Bestsellers this week

With the film adaptation of the first book in the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy (Scholastic) hitting Australian cinemas last week, the charts are populated with Suzanne Collins’ novels this week. The Hunger Games film tie-in version is first on the fastest movers chart and second on the bestsellers chart, followed by the original and classic versions of the book in second and third place on the bestsellers chart. Catching Fire (Scholastic), the second book in the trilogy is fifth on the bestseller chart followed by the concluding book, Mockingjay (Scholastic). Jodie Picoult’s Lone Wolf (A&U) is at the top of the bestsellers chart for the second week in a row and Nicholas Sparks’ The Lucky One (Hachette) tops the highest new entries chartWeekly Book Newsletter.

BOOK REVIEW: Dead Heat (Bronwyn Parry, Hachette)

Bronwyn Parry proves once again that crime is not just the provenance of cityscapes in her genuinely chilling third romantic suspense novel. Dead Heat tells the story of a wounded ranger looking for space and peace in the bush, and a place to start over. Instead, she finds a burgeoning drug cartel, with all the inherent violence this implies. Leading the investigation of the cartel is a former undercover cop, damaged and with a few demons of his own. Fans of Parry’s previous novels will notice a darker tone to Dead Heat, a willingness on Parry’s part to push deeper into the crime aspect and the most sinister side of humanity. New readers should enjoy the extra layer of suspense that the growing emotional connection between the main characters provides. Dead Heat is a well-crafted novel that makes excellent use of its wild setting—and a plot so successfully suspenseful that I stopped reading it before bed!

Kate Cuthbert is publishing manager for the Australian Library and Information Association. This review first appeared in the Feb/March issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine.

INTERVIEW: Deb Cox on ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is the television adaptation of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher books (A&U), currently screening each Friday night on ABC. Andrew Wrathall spoke to head writer Deb Cox.

What attracted you to this project?
My producing partner, Fiona Eagger, and I were looking to do an adaptation of an Australian crime novel. We’d never attempted adaptation before and we were fairly sure the ABC was looking for a prime-time crime series. When we began reading what was around, though, we were disappointed. It takes so long to raise the finance and script and produce a television series, so you need to feel it’s worthwhile—both financially and philosophically. It was hard to find a reason to bring stories about psychotic killers and serial murderers to the screen. So when we alighted on the Phryne Fisher murder mystery series—and discovered stories led by an entertaining but wonderfully subversive, feminist character, laced through with our own history and tackling social issues with a balance of grit and humour—we knew we could turn it into something we could be proud of which would fit stylistically with our mode of storytelling and reflect moral values we shared.

Do you find adapting a book easier than writing an original screenplay, or does it limit your creativity?
We set out thinking it would be easier, but it’s definitely not! It takes a whole new set of skills to preserve what’s most important in the stories, rationalise the impossible, gather what’s left into a cohesive whole and still reflect the boundless worlds of imagination encouraged in the readers’ minds by a few hundred words on paper—in a way that’s achievable in production terms! You’re being tested to the limits of your creativity and inventiveness with a whole lot of restrictions and parameters in every direction.

Was Kerry Greenwood involved in the screenwriting process?
Yes, Kerry came to our first brainstorming for the series and answered hundreds of questions we had, as well as providing important historical background we could plunder. She also read the scripts at various stages of drafting and would make corrections—mainly to language. For someone who hasn’t written for the screen before, she had a remarkable appreciation for the kinds of changes we needed to make to each novel. I put it down to the lawyer in her—there’s a very practical, logical side to her brain as well as her wild imagination.

What did you enjoy most about recreating 1920s Melbourne?
Early in the process it was the historical research and then, in pre-production, it was the location surveys into the hidden treasures of the National Trust. There are such beautiful buildings preserved in the city of Melbourne—not all of them open to the public. It was a privilege to showcase them to a wider audience. Watching the studio sets take shape was wonderful—I still enjoy in the ‘pretend’ of it all—like watching the best-ever cubby house appear like magic. The costumes were the same—glorious dress-ups! And the music was so evocative of the time, but our composer put his own contemporary spin on it. With all the departments, from scripting to sound, it’s so much more delightful, and educational, being transported to another time. It will be very hard returning to a modern drama after Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Did you have to overcome many hurdles in the adaptation process? Any budget constraints?
Yes, of course. We couldn’t set a novel on an ocean liner because we didn’t have a 1928 ocean liner available and recreating one would have cost millions. We couldn’t shoot some episodes where we had to travel far from Melbourne, or shift the crew endlessly around the city, because moving that many people costs so much money and we would have blown our budget. We achieved the series for little more than your average non-period Australian drama series—and when you consider that Australian budgets are generally very low compared to the UK and certainly compared to US television, I think it’s impressive what we ended up with. Our crews are respected internationally because they’re inventive and resourceful and with our series that goes double.

