Australia is a nation chiselled from its indigenous inhabitants for and by criminals. Our anthem kicks off by celebrating that most of us have since been released on our own recognisance. It’s hard to think of another country where malefactors are such rock stars – sure, English Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs made it onto a Sex Pistols’ cover, but I’d like to see him front Ned Kelly or Chopper Read in a prison exercise yard. With the intriguing Australian characters who share their stories in Crime Factory’s new anthology, Hard Labour, we all have more reason to rejoice.
Book-ended by smash-hit stories by two greats of Australian crime fiction, Gary Disher and Peter Corris, the guts of this selection need no propping up. Leigh Redhead’s “Grassed” is an authentic slice of the Northern NSW hash brownie, featuring her trademark pitch-perfect ear for dialogue and a sense of creeping paranoia resonant with the context. In “Killing Peacocks”, Angela Savage’s signature lyricism sings the murder ballad of an authentic, empathic character. Andrew Prentice builds a world as crystalline – and as empty – as the breakers his characters surf, in “The Break”. In Helen FitzGerald’s “Killing Mum And Dad” cosy, slightly addled domesticity chills to horror. JJ DeCeglie’s “Death Cannot Be Delegated” features a philosophical hit man wielding Occam’s razor, style cunningly morphing to reflect both narrative and character arc. With sparse economy, David Whish-Wilson depicts a career criminal and junkie as cold as the Ice he cooks – “In Savage Freedom”. Andrew Nette’s “Chasing Atlantis”, where crims take on cultists in hippy country, is a bar-room brawl of Australian noir where the twists will king-hit you if you don’t watch your back.
The individual contributions to Hard Labour are unified by Australian flavour and realism – and the recurrent theme of stuffing up. Narrators tell their stories: some in the clear dispassionate tones of hardened Narcotics Anonymous confessors, others in deceptively breezy voices or pleading laments. They draw the reader closer before slipping a knife between their ribs, with a smirk, a wisecrack or a gentle kiss.
Jittery and seductive as a strung-out whore, Hard Labour is highly recommended. Sampled one at a time or devoured in chunks, I’m sure you’ll want to book repeat visits with these characters. Now available from Amazon, here.
If you’re not already addicted to these talented authors’ longer forms, check out their rap sheets here: http://www.thecrimefactory.com/
Well, that was fun. We enjoyed a relatively uneventful trip up to visit Uncle and Aunt and all the tiny horses at the miniature stud, earlier this week. Well, you know, I still had to drive through Gympie but since we were enthralled by a game of ‘I Spy Something That’s Not A Gun Shop Or A Redneck” I was too busy to even wince.
The journey home was strange, though, at a bare minimum with surreal flashes. There was debate at the gate, which I won with my “If it’s shut when you get there, leave it shut” argument.
Rarely do I taste victorious vindication at all, let alone almost immediately, but less than 30 metres down the track we encountered a heifer who was reluctant to share the road.
“Lucky I made you shut the gate.” I observed, smug as a cat with a mouthful of budgie. I crawled the car up, to ease past her.
“See, Mumma – I told you there were feral cows!” said Elf Boy, who’d spent a chunk of the day chasing the neighbours’ cattle out of Aunt’s mini-horse paddocks.
“Arrgh! It’s got horns! It’s going to charge the car!!” screeched Magic Man, who has inherited his Great Uncle’s distrust of large livestock.
“Blow the horn!” cried Elf Boy.
“Don’t blow the horn!!” countered his brother.
“My paintwork!” said Mother.
Maybe it was the horns on my radiator grille (Toyota symbol on Mother’s wagon), or perhaps the steely glare I fired at her through the windscreen, but the heifer grudgingly shuffled to the side so I could pass.
All good through the level crossing and past the pub, until we got to a stretch between farms, about halfway to the highway. It was wettish from the showers, and the usual narrow, patchy, soft shouldered goat track, but conditions were no worse than usual and I know the road pretty well. Round a gentle bend, four scrub turkeys seemed to be having a union meeting, right on the verge. Well, that or they’d heard about vultures and thought they’d give it a try – there was a lot of road kill scattered about.
