INTERVIEW: Ray Martin on ‘Ray Martin’s Favourites’ (Victory)

Ray Martin’s Favourites (Victory) is a collection of standout interviews from the TV journalist’s career, as well as a glimpse behind the scenes, revealing how these interviews came together. Martin spoke to Bookseller+Publisher.

You’ve interviewed many of the stars, including Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Don Bradman. Have you ever been star struck?
Very rarely. In fact, out of thousands of interviews probably only twice. Sir Donald Bradman and Audrey Hepburn—a strange double, I must admit. I’m a cricket tragic but I never got to see The Don play. When I first met him at his Adelaide suburban house he stood up and stroked an imaginary cover drive, illustrating a point about batting technique. I was absolutely mesmerised. Audrey Hepburn I had fallen in love with when I was about 15 and saw her in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When I was the ABC’s New York correspondent in the 1970s, I used to walk past the iconic jewellery store and imagine Holly Golightly and her cat, as in the film, just sitting on the steps. Then on The Midday Show I got to meet and interview Audrey. She was still a classic beauty, with sparkling eyes and the best cheekbones in Hollywood. I told her of my teenage love affair, she smiled and purred, ‘It’s never too late …’ So I kissed her on the cheek. How dashing was that?

Which interview was the hardest to secure?
Sir Donald Bradman. How I ended up with that exclusive is almost worth a book in itself. I guess my half-hour interview with Prince Charles after his split with Diana was a coup too. Then the interview with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating together was something quite special. Even 20 years later it’s still my favourite political interview. It’s also a fascinating insight into the two men.

Your book also reveals some of the behind-the-scenes action. Can you share any gossip?
We had an American rock legend stoned off his face when he came on to sing; an Australian movie legend overloaded with chardonnay; a British legend who had a personal water-taster (just in case someone tried to spike his acqua minerale); an English guest who forgot or deliberately decided not to wear knickers on The Midday Show and the TV audience noticed; and a Spanish heartthrob who made sure we didn’t film his bald patch. Then there was Pamela Stephenson who tried to take my trousers off on camera, and Richard Marx, who was too cool to admit that he’d once written a country song for Kenny Rogers. Even after a viewer sent in a copy of the album he still denied it was him. I’m not going to tell you who they were—except for Pamela and Richard. You’ll have to just wonder.

Tell us about some of the ‘ordinary folk’ who made it into this book?
They’re all ordinary in their own kind of way—even Don Bradman, who almost drowned three times because he never learnt to swim. There was the drover who spent an agonising night in the fork of a tree during the high-point of a Queensland flood—with his kelpie dog and a huge snake. Then there was Werner Von Braun, whose rockets put man on the moon but was as enthusiastic as a kid playing with fire crackers; Jane Fonda who wanted to talk about God and Dustin Hoffman who just wanted to talk about sex. Ronnie Biggs, the most celebrated of the Great Train Robbers was an ordinary Cockney bloke, who was one of my favourites. He just wanted to be a carpenter living in Melbourne. Doesn’t get much more ordinary than that.

BOOK REVIEW: Babylon (Stephen Sewell, Victory)

Babylon is a taut and unpredictable crime novel from Stephen Sewell, who is best known as a playwright and scriptwriter and who recently adapted the film Animal Kingdom into book form. Charismatic psychopath Dan is driving a stolen black Chevrolet when he picks up Mick, a young English backpacker, seemingly by chance. Dan’s flair and immediate power over the vulnerable Mick are slowly teased out in an extended cop-chase/road-trip through a dark and mythic east-coast Australia. While Dan remains an enigma (his violent murders are revealed ‘off-camera’), Mick is exposed as a vulnerable, fatherless young man who grew up in a no-hoper housing commission in Northern England. This is a detective story turned on its head: the cops’ appearances are limited, almost klutzy cameos that allow the reader a break from the remorseless evil of Dan and the delusions of Mick, as he begins to see things he’s never seen before. The filmic nature of the book is boosted by sharp descriptions of the landscape and the unrelenting evil of Dan, which work together to build this story towards a surprising ending. This is a tightly written literary crime novel.

Rachel Edwards is the events manager at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. This review first appeared in the July issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: Lost in Transit: The Strange Story of the Philip K Dick Android (David F Dufty, Victory)

Imagine talking to a life-size robot version of your favourite dead author. Crafted by a skilled sculptor and controlled by artificial intelligence, the android could—in the author’s voice and with human gestures and facial movements—answer questions about his life, his books and any topic you asked him. Now imagine the author was Philip K Dick, the paranoid sci-fi visionary whose most famous work, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, featured conscious androids almost indistinguishable from their human makers. The stranger-than-fiction Philip K Dick android was built by a team of young scientists at Memphis University’s Institute of Intelligent Systems, led by roboticist David Hanson and programmer Andrew Olney. In 2005 it briefly captured the world’s attention, appearing at technology conventions around the US, before going missing on a flight between Dallas and Las Vegas, never to be seen again. Dufty’s insider’s account blends the android’s story with that of artificial intelligence, robotics and Dick himself in a combination that will be fascinating to sci-fi buffs, popular science readers and nerds of all stripes (like me). It’s the best kind of popular science—a book that doesn’t require any previous knowledge, but leaves you hungry to know more, and wondering at the possibilities that may lie ahead.

