The writers prepare for departure.

Books, On the Run

Too Early to Relax

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Crime writers Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott, Jock Serong and Emma Viskic have begun their US tour, On The Run: Australian Crime Writers In America, and have promised a daily update of proceedings.

In this second instalment SULARI GENTILL, the writer behind the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, explains that the trip’s unsettlingly straightforward beginning has her on edge.

*

We are somewhere between the stars and the Pacific Ocean. I occupy a window seat that looks out upon the wing of the great contraption that keeps us here, as we fly against the rotation of the earth.

Robert Gott sits in the aisle seat to my left, writing long-hand with what I expect is perfect grammar and exquisite punctuation. I can tell because he looks a little smug as he writes.

Robert Gott at work.

There’s a spare seat between us, which we are using to pile up all the flotsam of travel—pillows, blankets, reading material. Jock Serong is across the aisle watching an in-flight movie with rapt attention, and Emma Viskic is a couple of rows forward in her own window-seat.

The first meal is done with and we have settled in for the long haul from Melbourne to LA, where we will go through American customs before catching another flight to New York.

And so we are on our way, and I find myself both profoundly relieved and vaguely troubled.  Both reactions, I suspect, have a common cause.

Now should you be tempted to infer that the cause is some need to flee the Antipodes, allow me to assure you that it is not the case. We have always confined our murders to the page. There are no outstanding warrants, or vengeful nemeses to avoid. We were granted permission to enter Trump’s America with barely a murmur.

Now should you be tempted to infer that the cause is some need to flee the Antipodes, allow me to assure you that it is not the case. We have always confined our murders to the page.

Rather, it is the knowledge of who we are—what we are—that gives me cause to celebrate that we appear to have achieved a level of organisation that is counter to our very natures. Writers are not the sort of people one would normally trust with the forms and details of an international tour. After all, we spend our lives making things up. We are unashamed fantasists, purveyors of illusion, whose place in this profession was earned through an ability and determination to leave out the boring bits.

And yet, somehow four writers all managed to obtain the necessary paperwork and board a plane without disaster. We each arrived well before the check-in counter opened. Nobody slept in, or allowed their passport to expire. Nobody broke a bone or got sick or was arrested. Our luggage was well within weight limits. We have an itinerary and accommodation.  We even have American money. We’ve packed clothes and toothbrushes, all essential medication, including coffee. And we’re on the plane and it’s in the air. Thus far it has all been remarkably smooth.

And somewhat unsettling.

As I said, we’re relieved, but it is, to be perfectly honest, not what we’re used to. We’re crime writers—we deal in mayhem: the missed flight, the criminal past, the stolen passport. Our trade is in what goes wrong—we’re exceptionally good at conjuring trouble. While Rowland Sinclair has travelled abroad many times, I don’t recall him ever apply for a visa or packing extra socks. He has, however, crossed the odd border with Nazis in pursuit.

And so, this gentle beginning to our expedition to America has me on edge. Surely this sense of relief is too soon—a classic misdirection, a set-up for a cruel twist. One can’t help feeling the body’s going to turn up any moment now.

For part one of this series, click here.

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