Crime Factory’s Hard Labour Easy To Enjoy
12 October, 2012

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/

Zombie Scrub Turkeys Attack!
3 October, 2012

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.

Arrgh! Watch Treasure Island 2012 in honour of TLAPD, ye scurvy rascals
19 September, 2012

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:

youtube.com/watch?v=096g8N6roMc

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.

Derp and the Boxing Kangaroo
27 July, 2011

I love the Courier Mail – better known, to a whimsical friend, as the Curious Snail. There’s often sniggers to be had. Sure, most of the laughs come from misuse of the beleaguered apostrophe, abuse of grammar or complete clause failure than from any attempted comedic content. Still, a chuckle’s a chuckle, in these troubled times.

However, in commenting on poor literature you might think they’d be extra careful to get things spot on. And you’d be wrong. Behold, the link to the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest:

“Think you’re writing is bad?” (as derped on the pre-dawn home page of the e-edition, 27/07/2011 – one can only hope they will have fixed it up by the time the normal world wakes up.)

Luckily, the derp link leads to some absolute gems. Like the first prize winner, a woman from Oshkosh, whose opening sentence reads, “Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.” What a shame she didn’t take the opportunity to work the name of her home-town in somewhere.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/world/bulwer-lytton-fiction-contest-winner-named-take-a-butchers-at-some-bad-writing/story-e6freoox-1226102017932

Meanwhile, another link leads us to the tragic tale of Eddie, a red kangaroo who nearly killed a 94 year old woman in Charleville. She was hanging out her washing… has anyone else noticed, old ladies who are attacked and nearly killed are always hanging out their washing just prior to the assault. Bugger set-top boxes – if the Federal Government gave every woman over 80 a tumble dryer they’d slash assault rates to next to nothing and free up hospital beds, too.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/victim-pleads-for-life-of-eddie-the-boxing-roo/story-e6freon6-1226102333723

Anyway, just like most delinquents, turns out poor Eddie comes from a broken home and has been misunderstood. Hand-raised by wildlife carers, he was released into the wild only to break a hip. Unfit to fend for himself, he’s been living in captivity. The man “minding” Eddie – the evocatively named Darryl “Dobbo” Dobbin – claims he’s gentle and tame. Dobbo also reckoned he has no idea who left the gate open, allowing Eddie to escape.

Two things spring to mind. Firstly, for a disability support pensioner Eddie is fit enough to rip strips off an innocent laundry lady. Secondly, is it just me or does this story sound eerily familiar? I’m pretty sure the mother of that kid who tried to steal a bike, winding up bashed by the bike’s lawful owner for his trouble made identical comments about her son. Down to the doubt about whose fault it was that he was out at night, breaking into people’s houses to steal their bikes (allegedly).

Still, the Courier Mail could misspell their own masthead and I’d be back for more. They’re much more fun when they get it wrong than when they allegedly get it right.

You Are Here: Why?
6 July, 2011

By now, you’re all well aware of my feelings about tourists: they park out the library; they stagnate the supermarket aisles; and often they have heads straight out of H.P. Lovecraft.

So, I’ve got nothing but praise for the new signage Council have plonked down the front. Isn’t it perfect? We call it “Four Ways To Die At Coolum Beach”. All it really lacks, in tourist-repulsion terms, is a big arrow pointing north that reads “Noosa That Way: Open All Hours”.

But I think the sign should be  more explicit. It is a matter of public record – police reports, death certificates, transcripts from the Coroner’s Court – that our proud beach-side community boasts many more ways to die than those depicted. There should also be a little stick man, hurling over the balcony rail out the back of the surf club – ALCOHOL POISONING. A stylised chalk outline  in the pub car-park, with a halo of blood – GLASSING. A hotted up V8, speeding away from a broken stickman – HIT AND RUN. And a little stick woman, bludgeoned in her own kitchen over a meal she was preparing – ANSWERING BACK.

 

 

 

 

 

Mango Insanity
13 January, 2010

Mango trees in Brisbane have gone berserk. Favorable growing conditions have  resulted in a mega-glut of the tropical fruit. Residents under siege compared the clunk clunk clunk of fruit hitting their tin roofs to being strafed in the blitz – yeah, that was a resident in her 90’s. Council rubbish trucks  can’t lift wheely bins full of unwanted rotting fruit. The solution – a chutney recipe.

Don’t get me wrong, chutney’s great with curry or on a cold lamb sandwich. But how many gigalitres of chutney does the average household consume in a century?

Maybe we should cook up all surplus mangos and crate the chutney to NSW. It seems their economy is exploring the Coriolis effect, spiralling faster and faster down the economic plughole.

Chutney for Cockroaches! Victory Chutney!

I like it – it’s got a good, old-school ring. Chutney hard, Brisbanites.

Joint Effort
22 December, 2009

Crystal slammed her netbook shut and flung it on the bed. ‘Now he’s defriended me on Facebook!’ she whined into her mobile.

‘Chill, babe.’ Rachael advised, ‘He’s just, like, being a guy. What are you gonna do?’ Rach sounded distracted, because she was – she was working a double shift as Santa’s Little Helper and wasn’t supposed to tuck a Blutooth earpiece under her jaunty striped cap. ‘Now hop up on Santa’s lap… no, don’t cry! I know he’s a bit stinky but he’s not scary…’

Crystal paced her room, kicking discarded outfits around until laundry flew,  like snowflakes would had it been Christmas in the Northern hemisphere. Since she lived in Brissie, the scanties clung stickily to humid surfaces.

‘Sorry, Crys. Locked and loaded. You’re far too fabulous to waste the summer holidays worrying about why some jerk is being a jerk. It’s Dave’s party tonight, focus on that. Oh fuck, that whining kiddy just hurled. There’s chunks all over freaking Rudolph. Gotta scoot.’

Crystal’s phone followed the netbook onto the doona, but her bestie had given her an idea…

PMT + 32 C + 85% Hum + CC + NM = ?
16 December, 2009

What do you get when you cross pre-menstrual tension with searing heat, sticky humidity, the usual Christmas chaos and a New Moon?

I don’t know what to call it, but I can give you two bits of info:

  1. It’s no more pleasant to experience than to suffer from
  2. It ain’t pretty.

If there’s a cure, other than moving to Svarlbad and not leaving  a forwarding address, please advise

Christmas Poem
10 December, 2009

*

Christmas is coming

so let us flee

the artificial jollity.

Avoid all presents,

tinsels’ drape and

Spurn the mobius sticky tape

Don’t try the Plaza;

Santa’s there

Stuck – pervy sweat on plastic chair.

The freeze-dried carols,

strain on faces,

shopping carts sudden death races.

The beach is worse

‘cause sand and heat

can’t make up for the par-cooked meat

of tourists lying

on their towels.

Let’s bury some – you bring the trowels.



Pulling a Swifty
28 November, 2009

Are you allowed to throw in a Swifty if your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek? For those who came in late, a Swifty is an adverb that’s just a fraction too apposite to be anything but hilarious – and stupid. E.g: “The lightbulb’s blown!” he muttered darkly; “I got first prize!” she exclaimed winningly; “Turn the amp to 11!” he cried noisily.

My character had just been told by his assistant that his agent’s on the phone:

‘Literary or celebrity?’ he asked

‘It’s Harry M.’ she stage-whispered.