Monday, December 29, 2014

Reading and Writing Review 2014

Reading and Writing Review 2014 (includes fiction standouts: novels, novellas and collections/anthologies)

Books and Novellas (left the cutoff at 50 pages) Read in 2014

Vampires in the Lemon Grove Karen Russell (collection)                                    

The Best Australian Stories 2014 ed Amanda Lohrey  (anthology)

The Art of Fiction  John Gardner  (expository)

Arthur and George Julian Barnes

The New Veterans Karen Russell (novella from Vampires in the 
Lemon Grove originally in Granta (Winter 2013)

Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami                                                                 

Stoner John Williams                                                                                           

Halfhead Bay Nam Le (novella from The Boat)                                                 

The Neanderthals Rediscovered Dimitra Papagianni & Michael Moore (expository text)                                                                                                    

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz                                             

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brian Sanderson  (novella from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)                        

Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois (anthology)

The Elephant Vanishes Haruki Murakami (collection)

The Boat Nam Le (collection)

Dinosaurs, a Very Short Introduction David Norman (expository text)

Tehran Calling Nam Le (novella from The Boat)

The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi

The Children Act Ian McEwan                                                                            

Lies My Mother Told Me Caroline Spector (novella from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)

Kisses by Clockwork ed Liz Grzyb (anthology)

Jasper Jones Craig Silvey

Eclipse Four Ed. Jonathan Strahan (anthology)                                             

Falconer John Cheever                                                                                          

Virgins Diana Gabaldon  (novella from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)                                                                                 

Bombshells Jim Butcher (novella from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)                                                                                 

Flesh and Blood Michael Cunningham                                                              

The Book Thief Markus Zusak                                                                            

The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens George R.R Martin (novella from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)                                                                                                            

The Pure Gold Baby Margaret Drabble                                                               

Fiction Standouts

Keeping standouts to a maximum of four and they are in order of preference.

Absolute Standout:

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I can’t praise this collection highly enough - I loved all but two stories. Russell is ostentatious but also fresh and witty and these stories and novelettes are of the best that I’ve read. At a micro-level, Russell’s syntactical work is also remarkable. Do yourself a favour and have a read. Russell blends stories of the urban fantasy genre with structural elements more common in ‘literary’ works. I think she is a writer to be celebrated. If you don’t have time then at least read the story ‘Reeling for the Empire’

The following novels are all highly recommended reads.

Arthur and George Julian Barnes

Historical literary fiction at its best. This is near a masterpiece, only marred, I thought, by an incredulous bit of light philosophy late in the novel by George (you’ll see it when you read it). Won’t give too much away but it’s marvelous.

Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami

Original, full of semi-Socratic dialogue and surreal scenes, all pulled together in a well-crafted novel. It was my first read of a Murakami novel and I’ll certainly return. Kafka on the Shore won a number of prizes including The World Fantasy Award. The philosophical elements work well with an intriguing, inventive plot.                                                           

Stoner John Williams

I can’t quite put my finger on it, both uplifting and depressing, but a work that I simply enjoyed. Williams has a rare talent of not reverting to melodrama in order to create tension. Stoner felt pure in terms of prose, with a nice blend of ‘telling’ and ‘showing’, which many writers these days forget (some are caught up in lengthy ’showing’ that might be a product of creative writing texts and courses). I can see why Julian Barnes so highly recommends it (the prose in both Arthur and George and Stoner share similarities). 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz

This has its problems – you'll want a Spanish lexicon at times if you're not Latin American (or to a lesser degree, from the US) and I don’t think that the various threads all work successfully. But every novel has its flaws  – and it’s a brilliant work: intelligent, gutsy, exuberant, fun and tragic.        
Standout Collections and Anthologies

I won’t include the two I had stories in: The Best Australian Stories 2014 and Kisses by Clockwork, as it just seems in poor taste - needless to say, I loved them both.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove Karen Russell (collection)
Think I’ve raved on about Russell enough. Superb                                   

Dangerous Women (anthology) ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
Megan Abbott, Megan Lindholm, Nancy Kress, Joe Abercrombie, Brian Sanderson and John R Landsdale’s stories alone are enough to make this a must-read anthology.

The Elephant Vanishes Haruki Murakami (collection)                                  
Refreshing collection in a conversational narrative voice. Enjoyed my first dose of Murakami. Hope you do too.