Having learned not to underestimate the ability of the scrub turkey to annoy – and destroy – I slowed down from 80 odd clicks to just over 60 to pass the . . . what’s the collective noun for scrub turkeys: a scraping; a cabal? I think I’ll go with “devastation”. Three of the turkey’s high-tailed it for the paddock, away from my vehicle, but the forth, either braver or much, much stupider than his mates ran out under my wheels. He fluttered up in a flight attempt that was more like something you’d see from a septuagenarian gymnast trying to relive the glory days. He achieved just enough of a twisting leap before I hit him full on, that he smacked into the windscreen dead ahead of me. I hunched down, sure he’d shatter the glass, yanking my right foot back to resist the urge to slam on the brakes on the wet.
The score: No skid, no screams, not even time for me to curse, no damage to Mother’s car, journey continued without further incident. And our feathered friend? According to Magic Man, who watched his dismount through the rear screen, he shook himself to settle his feathers back into place and wandered off, not only unharmed but seemingly unperturbed.
Maybe it was just a random event. Perhaps this turkey’s turkey was just a very dull example of a species known more for persistence than intelligence. Or his acquired taste for carrion caused a strain of Mad Bird Disease to express itself in suicidal behaviour. I can’t escape the gnawing suspicion that we survived a deliberate – hell, orchestrated – plan by Greybeard and his evil minions to wipe out, not only me but all of my offspring and even the Mother who bore me. Revenge for a certain Medieval Archery Incident of more than a year ago, a vengeance so cold they probably hired Ötzi The Glacier Mummy as a consultant co-conspirator. Try again, big fella.
Strange day yesterday, ladies and lurkers. I had a lovely day’s Brisvegas Holiday Excursion planned with MM, EB, a BFF and her two kids. Started off instead by having to: grief counsel my father through his dog’s terminal illness (progressive spinal cord stenosis) as I ate my egg on Vegemite toast; guide him through the decision-making process, i.e. that he needed to man up and have the dog put down because it had reached the suffering stage and had no prospect of remission, let alone improvement; and then drive them both to the vet when I was so successful he decided to do it. Right then and there.
EB is a big animal lover and also his Grandpa’s favourite, so when he said he wanted to come too I thought it would be doubly good: for EB to have up-close experience of death before it was a much-loved person involved, and so that he could console his Grandpa.
As you will have guessed, I was wrong. We ended up that Grandpa did the male-of-his-generation thing and pulled a strong, silent act, while EB spent the next hour or more sobbing uncontrollably.
I was correct about one thing – it was best I was there to drive them both home.
So I returned to my parents’ house to race through the preparations for our day out. All the while EB was insisting that he needed to do a Great Garbo (I vant to be alone), with me trying to nurture him while he grieved, but equally adamant that we had to proceed with the outing and he had to come with us. We had gorgeous clear, sunny but not too hot weather and the excursion went fabulously well for 6 hours – fun ride in on the ferry, lots of fun in various South Bank water features, great company, awesome Lego robots, kids even behaving beautifully.
And then, just as we were about to pack up the remains of afternoon tea and make our tired but happy way home, MM’s BF-in-the-world slammed his head into a post while running in the playground. Straight away, a lump the size of a small avocado and the colour of hailclouds swelled on his forehead. Naturally enough, his Mum panicked. The helpful staff at the cafe next to the playground gave me a cup of ice without hesitation – thanks Steam Cafe- and then the South Bank lifesavers gave us a plastic bag full of ice. By the time we were on the ferry home, the lump was down to a third of original size and Mum had stopped hyperventilating. Mostly.
The evening turned out well, with a lovely BBQ with my cousin and his husband. If anyone wants a recipe for marshmallow and sour-cream salad . . . much nommier than it sounds. . . I now have one.
And an odd footnote: my horoscope advised that my day would start well, but unavoidable complications and difficulties would ensue.
Ahoy, shipmates. The first mate, the cabin boy and I lashed ourselves to the mast last weekend and viewed Treasure Island 2012, a BBC miniseries:
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this version. Featuring a talented cast who play well together, it’s a fresh modern production with a fabulous soundtrack.