BOOK REVIEW: It’s a Miroocool! (Christine Harris & Ann James, Little Hare)

Christine Harris and Ann James have collaborated on an ‘Audrey of the Outback’ series for primary-school aged children, and It’s a Miroocool! features the same plucky protagonist, only this time the picture book is for younger readers. It’s a lovely creation, from James’ water-coloured drawings to Harris’ simple yet effective narration. Right from the outset, you know that Audrey lives not in suburbia, nor in a concrete jungle, but somewhere in the Australian outback because her feet ‘kicked up red dust as she ran’. In fact, so far away is she from everyone else that poor Audrey is worried that the tooth fairy wouldn’t be able to find her. The book uses iconic Australian terms—a ‘billy’ is used as storage for Audrey’s tooth—and Indigenous fauna such as emus and dingoes also feature. The rural homestead is gorgeously illustrated through the vista of red earth, spinifex, silo and windmill against a sunset. The ‘miroocool!’ refers to the surprise gift the tooth fairy leaves behind for Audrey. Luckily it managed to find Audrey despite the dust storms erasing her footprints and the wind blowing away the note pinned to her cubby. This is a sweet book for preschoolers about a resourceful girl who does her best to help herself.

Thuy On is a Melbourne reviewer and manuscript assessor.  This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

On tour: Meet the author Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver is the author of Pandemonium, the follow-up to Delirium, published by Hodder & Stoughton. She is touring Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in March.

What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?
‘A world without love; a society on the brink of revolution. Read it and weep. Literally!’

What is the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?
Sometimes people ask me to sing The Little Mermaid, which is silly but also kind of fun!

And the most profound?
I’m consistently surprised and delighted by the level of profundity my books seem to elicit. I’ve been asked what my greatest values are, how I would spend my last day, whether I’ve had my heart broken …

What are you reading right now?
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (Fourth Estate).

What was the last book you read and loved?
The Game of Thrones (George R R Martin, HarperVoyager). I thought it was brilliant.

What was the defining book of your childhood?
Matilda by Roald Dahl (various imprints). I still read it every time I’m sick!

Which is your favourite bookstore?
I have quite a few. I love Anderson’s in Naperville, Illinois; when I was growing up, I spent loads of time in a local bookstore called Second Story, which is unfortunately now shuttered.

Facebook or Twitter?
Twitter, probably. Facebook has gotten, like, too complicated for me. Timeline? No, thank you. I feel like it’s pointing the way to my death.

If I were a literary character I’d be …
Elizabeth Bennett, so I could marry Mr Darcy, of course, or Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

In 50 years’ time books will be …
Beautiful collectibles; stories will commonly be told via interactive mediums.

BOOK REVIEW: Crimson Crop (Peter Rose, UWA Publishing)

In his amusing poem ‘Open Book’, Australian Book Review editor and former OUP publisher Peter Rose self-deprecatingly describes himself being caught reading poetry aloud by a young couple inspecting flats in his block: ‘suspicious was their look,’ he writes. It’s a nicely judged moment. The poet is in thrall to high art but at the same time aware that his pleasures are decidedly un-mainstream, even alienating to others. The artefacts of a cultured life—fine music, art, great architecture— and the mundane seem juxtaposed through much of this enjoyable collection (a boy reads Piratology on a plane while the poet looks forward to a performance of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio). Not that the real world is an unwelcome intrusion in Rose’s work: indeed, his poetry grows warmer, more affecting and looser in its explorations of kindred and friendship (a high-water mark is the title poem of the collection, dedicated to his mother). While his memoir Rose Boys (2001) and his novels (including last year’s Roddy Parr) have garnered more attention, Rose has been publishing poetry since 1990’s The House of Vitriol. Crimson Crop is a timely reminder of his powers.

Andrew Wilkins is director of independent press Wilkins Farago and a former publisher of Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: In Search of the Blue Tiger (Robert Power, Transit Lounge)

Robert Power’s debut novel In Search of the Blue Tiger was shortlisted for the unpublished manuscript category of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in 2008. Early promise has germinated into a significant work which perhaps falls between Life of Pi, Under Milk Wood and Gus Kuijer’s disturbing children’s novel, The Book of Everything. Oscar Flowers’ childhood is distorted by his parents’ violent fights. He believes they are animals in human form, were-animals, and finds consolation in his literal and metaphorical search for the blue tiger, which will enable him to become fearless and powerful. His quest leads him to the library where a special friendship develops with the sympathetic Mrs April. He also becomes the focus of insular twins, Perch and Carp Fishcutter, who embroil him in their Jehovah’s Witness cult of Armageddon and sacrifice. Other surreal experiences seem to be inspired by theosophy or mysticism. The narrative belies recent criticisms of literary fiction as being plotless. Oscar is swept into a compelling journey, relayed in part by his scrapbook of tiger legends and facts. The writing is subtle, connotative and composed. Its craftsmanship embraces and extends this audacious depiction of an escape from childhood.

