Louise Allan: Sisters’ Song

Louise Allan: Sisters’ Song, cover image
Louise Allan: Sisters’ Song: As children, Ida loves looking after her younger sister, Nora, but when their beloved father dies in 1926, everything changes. The two young girls move in with their grandmother, who is particularly encouraging of Nora’s musical talent. Nora eventually follows her dream of a brilliant musical career, while Ida takes a job as a nanny and their lives become quite separate.

The two sisters are reunited when Nora’s life takes an unwelcome direction and she finds herself, embittered and resentful, isolated in the Tasmanian bush with a husband and children.

Ida longs passionately for a family and when she marries Len, a reliable and good man, she hopes to soon become a mother. Over time, it becomes clear that this is never likely to happen.

In Ida’s eyes, it seems that Nora possesses everything in life that could possibly matter, yet she values none of it.

Set in rural Tasmania over a span of seventy years, the strengths and flaws of motherhood are revealed through the mercurial relationship of these two very different sisters.

Louise Allan’s The Sisters’ Song speaks of dreams, children and family, all entwined with a musical thread that binds them together.

Harry Blutstein: Cold War Games

Cold War Games, Cover image.
The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games have become known as the ‘Friendly Games’, but East-West rivalry ensured that they were anything but friendly. From the bloody semi-final water polo match between the USSR and Hungary, during which blood seen in the water, to the athletes who defected to the West, sport and politics collided during the Cold War. Harry Blutstein’s Cold War Games shows vividly how the USSR and US exploited the Melbourne Olympic Games for propaganda, turning athletic fields, swimming pools and other sporting venues into battlefields in which each fought for supremacy.

There were glimmers of peace and solidarity. War Games also tells the love story between Czechoslovak discus thrower Olga Fikotova and American hammer thrower Hal Connolly, and their struggle to overcome Cold War politics to marry.

Cold War Games is a lively, landmark book, with fresh information from ASIO files and newly discovered documents from archives in the USSR, US and Hungary, revealing secret operations in Melbourne, and showing just how pivotal the 1956 Olympic Games were for the great powers of the Cold War.

ALM 2017 Sydney Writers Festival Brochure: PDF only

2017-swf-Brochure ALM 2017 Sydney Writers Festival Brochure: alas, the ALM 2017 brochure is PDF only, though it its full colour! The font is Equity, a font for lawyers by Matthew Butterick… lawyers? Yes! And it’s based loosely on Erhardt, a lovely old font that is almost exactly the same as Kis (or Janson, if you prefer), a font used by most American book designers. You can read much more about the font here, at John Tranter’s Journal site: http://johntranter.net/special-features/a-font-just-for-lawyers/.

Sarah Bailey

Dark Lake cover image

‘There had been a few minutes when I was alone with her in the autopsy room. I ’d felt wild. Absent. Before I could stop myself I was leaning close to her, telling her everything. The words draining out of me as she lay there. Her long damp hair hanging off the back of the steel table. Glassy eyes fixed blindly on the ceiling. She was still so beautiful, even in death.

‘Our secrets circled madly around the bright white room that morning. Rocking back and forth on my heels as I stood there next to her, I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me. I looked at Rosalind Ryan properly for the last time before breathing deeply, readying myself, letting her pull me back into her world, and I sank down, further and further until I was completely, utterly under.’

A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

But that ’s not all Gemma ’s trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim ’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths…

Mark Isaacs: The Undesirables

Cover image, Mark Isaacs, The Undesirables.
When it comes to asylum seekers on Nauru, we learn only what the Australian Government wants us to know. In the wake of The Nauru Files, see first-hand what is happening inside the Nauru detention centre through Mark Isaacs’ eyewitness account.

Mark Isaacs went to work inside the Nauru detention centre in 2012. As a Salvation Army employee, he provided humanitarian aid to the men interned in the camp. What he saw there moved him to write this book.