Famous faces abound: Donald Sutherland looks like he’s enjoying his role as the treacherous Captain Flint; Rupert Penry-Jones – fabulous in “Whitechapel”, another BBC production – is exquisitely nasty, playing the Squire so far towards the top of the upper crust that one wonders if he needed supplemental oxygen between takes; Eddie Izzard imbues his Long John Silver with more chiaroscuro than usually seen in this character; Toby Regbo is terrific as Jim Hawkins and Shirley Henderson – Moaning Myrtle in the HP films – plays his mum, her fragile frame, pixie face and wispy voice perfect for the role of victimised widow. Elijah Wood’s cameo as Ben Gunn is fun – with his love of cheese and the Bible, he was the kids’ favourite character.
A few characters have been invented for the series – including John Silver’s wife, played by Nina Sosanya – and some reassigned or re-imagined - the Doctor starts out as a cowardly drunk, but hits his hero straps eventually – in comparison with Robert Louis Stevenson’s original, but none of them seemed out of place or tacked on.
Beautiful art direction keeps you watching through the parts when your attention may stray a little, thinking you know what comes next. And there’s an intriguing – if gory – keelhauling scene. Four out of five pieces of eight.
Seriously, Bic? I know the biro was invented by a bloke – but it’s hard to understand what the smurf the people… well, I say people but I think we can safely assume that they’re men of a certain age… at Bic were thinking. This is the sort of crap that leads to this:
and then this:
And, ultimately, this is why women still fail to recieve equal pay for equal work. The same sort of mindset – admittedly at several removes – is directly linked to idiocy like Representative Todd Akin and ‘legitimate rape’ .
I’ve never been so glad my kids are both boys. As much as I revile the facts and wish things were different, they’ve got a better chance of achieving their goals than their friends who are girls. Not because they’re smarter or stronger or morally superior, but because their dangly toilet parts put them first in the queue.
Over the last few days I’ve admired the merciless lampooning dished out to this product by comedy sites such as Regretsy and some of the Cheezburger offshoots – but the funniest material are the “product reviews” submitted by thousands of pro-feminist well-wishers. Make sure your Depends – and let’s hope they’re floral pink, ladies! – are in place, follow the link – if your soft, girly ladybrain can coordinate clicking your mouse (it’s the little pointy thing) – and enjoy comedy gold:
Sad news today for all on-line vendors of witchcraft and wizardry – eBay is set to ban the sale of magical workings from the first of September.
So get in quick if you need a mystical unicorn incantation or a little something to thwart the mother-in-law.
While they’re at it, there are a few other things eBay should look at banning: lots of happy meal toys, which may or may not be broken and, let’s face it, were without value new; Twilight merchandise; and vintage toilet paper.
What else do you think we could do without on eBay?
I was watching Men in Black III by accident the other day – my friend misread the program times. Cringing in my seat, unable to watch the umpteenth scene staged on the very edge of an extremely high structure, I came to the conclusion that film censorship needs to be expanded.
I can tolerate any amount of sex and violence – as long as neither involve children or furry animals – but I’d appreciate a warning about vertiginous scenes inducing terror of heights. “V” and “H” are already taken, so a film could be awarded a number of Hitchcocks out of five depending on how much time the actors spend teetering on the brink.
What else would you like to see quantified, to better shape your cinematic experiences?
My aunt is rearing an Antechinus – AKA marsupial mouse. He’s a little over two weeks old and sweeter than a candy-coated kitten. Since we’re not sure if he’s male or female, his name is Piper. Actually, for his own sake we’re hoping he’s a girl.
Apologies for the poor quality antiquated camera phone photos, but I think I’d need a very professional set-up with rapid shutter speed to do him justice. He skitters around like Speedy Gonzales after sampling a new shipment of Columbian Marching Powder.
After a feed. His tummy is so hairless and transparent you can see it’s full of formula.
Antechinuses (Antechini ?) are best known for their mating marathons, as a result of which males only live for 11 1/2 months. In September, they stage a frenetic fortnight-long orgy, mating with as many females as possible. Because of the stress, aggression and endurance involved, all males die. Consequently, all Antechinus females are single mums, rearing 7-10 offspring in a sort of open pouch, dragging their bubs along the ground for 5-8 weeks.
I think human society could learn a lot from the Antechinus. Footballers, for example, enjoying Mad Monday, would be much easier to take if you knew they’d all cark it by the end of the week. And who wouldn’t enjoy the Gold Coast Indy, if you knew only the ladies would make it past the finishing line?