The Boat Nam Le (collection)                                                                             
Some truly remarkable prose and stories within. Felt let down by the title story but on the whole Nam’s debut collection is a work to admire. A remarkable talent.

Novella Highlights

The New Veterans Karen Russell (novella from Vampires in the Lemon Grove originally in Granta,Winter 2013)                                                                      
Halfhead Bay Nam Le (novella from The Boat)                                                 
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brian Sanderson  (novella from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)                        

Tehran Calling Nam Le (novella from The Boat)                                              

Short Stories

'29 superb stories' in a previous post.

Stories Published in 2014

Publications in the journal Overland Literary Journal 214 (my second story there) and the anthologies Kisses by Clockwork ed. Liz Grzyb and The Best Australian Stories 2014 ed. Amanda Lohrey.

Very satisfying year. Every story that finds a good home is a celebration but being in The Best Australian Stories 2014 was both exciting and humbling.

Publication News

A long short story of mine, written within a framework (of sorts) of the Sphinx’ riddle to Oedipus, will be published in 2015 in an anthology I'm excited about (contents not released yet and I'll update this later). It’s a dark fantasy/horror story with a reflective narrative voice, which includes a bit on nature, philandering, life’s stages, reading and myth.

Festive Season
Enjoy the festive season. Once again, hope you all read a few books, watch a few films (and other shows) and spend time with loved ones.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

29 Highly Recommended Short Stories from my 2014 Reading

Top 29 Short Stories Read in 2014

Short Stories: A Celebration

This may seem an odd list to many as it just includes the best of my own reads this year. It’s not a list of the best stories published in 2014, although there are a number of stories from 2014 on this particular list. This year I read 118 stories so I thought that a list of 29 , around a quarter, might be more appropriate (realise it's all a bit OC).

I also had ‘Reeling for the Empire’ (a magnificent story) and ‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove’ in last year’s list as I read Karen Russell’s  collection over this year and last. Furthermore, The New Veterans by Karen Russell will be in this year's recommended novella list along with Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brian Sanderson and Halfhead Bay by Nam Le. 

There’s a variety of genre here, ranging from ‘lit’ to ‘pulp’, so I’m happy to answer questions regarding any of the listed stories . 

I could have included many more, especially from The Best Australian Stories 2014 Ed. Amanda Lohrey, but a cut off had to occur somewhere. This yearly list is a celebration of short fiction rather than anything more sinister and, as always, many great reads miss out. 

Stories in bold were published in 2014. 

29 Superb Stories

“The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis” Karen Russell (from Vampires in the Lemon Grove originally in Conjunctions (Fall 2010)                                                  

‘Natasha’ David Bezmozgis (from My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides, originally in Natasha by David Bezmozgis)                                                 

“Old Habits” Nalo Hopkinson (from Eclipse Four ed. Jonathan Strahan)    

“My Heart is Either Broken” Megan Abbott (from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)                                                               

“The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach” Karen Russell (from Vampires in the Lemon Grove originally in Tin House, Fall 2009)                                          

“The Dancing Dwarf” Haruki Murakami (The Elephant Vanishes)                      
“Neighbors” by Meghan Lindholm (from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois) fantastic take on dementia                                   

“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress (from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois)                                                        

“Barn Burning” Haruki Murakami (The Elephant Vanishes originally in The New Yorker)                                                                                                                   

“Dying Young” Peter M. Ball (from Eclipse Four ed. Jonathan Strahan)         

‘Flicking the Flint’ Anna Krien (The Best Australian Stories 2014)                

“Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice” Nam Le
(The Boat originally in Zoetrope: All Story)     
“The Last Lawn of the Afternnoon” Haruki Murakami (The Elephant Vanishes)
“Some Desperado” Joe Abercrombie (from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois )                                                                               

“The Examination” Ryan O’Neil (Wet Ink 14)                                                      

‘Bring Closer What is Left to Come’ Julienne van Loon (The Best Australian Stories 2014)                                                                                                       
‘Sugar Bag Dreamin’ Country’ Mark Smith (The Best Australian Stories 2014)          
“Proving Up” Karen Russell (from Vampires in the Lemon Grove originally published as “The Hox River Window” in Zoetrope: All Story, Fall 2011)     

‘Meeting Elise” Nam Le (The Boat originally in One Story)                               

“Family Affair” Haruki Murakami (The Elephant Vanishes)                               

“A Small Cleared Space” Josephine Rowe (Overland 214 Autumn)                  