Lachlan Jobbins is an editor, reviewer and ex-bookseller. This review first appeared in the June issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

Bookseller+Publisher magazine: July issue top picks

The July issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine has landed! Here are some of the forthcoming releases that impressed our reviewers this issue:

Spirit of Progress (Steven Carroll, Fourth Estate, August)
Clive Tilsley of Fullers Bookshop in Tasmania reviewed Steven Carroll’s Spirit of  Progress, a ‘prequel’ to The Art of the Engine Driver, the first of Carroll’s ‘Glenroy’ trilogy. ‘Reading Spirit of Progress was one of the most enjoyable things I have done for a long time,’ writes Tilsley. ‘While it begins and ends in 1977, most of the story is set in the immediate post-war years in Melbourne as the country starts life afresh… I am sure everyone who has read the ‘Glenroy’ series will welcome this addition.’

Babylon (Stephen Sewell, Victory, August)
Rachel Edwards, events manager at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, declares Babylon ‘a taut and unpredictable crime novel from Stephen Sewell, who is best known as a playwright and scriptwriter and who recently adapted the film Animal Kingdom into book form’. Charismatic psychopath Dan is driving a stolen black Chevrolet when he picks up Mick, a young English backpacker. ‘Dan’s flair and immediate power over the vulnerable Mick are slowly teased out in an extended cop-chase/road-trip through a dark and mythic east-coast Australia,’ writes Edwards. ‘This is a tightly written literary crime novel.’

Cargo (Jessica Au, Picador, August)
journalist Eloise Keating says former Meanjin deputy editor Jessica Au’s debut novel Cargo is ‘a stunning and compelling read’. The novel weaves together the stories of three teenagers finding their way in the early 1990s in Currawong, a small Australian coastal town in which the lives of residents are invariably influenced by the water that surrounds them,’ writes Keating. ‘Au captures the rawness of her protagonists’ emotions with compassion and skill, as well as refreshing honesty… the complexity and uncertainty of growing up is celebrated in this unique snapshot of adolescence which will be appreciated by readers of all ages.’

The Courier’s New Bicycle (Kim Westwood, HarperVoyager, August)
Perth-based bookseller Stefen Brazulaitis said that while Westwood’s novel ‘will definitely appeal to science-fiction readers’, he’d recommend it to adventurous literary fiction fans too. ‘Salisbury “Sal” Forth is a bicycle courier in a future Melbourne, running contraband through the back streets of a society in turmoil. Mass vaccinations against the latest super flu have tipped the body chemistry of most of the population into endocrine crisis and infertility. With the government dominated by anti-technology Christian fundamentalists, the illegal hormone packages that Sal delivers are the only hope some have…’

RPM (Noel Mengel, UQP, August)
Reviewer Jarrah Moore was impressed by Noel Mengel’s novel, set in 1984 in a small silo town in Queensland, about ‘a mismatched group of dreamers and cultural outcasts’. ‘What connects the characters is their shared obsession with music, and the same thing holds the book together,’ she writes. ‘This is a book with heart, delicate characterisation and a striking sense of place: the small-town world with its wide open spaces and narrow minds, and the vibrant music aficionados scene that springs up around the record store RPM come together in a way that is both idealised and deeply honest.’

Melbourne (Sophie Cunningham, NewSouth Books, August)
In nonfiction, bookseller Veronica Sullivan enjoyed the fourth in NewSouth Books’ series of popular histories of Australian capital cities: Sophie Cunningham’s Melbourne. ‘As a former editor of Melbourne-based literary journal Meanjin, Cunningham is uniquely qualified to dissect the city. She offers an intimate, nuanced perspective of Melbourne past, present and future. This is the Melbourne of Graham Kennedy, Helen Garner and Mick Gatto, but also of generations of artists, cyclists, Collingwood fans and the covert urban explorers known as the Cave Clan,’ writes Sullivan. ‘This book is lively and accessible, with a voice that is informative but not didactic, making it ideal both as an insiders’ guide for locals and an introduction for curious outsiders.’

A Small Book about Drugs (Lisa Pryor, A&U, August)
Portia Lindsay says A Small Book About Drugs by former Sydney Morning Herald columnist Lisa Pryor is ‘a persuasively written and thought-provoking essay that warrants serious consideration by young people, parents, politicians, law enforcement and the media’. It ‘offers a controversial perspective on recreational drug use, as discusses many aspects of the practice that are often taboo in mainstream debate,’ writes Lindsay.

Violin Lessons (Arnold Zable, Text, August)
Lindsay also reviews Arnold Zable’s Violin Lessons in which ‘music in its many forms provides comfort, escape or nostalgia for a variety of trapped or displaced individuals—the Iraqi refugee reunited with his band, the Polish labourer enchanted by his music box, the Cambodian fisherman who serenades the river’. ‘This book is a wonderfully complex, sad and beautiful read,’ writes Lindsay.

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