The Undesirables chronicles his time on Nauru, detailing daily life and the stories of the men held there; the self-harm, suicide attempts, and riots; the rare moments of joy; the moments of deep despair. He takes us behind the gates of Nauru and humanises a political debate usually ruled by misleading rhetoric.

In a strange twist of fate, Mark’s father, Professor David Isaacs, travelled to Nauru in December 2014 to investigate how children were treated in detention. This revised edition of The Undesirables reveals the human rights abuses Professor Isaacs discovered on Nauru, and interrogates how little has changed for people in detention.

Mark Isaacs is a writer, a community worker, an adventurer, and a campaigner for social justice. He resigned from the Salvation Army in June 2013 and spoke out publicly against the government’s ‘No Advantage’ policy. After returning from Nauru, Mark worked at an asylum seeker settlement agency in Sydney.

Mark appeared in Eva Orner’s 2016 documentary Chasing Asylum and has written for Foreign Policy, World Policy Journal, Huffington Post, New Internationalist, Mamamia, New Matilda and VICE.

Joyce Morgan: Martin Sharp

Martin Sharp: cover image.

‘Martin wore tight pants that were striped red, white and blue, like a Union Jack, and an embroidered Afghan vest. In front of his face he carried, like a lollipop, a smile on a stick. As he went, he bowed to passers-by. Even on King’s Road, he stood out.’

Martin Sharp’s art was as singular as his style. He blurred the boundaries of high art and low with images of Dylan, Hendrix and naked flower children that defined an era. Along the way the irreverent Australian was charged with obscenity and collaborated with Eric Clapton as he drew rock stars and reprobates into his world.

In this richly told and beautifully written biography, Joyce Morgan captures the loneliness of a privileged childhood, the heady days of the underground magazine Oz as well as the exuberant creativity of Swinging London and beyond.

Sharp pursued his quixotic dream to realise van Gogh’s Yellow House in Australia. He obsessively championed eccentric singer Tiny Tim and was haunted by the awful deaths at Sydney’s Luna Park. Charismatic and paradoxical, he became a recluse whose phone never stopped ringing.

Martin Sharp, “Young Mo”, poster, 1978. Thanks to the Estate of the late Martin Sharp.

There was no one like Martin Sharp. When he died, he was described as a stranger in a strange land who left behind a trail of stardust.


Nicholas Whitlam: Four Weeks One Summer

In the summer of 1936, over just four weeks, it all went wrong — for democracy and for Spain, even for the British royals. Politicians failed, and Hitler was emboldened to plan a new European war, and more.

Four Weeks One Summer, cover image

When some army generals sought to overthrow Spain’s elected government, Francisco Franco quickly emerged as their leader; Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported him with men and materiel; pusillanimous politicians in Britain and the United States, even in France, turned a blind-eye — and the Spanish Civil War was on. Edward VIII took a scandalous holiday cruise with Mrs Simpson, Berlin staged the greatest sporting event of modern times, the alternative Peoples’ Olympiad never came to be, and Barcelona was transformed into a unique workers’ paradise. All this in four weeks. It was an incongruous, at times brilliant, juxtaposition of events.

Nicholas Whitlam majored in history at Harvard. Four Weeks One Summer, his third book, is the product of a long-held interest in the Spanish Civil War, the Olympic movement and the politics of the 1930s.

Four Weeks One Summer: When It All Went Wrong is published by Australian Scholarly Publishing, at http://www.scholarly.info



Mark Colvin: Launch speech for Four Weeks One Summer: When it All Went Wrong

Paragraph 1 follows: 1:

WHEN I WAS A SMALL BOY at an English boarding school, our main history text was a small book by one of the masters, Harold Hartley, who made a tidy sum over the years as a result.


Mark Colvin, photo courtesy ABC Radio Australia.
It was mostly a book of significant events attached to their dates: events and dates which we were expected to learn by rote. The Battle of Plassey, 1757. The Diet of Worms, 1521. The defenestration of Prague 1617. No context. You learned them first, almost like your alphabet, and expected that eventually, perhaps in your fourth or fifth year, someone would explain what they actually meant. We learned the names of the Kings and Queens of England by means of the mnemonic rhyme:


Willy, Willy, Harry, Ste,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three,
One, two, three Neds, Richard two,
Henries four, five, six — then who?

Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harries twain and Ned the lad… and so on…


In general the whole approach was remarkably reminiscent of Sellars and Yeatman’s great satire 1066 and all that, with its sweeping pronouncements on how any given King’s actions were A Good Thing or A Bad Thing — in capitals — and its summings-up of massive historical shifts like the English Civil War in a sentence: ‘With the ascension of Charles I to the throne we come at last to the utterly memorable Struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).’


Even when I was a teenager, history, though less simplistic, was understood as a series of texts by great authorities, who once they’d ruled on a subject could be taken as gospel. G.R. Elton, for instance, was then much more famous as the author of England Under The Tudors than as the father of the creator of Blackadder, and what he said could be faithfully paraphrased if you wanted an A for your essay.


There were the Whig and Tory theories of history, competing with the Marxists of course — this was the sixties — but they all seemed to exist in separate boxes and there appeared to be little real dialogue or debate, and overarching all of them was the Great Man theory. History — whether it was about Kings and Queens or Prime Ministers and Presidents — was mostly about important guys doing important stuff which changed the world.


A lot about the writing of history has changed in the intervening decades, thank heavens. There was a huge shift away from the great men, for one thing, and towards a perspective that looked at the lives of ordinary people — a shift which radically changed our view of the events surrounding the French Revolution, for example.


There was a minor movement towards the counterfactual — what would have happened if the Germans had won the First World War, for instance — which forced some historians to re-examine some of their assumptions. And there were small books of powerful storytelling which could give you a whole new window into a moment or a sweep of history. I would include in that category Dava Sobel’s Longitude, on the otherwise dry subject of timekeeping and naval warfare in the 18th century, Mark Kurlansky’s book Salt, in which the history of a single chemical illuminates much of human existence, and John Lukacs’ Five Days in London, which tells the story of how Churchill only narrowly defeated the appeasers and saw off Lord Halifax to become Prime Minister in May 1940, probably the single most world-changing political moment of the twentieth century.


It’s among that distinguished company — and in that category — that Nick Whitlam’s book comfortably fits. Because it takes history day by day, switching focus between places and people, it reads almost filmically. It is not just a book about the Spanish Civil War, or the rise of Fascism in Europe, the degree to which sport can ever be apolitical, or the responsibilities of a young man like Edward the Eighth within the confines of a modern constitutional monarchy.


It is — to borrow the title of a BBC Radio series — a book about ‘The things we forgot to remember’: a book about some things we think we know well and others we may never have heard or. Everyone remembers Jessie Owens’ wonderful victories at the Berlin Olympics and the challenge they presented to Hitler’s insane race theories — but who has ever heard about the Popular Olympics in Barcelona, the anti-Olympics if you like? I certainly hadn’t until I read Nick’s book.


Similarly we all know the name of Juan Antonio Samaranch, because it became synonymous with the corruption and authoritarianism of the International Olympic Committee. But where else but in this book can you find him as a 16-year-old fascist preparing to fight for Franco at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, while in a parallel narrative, Avery Brundage is shepherding the American Olympic squad across the Atlantic by ship towards Hitler’s festival of Aryan supremacy?


In a quirk of history it’s Brundage of course, who goes on to create the massive international rort of International Olympianism with its quasi-State privileges, tax untouchability and group of leaders whose greed became unquenchable — and Samaranch to whom — if you’ll pardon the expression — he passes the Olympic torch.


If you believe in genetics, probably no-one but Nick Whitlam could have written this particular book. It begins with a story about his late father and a certain characteristic finickiness about the title of the Duchess of Windsor, and it goes on to be — unmistakably — the book of someone who grew up surrounded by politics in practice and in theory.