“The Venetian Cat” Cherith Baldry (Kisses by Clockwork ed Liz Grzyb)          

‘Ill Met in Lankhmar’ Springers’ Fritz Leiber (Selected Stories ed Jonathan Strahan & Charles N. Brown, first published The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Apr. 1970)                                                                                                   

“Hiroshima” Nam Le (The Boat originally in Harvard Review)                          

“TV People” Haruki Murakami (The Elephant Vanishes originally in The New Yorker)                                                                                                                              
“Wrestling Jesus” Joe R. Lansdale (from Dangerous Women ed. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois) pulpy genre                                                              

“Smoke Ghost” Fritz Leiber (Selected Stories ed Jonathan Strahan & Charles N. Brown originally in Unknown Worlds, Oct. 1941)                                             
“Tourists” James Patrick Kelly (from Eclipse Four ed. Jonathan Strahan)     

‘The Panther’ David Brooks (The Best Australian Stories 2014)                       

‘The Peacock’ Arabella Edge (The Best Australian Stories 2014)                      


Monday, November 3, 2014

"Submerging" in Best Australian Stories 2014

"Submerging" from Overland Literary Journal 214 has been republished in Best Australian Stories 2014. Having "Submerging" nestled among these stories is a humbling experience.

I would like to thank Jennifer Mills (Overland Fiction Editor) and also Amanda Lohrey (Ed. Best Australian Stories) for having the courage to choose a story that can be read as a straight narrative or as a metaphorical one.

Lohrey's introduction to the anthology is lovely. I thought I'd include some snippets here of her thoughts regarding the genre:

A good story has a distinctive form so that the whole is a sum of its parts. It should develop beyond its initial premises or scene-setting, it should be surprising and it should arrive at a form of resolution.

The art of the story is mostly about the journey, and the economy of means with which the writers here carry us a great distance is breathtaking. They may do this with a bardic fluency of style that has a quality of song, or they may do it with short, sharp sentences that are like jabs in the ribs. They do it in their own way and on their own terms, and we willingly surrender. 

And regarding my own story:

Then there  are stories that begin in a mode of conventional realism and end in a revelation of surprising poetry (Anthony Panegyres' 'Submerging').

Congratulations to all the writers involved in what's a fabulous celebration of the short story genre in Australia.

Great Chrissie gift too!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Current Reads: Neanderthals Rediscovered by Dimitra Papagianni and Michael A. Morse & The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Neanderthals Rediscovered by Dimitra Papagianni and Michael A. Morse

We Homo Sapiens have been dismissive of Neanderthals, those former fellow humans, those misnamed ‘knuckle-draggers’ and ‘numbskulls’ that lived in ice-age Europe while we we enjoyed the  sunny skies of Africa (though at times, we did live side-by-side); so after my visit earlier this year to the British Museum of Natural History, I asked at the museum bookshop for an up-to-date text on Neanderthals specifically. There are a myriad of books out there on paleolithic people but discovering new works solely on the topic of Neanderthals is sometimes challenging. When staff guided me to The Neanderthals Rediscovered I knew that the work would skip my usual random ‘to-read’ book list. Dimitra Papagianni is a well-respected Paleolithic archaeologist and has taught courses on Neanderthals at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bath, and her teaming up with Michael A. Morse, who is an expert on the history of science, meant for a promising read.
            The Neanderthals Rediscovered is approachable and informative. It places emphasis on Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens’ timelines and development. Papagianni, despite the expertise she holds in the field, is controlled and objective throughout, presenting cases and varying perspectives on what are often highly debatable topics. Papagianni and Morse rely on the latest data, and although they present a variety of views, they never seem to endorse any that are not currently supported by the weight of modern scientific evidence.
            Their work stresses that Homo Heidelbergensis was a common ancestor from which we (Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals) both evolved from at roughly the same period in time.
It also raises debate about who were the more capable species. In fact, the first time that Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals came together in Western Asia, it was the Neanderthals who won out with Homo Sapiens retreating back to Africa. Therefore, seeing ourselves as the superior hominin based on our long-term survival, is a narrow and outdated viewpoint.
Neanderthals, although stronger bodied with large brain cases (albeit different from our own), also had the same FOXP2 gene for language that we do. This sheds some light on some past theories falsely claiming they lacked the ability of speech.
When Homo Sapiens entered Europe, much later, they eventually won over the continent but Papagianni and Morse suggest that this may have related to climatic changes that suited Homo Sapiens over Homo Neanderthalis rather than any notion of a superior human.
Another interesting fact is that Neanderthals were fair skinned, and had the same modern gene that we share for green eyes and red hair. Did we breed with them? The answer now is to some extent. Current science indicates that everyone, outside of Indigenous Sub-Saharan Africans, has 1-4% of intrusive Neanderthal DNA in their genomes.
The last part of the The Neanderthals Rediscovered explores Neanderthals in fiction today. William Golding’s novel on the period, The Inheritors, has long been a favourite of mine, but with the list kindly provided by Papagianni and Morse, I will now add The Simulacra by PK Dick and Child of Time by Robert Silverberg to my reading list. The final chapter also includes a fun bit on how Neanderthals would appear in modern society today.
            The only part I wanted more on was Neanderthal cognition. Papagianni and Morse certainly touch on it, especially symbolic art, but perhaps the pair are hesitant exploring the subject matter further as it is not a concrete science. Hopefully they will pair up again (or add a cognitive specialist to the team) to explore Neanderthals' thought processes and cognitive abilities in a future text.
            Overall, however, The Neanderthals Rediscovered is an excellent read, conveying how far both genetic and archaeological scientific methods have come. Papagianni and Morse should be congratulated on a work that will hold revelations for all. 