Joy Lawn is a literature consultant at Coaldrake’s Bookshop in Brisbane. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: Missing: Raven Lucas Book 1 (Christine Harris, Scholastic)

Raven Lucas used to have a normal life, until that all changed without warning. Raven’s father has disappeared under suspicious circumstances, and no-one seems to think he’s coming back. The police aren’t interested in Raven’s theories, her mother is slowly sinking into another nervous breakdown, and Raven’s uncle Gerald— her father’s business partner—is getting a little too close to the family. But Raven is not going to sit and wait for her father to show up. With the help of her friends, she starts searching for clues. She doesn’t have to look far to find out how little she knew about her dad. Christine Harris is a prolific children’s author whose books have been published in Australia and internationally. Raven Lucas is a refreshing female character who references Nancy Drew, and yet is much more up-to-date. Raven’s bright, colourful world is believable and engaging, and the secondary characters are fun, if a little stereotypical. Harris’ short chapters and punchy scene changes create a high-tension storyline, full of surprises. The romantic tension is well-crafted, which will appeal to the story’s 10-plus demographic. This is a strong new series for its age group.

Rebecca Butterworth is a freelance writer and book reviewer living in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

On tour: Meet the author Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray is the author of Balthazar, the final book in the ‘Evernight’ series (HarperCollins). Gray is touring Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth in March and is a guest of the Somerset Celebration of Literature in Queensland. 

What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?
It would be the tagline that appears on the Balthazar cover: ‘Finally, it’s his turn.’

What’s the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?
Honestly, I haven’t been asked very many truly silly questions. The last tour I was on, though, people asked some very personal ones! I mean, stuff I would ask my best friends but not many other people. ‘Tell me about the first time you fell in love,’ that was one. I mean, before I start spilling stuff that intimate, you have to at least buy me coffee. At a minimum.

And the most profound?
Somebody asked what made a love scene truly good, which was thought-provoking, because I’d never pulled it out quite that abstractly before. It was interesting to consider. Ultimately I decided that it was about discovery, that great love scenes are about each person simultaneously discovering something about the other and about themselves. That they’re learning who they are together.

What are you reading right now?
My Place
by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press). I’m about two thirds of the way through, so I think I’ll finish before I leave for Australia.

What’s the last book you read and loved?
The Invisible Gorilla
by Daniel Simons (HarperCollins). While I’m in the thick of writing, which I have been recently, I read much more nonfiction than fiction. The Invisible Gorilla is all about the limits of human perception and memory; we think we know and notice a great deal more than we do. It’s an entertaining, but sobering, read.

What was the defining book of your childhood?
There’s no one single defining book—I read so much, so avidly, that there are dozens that helped to shape my imagination. If there is one, it’s probably Mysteries of the Unexplained, a Readers’ Digest compilation of highly dubious ‘news’ about werewolves, hauntings, cryogenics, and anything else that could be considered weird. My grandparents had a copy, which I absorbed as though through my skin. That fascination with the bizarre is very much a part of me to this day. (And I now possess my own copy.)

What is your favourite bookstore?
What a cruel question to ask a book lover! During my childhood, the answer would definitely be Square Books of Oxford, Mississippi, near where I grew up. My dad would take me there to buy the occasional book as a treat; at the time, it was only on the second floor, and all the stairs were painted red with different genres lettered on each step. While I lived in New York City—specifically, during the heyday of Harry Potter madness—I developed a soft spot for Books of Wonder, which always had a big midnight bash for the books, to which they invited live owls. Yes, while waiting in line for your Harry Potter book, you got to see these beautiful owls, talk to their trainers, and donate to the conservation society. And, of course, because it was near midnight, the owls were wide awake! Spectacular.

Facebook or Twitter?
Both! And Instagram. And Tumblr.

If I were a literary character, I’d be …
… oh, dear, I think I’m Marianne Dashwood.

In 50 years’ time, books will be …
… around, for sure. I think we’ll see format changes that are hard to predict now, but we’ll never lose touch with the fundamentals of story.

BOOK REVIEW: Things a Map Won’t Show You (ed by Susan La Marca & Pam Macintyre, Penguin)

This collection of short stories, poetry, images and nonfiction, aimed at children aged 12 and up, comprises new and established authors from the Asia-Pacific region. The styles vary, but most contributions evoke an enchanting sense of place or interactions between cultures—for example, stories about refugees and migrants—which gives the collection an overall focus. Some inclusions are weaker, especially some of the poetry, although Doug MacLeod’s humorous verses are a highlight. Some contributions are suitable for younger readers, while others track first forays into love or are quite violent and even morbid, such as Peta Freestone’s ‘Milford Sound’, which deals with abuse, sorrow and death (it is wonderfully wrought and one of the standouts); Sofie Laguna’s ‘Learning to Fly’, in which the protagonist jumps from a roof; and Pat Lowe’s ‘Yinti’s Kitten’, in which the narrator feeds the brains of a cat to its own kitten, then abuses the kitten in a fit of frustration (this sounds horrific, but is actually a powerful fable). Chris Wheat’s hilarious ‘Guide to Better Kissing for Australian Teens’ is another highlight. In all, the collection feels imperfect, but there are some gems, and the idea behind it is fantastic. It would make a great series.

Hannah Francis is a bookseller at the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.