But it’s also the book of someone whose mother swam for Australia in the British Empire Games, and swam despite an infection for which there were then no antibiotics. If she’d been a couple of years older in other words, Margaret could well have been there in Berlin or Barcelona. With Margaret and Gough, twenty years after the events in this book, he watched the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.


It’s the book, in other words, of someone who has always combined his interest in politics with a fascination with sport.


This is also a book which forces you to ruminate on history’s turning points. It occurs in the year after Mussolini has gone to war in Abyssinia, a few months after Hitler has taken the Rhineland. The decisions taken by the German and Italian dictators at this time, supporting the Francoists, and by France’s Prime Minister Leon Blum, supporting the Republic, were in retrospect early signs of the long manoeuvring that led up to the Second World War.


Similarly, Britain’s inaction, obsessed as the Government was with the Abdication crisis, provides a melancholy foretaste of the moment less than two years hence when Neville Chamberlain would dismiss Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia as a ‘quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing’.


That reminds me of another anniversary which we’ve just commemorated — Moscow’s crushing of the Hungarian Revolution, exactly sixty years ago, which they were able to get away with because the world was focussed on the spectacular bungle being committed by France and Britain in Egypt over Suez.


Having just myself put out a book which begins and ends with the Cold War, I’m particularly conscious at the moment of the idea that there are eras with defined beginnings and endings.


I never for a moment subscribed to Francis Fukuyama’s theory of the ‘End Of History’, but I confess we had moved from one fairly lengthy era into another. It seemed to me until quite recently that the end of Marxism had catapulted us back into a period that would be much more like the late nineteenth century: great powers manoeuvring fairly cautiously around each other, perhaps in a new version of the Great Game: certainly a return in economic debate to the great Victorian era standoffs of free trade versus imperial protection or mercantilism.


The parallels I didn’t see coming were the ones with the Thirties, in particular the return of a type of populist nationalism to which you can give many labels. Let’s face it, the American term ‘alt-right’ is a euphemism for a host of nasties, from racism to straight out fascism.


We’ve long been warned against comparing anyone too easily to Hitler, and mostly rightly. But it’s not hysterical to note that authoritarians who run up against economic difficulty tend to react by military adventurism. Mussolini invaded Abyssinia — Putin invaded Crimea.


It’s not too much to note that Hitler came to power with considerably less than a majority of the popular vote, and that the establishment fatally miscalculated that it — and the institutions of the State — could control him.


It’s not too much to note either that a leader who comes to power on an authoritarian platform — as Franco did and as Trump has if we take many of his speeches literally — will not necessarily bring about his own downfall through war or incompetence. Franco came to power in the Spanish Civil War and he remained in power, playing a canny game on the national and international stage, for nearly four decades.


And he died in office, untroubled by opposition because he had crushed all opposition. I remember writing his obituary for [radio station] Double J, forty one years ago last month.


They say all great quotes end up being attributed to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein or Mark Twain. Twain, it turns out, did not say ‘History doesn’t repeat itself but it sometimes rhymes’: no-one’s quite sure who did. What he did write, though slightly less pithy, was this ‘History never repeats itself, but the Kaleidoscopic combinations of the pictured present often seem to be constructed out of the broken fragments of antique legends.’


This is a book of kaleidoscopic combinations.


It is constructed, eighty years being several generations, from what might seem to us at first to be broken fragments of antique legends.


But in Nick’s work, this piece of history suddenly speaks to us as if it were yesterday or today.


Draw your own conclusions, draw your own parallels, but I urge you at least to read it. You will be, to borrow a phrase from the ABC Charter, ‘educated, entertained and culturally enriched’.

