Writing a good crime novel, one that draws the reader in and maintains the suspense to the last page, must be difficult, soulful work. Crime and mystery novels often take on some of humanity’s darkest moments, looking for answers or meaning. Of course there are the standard pillars of the form —the disappearance, the sleuth, the colorful side characters and suspects and the insistent search for truth. But what does it take to create the bestseller, the thriller that stays with us, disturbing our sleep?
Crime and mystery is a fictional genre that will be explored fully at this year’s Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival. On reviewing the fascinating collection of crime and mystery authors that will be gracing the stage at the Festival, one could assume that the true secret to writing a successful whodunit is the varied and extensive life experiences of the author.
In fact it was the late and much-lauded crime novelist James M. Cain, best known as the author of ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’, ‘Double Indemnity’, and ‘Mildred Pierce’, who said “You’re never to old to start (writing), but you may be too young. When you’re young, chess is all right, and music and poetry. But novel-writing is something else. It has to be learned, but it can’t be taught.”
“Many of the writers attending this year’s Festival have had meaningful careers in areas that on the face of it seem to be so distinct from their writing” says Jenni Clement, Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival Chair. And this is certainly true of the crime novelists Mark Brandi, Caroline de Costa, Chris Hammer, Holly Throsby, Christian White and J.P Pomare.
Mark Brandi graduated with a criminal justice degree and worked extensively in the justice system, before changing direction and deciding to write.
His bestselling debut novel, Wimmera, won the coveted British Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and was named Best Debut at the 2018 Australian Indie Book Awards. Wimmera was also shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year. The book is best described as an unforgettable literary crime debut that brings the darkness in an Australian country town vividly to life as it slowly reveals its devastating secrets.
Mark’s just-published new novel The Rip is an urban crime novel that slowly and masterfully hooks you in…then shocks with the horrific crime and the dread that the characters you care about aren’t going to make it out alive. ‘The Rip’ pulled me into unpredictable waters, and refused to let go; authentic, heartfelt…and original.’ Sofie Laguna, Miles Franklin Literary Award winner
Crime writer Caroline de Costa is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
She now uses her medical knowledge and experience to write compelling crime fiction. Living in Cairns, surrounded by rainforest both beautiful and sinister, Caroline found that Far North Queensland was the obvious place to set her crime novels. Detective Senior Constable Cass Diamond, a single mother in her mid-thirties with a degree in criminology and a black belt in taekwondo, finds herself and her team heavily embroiled in the landscape as they battle with murder, kidnapping, sex trafficking and other mayhem in Double Madness (2015), Missing Pieces (2018) and Blood Sisters (2019).
Chris Hammer worked as a journalist for more than 30 years, alternating between federal politics and international affairs, before moving into non-fiction writing. His book The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin and The Coast: A Journey Along Australia’s Eastern Shores was shortlisted for the 2010 Walkley Book Award and won the ACT Book of the Year in 2011. The book recounts Chris’ travels through the Australian bush during 2008 and 2009, from Queensland to South Australia, at the height of the worst drought in Australian history.
It’s those travels and the people he met that provided the inspiration, and inform the setting for Chris’s first work of fiction, Scrublands. This debut crime novel was published in 2018, and in the traditional crime writing that readers love, the twists continue to wow right up to the final pages.
Holly Throsby is an acclaimed songwriter and musician from Sydney, having released five solo albums. She has been nominated for four ARIAs.
Holly’s debut mystery novel ‘Goodwood’ (2016), was a critically acclaimed bestseller. Her second novel, Cedar Valley, was published in Australia in 2018, to rave reviews. “Holly Throsby has crafted a quiet mystery which brims with the energy of its characters’ inner lives,” says Marie Matteson, Readings. Australian Book Review called it ‘large and luminous…bracingly alive to the complexities and ellipses of existence’.
Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter. Christian had an eclectic range of ‘day jobs’ before he was able to write fulltime, including food cart driver on a golf course and video editor for an adult film company.
His debut novel, The Nowhere Child, was published in 2018. ‘Christian White proves to be an exciting new voice in crime fiction with his debut novel,’ Sunday Life. He also co-created the television series Carnivores, currently in development with Matchbox Pictures and Heyday TV, and co-wrote Relic, a psychological horror feature film to be produced by Carver Films (The Snowtown Murders, Partisan).
J.P Pomare has had work published in journals including Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Takahe and Mascara Literary Review. He has hosted the On Writing podcast since 2015 featuring bestselling authors from around the globe.
His debut novel ‘Call Me Evie’ was published in Australia and the UK in January 2019 and will be released in the USA and other countries later in the year. The novel draws upon the fallibility of the human brain and the faculty of memory. It has been heavily researched and explores many psychological phenomena such as cognitive dissonance, trauma induced psychosis, memory loss and neuroplasticity.
The Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival has two sessions dedicated to crime and mystery fiction, featuring this eclectic group of multi-talented and multi-faceted authors.
- Crime & Mystery: Whodunit & Who Wrote It? (Part 1)
Saturday 8 June
- Crime & Mystery: Whodunit & Who Wrote It? (Part 2)
Sunday 9 June