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (brief)

I started off a little unsure with my first introduction to Murakami but I soon grew to enjoy the comical, light, observant and slightly quirky tone of his stories. Murakami utilises a casual first person conversational voice throughout the collection, which becomes all the more addictive as you progress. My favourite stories (all excellent) are "Barn Burning", "The Dancing Dwarf, "The Last Lawn of the Afternoon" and "Family Affair". Other enjoyable stories include "The Second Bakery Attack", "TV People", "The Silence" and "The Elephant Vanishes". The nature of any collection is that there are a few which don't gel and for me those stories are "The Little Green Monster" (easily the worst in the collection),"A Window" and "Sleep".

I'm already looking forward to reading more of his work. The world of Murakami is more accessible than I imagined but it's also very enjoyable.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Current Reads

This is another slap-dash post from my local cafe on current reads.

Just Read

In a previous post I promised more highlights from Dangerous Women ed. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois. I had already mentioned Joe Abercrombie, Megan Abbott, Joe R. Lansdale, Megan Lindholm and Brian Sanderson, so now that I've finished the anthology, I thought I'd mention another exceptional story: "Second Arabesque, Very Slowly" by Nancy Kress, which juxtaposes a struggle for survival in a harsh, dystopian, urban setting with a beautiful aspect of the human condition: passion for the humanities, in this case the forgotten art of ballet. Naturally, like any good story, it also explores a range of other themes, from friendship and loyalty to ethical choices.

And I've just finished Arthur and George by Julian Barnes, which, apart from one character's incredulous philosophising at the end, is a work of literary-historical fiction at its best. I won't delve into the plot or characters as I read it without any prior grounding and loved it. I suggest you do the same.

I think I might go Barnes-storming. 

Currently Reading
Short story collections ATM:  The Boat by Nam Le and The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami.  And my choices for my book club's novel are from Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Peace by Gene Wolfe, Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham and Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold. I'll let you know what the gang votes on.

Publication News

Some very exciting publication news - more to come when the contents are  officially released.

And in a final note, at the risk of sounding narcissistic (I never know whether to post these sorts of things),  I was flattered that the novelist, Guy Salvidge, mentioned me in his snapshot interview (no. 4 on the link).

Happy reading and writing!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Writers [on Writing]: Walter Mosley

Writing a novel is gathering smoke. It's an excursion into the ether of ideas. 
Walter Mosley, For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Every Day

Monday, July 14, 2014

Writers [On Writing]: Sue Miller

So, come on, really, how much is autobiographical?
All of it. None. 
     Sue Miller, Visual Reality: The Perils of Seeking a Novelist's Facts in Her Fiction. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Latest Stories (including Kisses by Clockwork) and Current Reads

Latest story releases: "The Tic-Toc Boy of Constantinople" in Kisses by Clockwork and "Submerging" in Overland Journal Issue 214, Autumn

"Submerging" in Overland Journal 214, Autumn can be ordered here:

There's some truly courageous articles in the journal, as well as three other stories, so it's well worth the read - as is every edition of Overland.