Christina Stead: The Man Who Loved Children (UK)

Christina Stead, one of Australia’s great novelists: The Man Who Loved Children
‘This crazy, gorgeous family novel is one of the great literary achievements of the twentieth century. I carry it in my head the way I carry childhood memories; the scenes are of such precise horror and comedy that I feel I didn’t read the book so much as lived it.’  — JONATHAN FRANZEN

All the June Saturday afternoon Sam Pollitt’s children were on the lookout for him as they skated round the dirt sidewalks and seamed old asphalt of R Street and Reservoir Road…

Sam and Henny Pollit have too many children, too little money and too much loathing for each other. As Sam uses the children’s adoration to feed his own voracious ego, Henny becomes a geyser of rage against her improvident husband. And, caught in the midst of it all, is Louisa, Sam’s watchful eleven-year-old daughter.

Published in the UK by Apollo. The Norman Rockewll painting used for the cover and for the endpapers is ‘Coming and Going’, 1947. See below.


2016 Brochure for Visiting Publishers

Peter Timms
A Serious History of Silliness

Silliness is basically humour that is completely pointless. It has no moral purpose, it is not satirical, it makes no sense; it thumbs is nose at conventions of form and content and does not fit the standard theories of humour. Silliness is just for fun, although it is not without social and cultural effect.
-silly-walks-1 In this work, high culture happily rubs shoulders with low: when it comes to being silly, the distinction hardly matters. Great authors such as Rabelais and Swift are silly in ways that differ little from the nursery rhymes and popular ditties of their day. Peter Timms explores 18th-century tongue-twisters, the nonsense rhymes of Lewis Carroll, the savage lunacy of Dada, the surrealist antics of the Marx Brothers, the Goons and Monty Python. But above all silliness is timeless. What made people laugh four hundred, or even two thousand years ago, still makes us laugh today.

Peter Timms is the author of many books ranging from books on design, culture, art, gardening to the novel Asking For Trouble, published by HarperCollins in 2014. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania, and to his knowledge nobody has written a serious book on silliness: it is time we took silliness seriously.

Rights available: world

Melissa Ashley
The Birdman’s Wife

This work is based on the life of Elizabeth Gould, the wife of the celebrated zoolologist and world famous lithographer John Gould.

New Guinea birds, lithograph by John Gould
New Guinea birds, lithograph by John Gould

Born in England in 1804, Elizabeth married Gould in 1829. After his wife gave birth to four children, Gould announced his intention to travel to Australia. So she left her three youngest children with her mother and with her eldest child, Henry then aged seven, set sail to Australia, a dangerous and perilous journey in those days. It has now been established that Elizabeth was pivotal to Gould’s success, providing over six hundred drawings for his publications. She was a great creative artist who researched and studied her subjects in minute detail. The couple spent two years in the colonies before returning to England.

This is a meticiously researched work but also a fascinating portrait of the times. Fiona Henderson, now at Affirm Press, is the publisher. The author is a young Queensland academic in her early forties.

Rights available: U.S. and translation.

Nicholas Whitlam
WHEN IT ALL WENT WRONG: Four Weeks, One Summer

This non-fiction work explores the extraordinary events that took place in Europe in 1936. The author, Nicholas Whitlam, highlights just four weeks (18th July to 16th August) of that year to illustrate the tumultuous changes that shaped the world.

The Duke of Windsor (1894 - 1972) and the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson, 1896 - 1986) meeting Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945) in Germany.   (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
The Duke of Windsor (1894 – 1972) and the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson, 1896 – 1986) meeting Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) in Germany. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Opening on the day General Franco started the Spanish Civil War, while at the same time Pablo Casals is rehearsing Beethoven’s paean to humankind Ode To Joy; four weeks later the book concludes with an enthusiastic mass rendition of the Nazis’ the Horst Wessell Song, the last music played at the closing ceremony of the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Written in diary format, the story explores the little-known Peoples’ Olympics in Barcelona; the critical earlys days of the Spanish Civil War; Edward VIII’s scandalous holiday cruise with Mrs Wallis Simpson; the impact of Leni Riefenstahl; Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; and countless others who make up the story of these thirty days.

Nicholas Whitlam is a company director and former banker. A graduate from Harvard University in history, he has long had an interest in Europe between the two World Wars. He has published two previous books: A Nest of Traitors, which dealt with the Petrov affair, and Still Standing, a memoir. He is the son of the former Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam.

