I had great fun interviewing Text publishing stablemates Angela Savage and Jock Serong for our 'Wine and Crime ... all things Noir' event. I've seen Angela speak on a number of panels and she is always very generous with her opinions on the craft of writing and speaks with a great deal of humour about the writing in the crime genre.
Like so many crime writers, Savage has an impressive backstory. She's worked in SE Asia for many years based in Vientiane, Hanoi and later Bangkok, she managed a HIV/AIDS prevention program for the Australian Red Cross that covered Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and southern China. Her first hand-experience of being a foreigner managing cross-cultural programs was the perfect research for a detective novel! She's faced questions of colonialism, neo-colonialism, corruption, adoption and questionable environmental standards to feed the needs of the West. She wanted to highlight these issues (and more) by setting her series of crime mysteries in Thailand. Her books have a remarkable send of place and she shows Thailand to be at once beautiful and flawed.
Sometimes the humour and veil of fiction makes tricky topics approachable. Or at least raises some big questions in the mind of the reader. I read The Dying Beach on a plane to the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival and the irony wasn't lost on me. Here I was heading to a tropical paradise, and reading about another supposed paradise littered with dead bodies. It forced me to look beyond the cliche in my own trip - to see the country as more than a lovely holiday destination. That's exactly what good fiction can and should do.
Still, I'd like to be in the shoes of Angela Savage as she embarks on her next research trip as I have no doubt there are more mysteries to be unravelled by the sassy Jayne Keeney P.I.
I couldn't resist asking such an articulate author about her reading habits.
Kirsty: What have you enjoyed reading in 2014?
Angela: Non-crime highlight for me was Amanda Curtin's Elemental, a big, generous book to savour and reflect on, posing questions about remembering and the repression of memory, about fear, courage, love and forgiveness.
Top crime reads include In the Morning I'll be Gone by Adrian McKinty and Bitter Wash Road by Garry Disher, both of which were shortlisted, together with The Dying Beach, for this year's Ned Kelly Award.
Kirsty: Who can you recommend we read to learn more about Australian Noir fiction?
Angela: Among the books I mentioned last night, which in my opinion approach Australian noir, are The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovett, Peter Temple's novels The Broken Shore and Truth, Jock Serong's Quota, and Annie Hauxwell's novels in the Catherine Berlin series, beginning with In Her Blood.
Those interested in more hardboiled Australian fiction should try Adrian McKinty, Garry Disher, Michael Robotham, Robert Gott's The Holiday Murders, and novels by WA writers David Whish-Wilson and Peter Docker.