In fact it's Overland's 60th anniversary. That's sixty years of courageous dissent; sixty years of trailblazing for authors; sixty years of standing up for the wrongly marginalised; sixty years of meaningful provocation against those who lack compassion, and sixty years of fighting those who support anti-egalitarian ideologies. That's 60 pretty special years.

And "The Tic-Toc Boy of Constantinople" in Kisses by Clockwork will be released at a mega-launch party at Continuum (the national convention)  at the Intercontinental Rialto in Melbourne on Saturday the 8th June starting at 2pm.

Wish I could be there - it's a Perth tyranny of distance type of thing.

Needless to say, the story is a different work from "Submerging". Steampunk is a whole fascinating genre in its own right, including very stylistic art and craft. As usual, I'd imagine that there will be a little magic for all types of readers in Liz Grzyb's (Ticonderoga Publications) latest anthology. It's a pleasure playing a small role in it (or at least a good 20 page role). I can't wait to plunge into the steam-filled pages myself. I've set the timer on: tic-toc, tic-toc, tic-toc...

You can pre-order Kisses by Clockwork at

And after the launch Kisses by Clockwork will be available from Amazon Books, Book Depository or Indiebooksonline:

Congrats to Liz Gryzb and all the writers involved. 

Currently Reading: Just finished The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble. The ideas, commentary on society, and Drabble's rhythm, all scintillate. Its pitfall, however, is the distant narrative voice (distant from the story rather than cold and distant), which fails to captivate for the novel's entirety. It does, however, work superbly in patches.

The Pure Gold Baby isn't a bad read but the observant quasi-Victorian point of view needs to be more engrained within the story. I think it may be the case of a fine writer not being at her best here, or perhaps, Drabble is enjoying a dose of self-indulgence that ultimately over-weighs the reader.  

I'm also reading Dangerous Women ed. George RR Martin & Gardner Dozois. It's a compilation of stories and novellas with some real meat on them. Some standouts so far include: Joe Abercrombie's "Some Desperado", which is an action-packed Western with superb prose. After being slightly disappointed by Queenpin, Megan Abbott shows more than just the goods here with a wonderfully structured story that few writers could execute in the brilliant and psychologically intricate "My Heart is Either Broken".  "Wrestling Jesus" by Lawrence Block is a fun story of rugged 'old-school' masculinity. "Neighbors" by Megan Lindholm is easily the best story exploring issues relating to dementia that I've ever read and "Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell" is my first introduction to Brandon Sanderson and it's a pleasant surprise. More highlights to come.

Happy reading and writing!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Reading Meme for All

A fellow Perth short story writer, Laurie Steed, sent me a meme. I'm not going to add specific names - I'm happy to hear everyone's thoughts on reading.

What are you reading right now?

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Dangerous Women an anthology ed. by Geroge RR Martin and Gardner Dozois
The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science is Rewriting Their Story by Dimitra Papgianni & Michale A. Morse

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble for my book club and then Falconer by John Cheever.

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?

There’s hundreds on my random 'must-read' shelves. I suppose the extended 'five' whose numbers I’ve always wanted to come up of late are:  

The Prestige by Christopher Priest
Great Apes by Will Self
The Iron Heel by Jack London

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan 

 Tallula Rising by Glen Duncan 

Assymetry by Throraiya Dyer  

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez  
Dr Rat by William Kotzwinkle 
Yellowcake Springs by Guy Salvidge
George Saunders' Pastoralia
The Australian Movement by George Megalogenis. 

I’ll confess that Karen Russell and George RR Martin are two writers whose work leapfrogs the random reading list everytime.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/ lounge right now?

I currently subscribe to Overland Literary Journal, One Story (a great concept) and Meanjin. 

I also have a myriad of other literary journals lying around or on the shelves. These include many from: Griffith Review, The New Yorker, Tin House, Zoetrope: All Story, Granta, Island Magazine, Southerly and Ploughshares. And for the genre binge I’ve got a few Magazine of F &SF, ASIM and old print editions of Aurealis Magazine. These are all a wonderful byproduct of mad buying and very generous writerly friends.  

I always have National Geographic and an Australian Geographic lying about too. 

 National Geographic and Overland Literary Journal are the actual two on the coffee table at present. 

I have to admit that I'm dismayed by the rise of electronic fiction. I understand that it's complicated and relates to business prophet margins but as soon as a journal goes solely electronic, I stop reading it - whether it's quality fiction or not.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

It's only been over the past few years that I’ve learned to surrender books which I really dislike. Worst that I’ve read to completion recently has to be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I know, I know, super popular. How could you?!