Currently under submission. World rights available.

David Whish-Wilson
Samuel Bellamy

Author David Whish-Wilson.
Author David Whish-Wilson.
Samuel Bellamy is a 12-year-old transported from the Swan River Colony in Western Australia to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), but who journeys to San Francisco in 1849 in search of his mother. Upon his arrival, in a gold-rush city populated largely by men, he’s adopted by an Australian crime gang called ‘The Sydney Ducks’, and put to work. This gang of largely escaped Australian convicts was notorious for burning down the city on three occasions between 1849 and 1855 (a too-colourful period of San Franciscan history, currently being made into a cable TV series by Mel Gibson.)
View of what is now the Mission district, San Francisco, c. 1851.
View of what is now the Mission district, San Francisco, c. 1851.

In an age where there’s no such thing as childhood, Sam learns to survive and behave as his older peers do. When he discovers his mother in the city, he is forced to demonstrate his loyalty to her by way of a daring crime — one that puts his life and everything he holds dear at risk.

Photo, San Francisco 1851: By Unknown — Library of Congress CALL NUMBER: DAG no. 1331, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3374703

David Whish-Wilson lives in Fremantle, Western Australia, where he teaches creative writing at Curtin University. He is the author of short stories and and his novels include the crime books The Frank Swan Trilogy. The first volume Line of Sight (Penguin 2010) was followed by Zero At the Bone (Penguin 2013). The third volume, Old Scores, will be released by Fremantle Press in 2016. This trilogy has also been sold into Germany and will be published by Suhrkamp in 2017.

Kirsten Tranter

Her first novel The Legacy was published in 2010. The Guardian described it as “a seductive contemporary literary thriller… a knowing, classy debut”. It was translated into Polish and Spanish.
This was followed by A Common Loss in 2012. The Evening Standard said it was “like a Barbara Vine novel, or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. It’s compulsive, it sucks you in.”
Now we have her third novel, the beautifully evocative Hold. Ceridwen Dovey, author of Only The Animals, said it was “Sensual, spooky, and utterly beguiling: Hold is an enormously powerful work of art, and intimate portrait of grief and betrayal”.

Three years ago, Shelley’s lover, Conrad, died in a surfing accident. She has now moved into an old Victorian terrace with David, her new partner. One morning Shelley discovers a door into a small room. There is a window, a fireplace and a beautiful chandelier. Then she meets a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Conrad… Shelley buys a beautiful, plush red sofa which he moves into the room…

In The Legacy Tranter reimagines Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady, while in Hold there is a similar eerie echo of his short story The Turn of the Screw. Jennifer Levasseur in reviewing it for the Sydney Morning Herald noted how “she evokes an overwhelming sense of dread, tension and trepidation.”

Rights: World Rights available ex Australia/New Zealand

Stephen Daisley
Coming Rain

Stephen Daisley wins NZ$50,000 fiction prize at Ockham NZ Book Awards… Reviewer Sue Green writes: ‘It is four years since Stephen Daisley’s heartbreakingly beautiful debut novel Traitor. Many of us enjoyed the irony of this Western Australia-based Kiwi winning the $80,000 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction with what was, at its heart, a very New Zealand story. So it was disconcerting to discover that this much-anticipated second book is wrought by his experience in the harsh environs of rural Western Australia. Shearer, truck driver, sheep and cattle station worker, Daisley, who moved to Australia more than twenty-five years ago, knows and loves this unforgiving country and its people. [more below]

Daisley: Coming Rain, cover
Daisley: Coming Rain, cover


And it shows. Even such unlovely characters as the violent bigot Painter Hayes are drawn with compassion for a man of his place and time…’

‘This is a brutal, unflinching work with moments of shocking violence. Yet it is rendered with the same compassion, the exquisite tenderness and eye for beauty in the harshest places which made Traitor so affecting and memorable.’