Jock Serong, Emma Viskic, Sulari Gentill and Robert Gott.

Books, On the Run

Four Aussie crime writers take on the USA

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There are four of us, and we each write crime novels, and we each write them differently. We’re taking ourselves and our novels to Trump’s America, and we’re doing so with the assistance of the Australia Council. I’m assuming their generous support signals approval, or at the very least acceptable risk. How did this happen? Is Trump’s possible impeachment and our impending arrival just a coincidence? History will tell.

We hope that you’ll follow us here, at Daily Review, daily, as we post details of our two-week progress. Who though are ‘we’?

Sulari Gentill: Sulari is the author of ten Rowland Sinclair Mysteries beginning with A Few Right Thinking Men. They take up a lot of real estate in bookshops and have rather splendid covers. She won the 2018 Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel for Crossing the Lines, and the 2012 Davitt Award for Crime Fiction. She was shortlisted in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018 in the Davitt Awards, in the 2015 Ned Kelly Awards, and in 2015 and 2016 in the Australian Book Industry Awards for Best Adult Book.

Robert Gott: Robert is the author of 95 books of non-fiction for children, and seven historical crime novels (set in Australia in the 1940s) for adults. He writes a comic series featuring the incompetent actor, Will Power (Good Murder, A Thing of Blood, Amongst the Dead, The Serpent’s Sting), and a darker series set in Melbourne in 1944 (The Holiday Murders, The Port Fairy Murders, The Autumn Murders.) He has been shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award twice. He has yet to win but doesn’t imagine this will happen any time soon as the only thing he has ever won was a meat tray in West Wyalong in 1985. Bizarrely in this context, he is also the creator of the newspaper cartoon, The Adventures of Naked Man.

Jock Serong: Jock used to be a lawyer. Please don’t stop reading. Jock’s first novel, Quota, won the Ned Kelly Award for First Crime Fiction. Its follow-up, The Rules of Backyard Cricket, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award (UK), the Ned Kelly Award, the JCU Colin Roderick Award and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. Two further novels, On the Java Ridge and Preservation have gathered awards and nominations like blunt instruments. He is the inaugural winner of the Staunch Prize. He also surfs in all weather.

How did this happen? Is Trump’s possible impeachment and our impending arrival just a coincidence? History will tell.

Emma Viskic: Emma’s critically acclaimed Caleb Zelic novels have sold to multiple territories, including the US, UK, France, Germany and Poland. Her debut novel, Resurrection Bay, won the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, and an unprecedented three Davitt Awards. It was iBooks Australia’s Crime Novel of the year in 2015 and was shortlisted for the UK’s prestigious Gold Dagger and New Blood Awards. Her second novel, And Fire Came Down, won the 2018 Davitt Award and is currently longlisted for the Dublin International Literary Award. Emma will be providing the soundtrack for the tour because she is a classically trained clarinettist, who has performed with José Carreras and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. She does admit that she has performed at an engagement party that ended in a brawl, unrelated to her playing. I’m assuming.

This tour is Sulari Gentill’s fault really. Sulari had an idea that four crime writers travelling together might attract the attention of American readers who might turn up to the events we would organise. There’s a lot of ‘mights’ in there, but in case maybe might is right.

On the surface it was an odd idea, but Sulari is prone to odd ideas. She and her husband Michael thought they might plant a truffiere on their property near Batlow in the Snowy Mountains. Now it produces so many truffles they’ve ceased being a luxury for all who know her. They’ve become a household staple. The grand gesture of shaving truffle over a meal at a high-end restaurant is reduced somewhat if you’ve done it yourself over that morning’s eggs.

This tour is Sulari Gentill’s fault really. Sulari had an idea that four crime writers travelling together might attract the attention of American readers who might turn up to the events we would organise.

Anyway, writers don’t move in groups. Writing isn’t a group activity. I, for example, have always had a horror of groups – not a crippling horror, just a sensible reluctance to join in. When I was a teacher, group discussion was big. Not with me. My idea of a group discussion was when a student put up his or her hand and said, ‘Could you please repeat that, sir?’

When Sulari floated her idea she pointed out that this hadn’t been done before and that Australian crime fiction was enjoying a bit of a moment in the US. She needed collaborators and it was safer to collaborate with chums than strangers, especially as we would be doing everything in the way of organisation ourselves.

Sulari, Emma, Jock and I are all friends. We’ve appeared together at writers’ festivals and launched each other’s books. We knew we could rely on each other to meet deadlines for the gruesome process of applying for grants, and for shaping our tour should the impossible happen and an application be successful.

We were taking this seriously. We needed branding – a name and a logo. We came up with a few names – ‘Unreliable Witnesses’, ‘Roadkill’, ‘The Mobile Crime Scene’ and others that were even worse. We settled on, ‘On the Run: Australian Crime Writers in America.’ For the logo we figured we needed a Walkley award winning graphic designer, so Bill Farr, who patiently rejected all my ideas, produced a brilliant design. For free. Well, if one person knows where the bodies are buried, the other person works for free.

The logo in question.

Our first appearance in America, after a meeting with the Consul General in New York, will be at Bouchercon in Dallas. Bouchercon? I’d never heard of it either, but that’s because I haven’t been paying attention for the 50 years it’s been running. It’s a huge convention for mystery writers and readers and we’ve been given an ‘International Spotlight’, which means we have our own panel.

We thought we might have to interview each other, but Dervla McTiernan has been called in, so that’s splendid. After Dallas we’re off to Phoenix and from there we’re driving to L.A., Santa Cruz and San Francisco and we’re doing events in each of those places, so there’s plenty of scope for horror and disappointment.

Let’s face it, no one wants to read a sickening succession of joyous posts. Unalloyed joy is literary diabetes. Not that we’re inviting disaster. We just want to assure you that our daily posts won’t clog your arteries with cloyingly celebratory self-aggrandisement. We may be friends, but we’ve never travelled together. We’ve never been trapped in a car together listening to someone else’s idea of decent music (I’m looking at you, Jock Serong). Four may set out. Only three may arrive. Someone may find a CD, frisbee’d from the car window into the desert, and wonder.

Four writers, one car. As I said, we are not a group. We spend a good deal of our time working alone, writing in a small pool of light in a dark room. We are more beetle than Beatle.

We do hope you’ll follow our adventure. There will be a new post every day. We promise.

Follow along next week as our intrepid crime writers report daily from the road for Daily Review.

11 responses to “Four Aussie crime writers take on the USA

  1. Fnatabulous; can’t wait to follow along and wish I were able to just become a groupie 🙂 Have fun and loads of success.

  2. No doubt you all will be a hit with the American public. Make Australia proud and safe journey -hey you drive on the wrong side of the road over there, do keep it in mind.

  3. Fabulous fabulous fabulous. Love each of your wonderful talented books, what an incredible adventure about to unwind. Journey well and wildly.

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