It just plateaus completely for me. When I say 'plateau', I mean like leveled concrete, same colour too.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

As just mentioned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Didn’t finish Love in a Cold Climate either…

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

So many! One is a strange concept:

Let's see for a classic American novel: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle. If you don’t mind comedy and political incorrectness.

The Song of Ice and Fire Series (Game of Thrones) by George RR Martin,  if you want a fantastic, epic story. 

LOTR by JRR Tolkien, simply because it’s superb in its richness, world building and uniqueness.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole for a rich, comical, literary masterpiece. 

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson for a great Victorian novella.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Wonderful work.

Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakis, a much forgotten and seriously underrated writer at his best here. When Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize he proclaimed that Kazantzakis deserved it more.

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Simply outstanding.

Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières for a novel that has it all in terms of narrative.

Bluebeard, Timequake, and God Bless You, Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut (along with many others)

Short stories:

 The Locus Awards: Thirty Years of the Best in Science Fiction & Fantasy ed. Jonathan Strahan & Charles N. Brown

Almost anything and everything by Richard Yates, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Karen Russell.

Joyce Carol Oates for a lesson in narrative craft

Will Self  if you’re after OTT ostentatious satire

Where do you usually get your books?

Love supporting independent stores. The following Perth bookstores may confuse interstate and overseas readers: I think I'm the backbone for sales at Northside Books on William St and Planet Books on Beaufort. Crow Books, if I’m in the area, and New Edition in Freo. Stefen's Books also does very well out of me. White Dwarf and Oxford Books too. 

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

The laboratory/dunny/toilet, bed, sofa, dining table, you name the place, even managed the shower once or twice...

Never really read during school hours though.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

Always George RR Martin. Stayed up with Burial Rites by Hannah Kent too.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

Think I fake-finished a couple to impress when I was younger. Don’t see the point now.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

 As a teen, binging on fantasy? Of course

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

How much space do we have here? Tolkien’s The Hobbit and LOTR were fab. I adored Roald Dahl’s novels too. Asterix comics too - what a Gaul!

What book changed your life?

Wish I could say that they did. I suppose I dreamed of mountainous sword adventures in primary school? 

Hang on a tic, I’m a writer, so if I really take ‘reflection’ to an extreme, I’d say that they all have and still do. 

What is your favourite passage from a book?

It’s like asking you to choose a favourite member of the family.

Who are your top five favourite authors?

 ATM, this is my long five…

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Graham Greene

JRR Tolkien

George RR Martin

Karen Russell

Richard Yates

Joyce Carol Oates (short stories)

Kurt Vonnegut

John Cheever

What book has no one heard about but should read?

Depends on your hearing. 

Think that in Australian Independent Spec-Fic there are some great collections and anthologies from Ticonderoga Publications, Twelfth Planet Press and Fablecroft -  all Publishing Houses that are deservedly getting some real notice from elite level critics as well as winning (or being finalists for) The Aurealis Awards on a regular basis

What books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

Anything on the favourite list. 

What are your favourite books by a first time author?

A Confederacy of Dunces. From recollection, John Kennedy Toole's first and only novel was published posthumously

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Beautiful debut.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. As long as you forget about the icicle scene. 

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell as a novel, and her collection, St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Girls is incredible. One of my all time favourites.

What is your favourite classic book?

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson

Five other notable mentions?

Not classics, just mentions in general. I’m a rule breaker: 

Seahearts by Margo Lanagan

The Quiet American and The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene (as well as a host of others by Greene)

The Road by Cormac McArthy

Adult short stories of Ursula Le Guin .

Tobias Wolf

Roald Dahl’s twists are often seen as dated but I still love them, same applies for Kurt Vonnegut

Sherman Alexie

George Saunders.

Michael Swanwick’s short stories

Nalo Hopkinson’s short work too. Looking forward to reading her longer work.

I've read two short stories now by the Australian writer, Ryan O’Neil: “Four Letter Words” and “R and L" and I’ve been impressed.

And in Australian spec-fic, Margo Lanagan aside, the few stories that I’ve read by Lisa L. Hannett, Deborah Biancotti and Angela Slatter have been fabulous. I’m also looking forward to reading more from Faith Mudge, who has a real talent for fluid storytelling so it will be interesting following her writing journey.

I’d add my writing group here too… All are doing very well at present but that just seems in poor taste and they know who they are.