin’s book, and explained that I had intended to read a foreplay scene but it had proved too long for the allotted time.
‘I write fiction after all,’ I added, invoking much (admittedly mostly female) laughter.
I read a scene from my new novel, The Half-Child, in which the hero Jayne Keeney, is offered sanctuary by a bevy of kratoey, or ‘ladyboys’, who are auditioning for a beauty pageant (pp.179-185). It seemed to go down well, garnered a few more laughs. I got good feedback and sold a few books, which is nice.
I think it was good to have the session book-ended by a couple of Australian authors who didn’t take themselves too seriously, with the creepy and gritty best-sellers in between. In this way, the session hinted at the diversity and complexity of contemporary crime fiction.
And I reckon if I could enjoy being on the panel as much as I did, chances are the audience enjoyed it, too. My friends who were there (thanks Dad, Cate and Louise) seemed to have fun. And afterwards Cate and I chatted with Peter Hitchener in Federation Square…but that’s another story.
A couple of points to add:
And I was thrilled to learn that Dame Carol Kidu, after our session on Tuesday, went back to Federation Square on Wednesday to buy a copy of my book. What an honour!