A thrilling night with author

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By CORAL COOKSLEY

A FOR­MER prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist turned author re­cently de­liv­ered an in­trigu­ing in­sight into his first crime novel to a crowd of more than 60 read­ers at In­digo Li­braries’ Beech­worth branch.

The li­brary teamed up with Beech­worth Books to bring writer Chris Ham­mer to Beech­worth dur­ing the bor­der re­gion’s ‘Write Around the Mur­ray’ lit­er­ary fes­ti­val.

Mr Ham­mer was a lead­ing SBS and Fair­fax po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist for more than 30 years be­fore he set out to write the book Scrub­lands.

It fol­lowed ‘The River’, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of man­age­ment of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling river sys­tem and the chal­lenges faced by its de­pen­dent com­mu­ni­ties.

Scrub­lands is a thriller set in a fic­tional Rive­rina farm­ing town in the grip of a dev­as­tat­ing drought.

It tells of the way in which Ri­versend peo­ple are coping a year af­ter a con­fronting crime in which the lo­cal Angli­can priest had shot dead five men from the steps of his church.

Mr Ham­mer said he had never lived in a ru­ral com­mu­nity and the plot was not based on real-life sit­u­a­tions or char­ac­ters, but some land­scape ideas had been drawn from his re­search for ‘The River’.

Mr Ham­mer said he didn’t want to write a stan­dard crime book with a typ­i­cal plot such the Bri­tish tele­vi­sion de­tec­tive se­ries Mid­somer Mur­ders.

In shar­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences in fic­tion writ­ing with the li­brary au­di­ence, he said plot and char­ac­ters evolved to­gether.

“My char­ac­ters de­vel­oped as I wrote and will be fur­ther de­vel­oped in my next book,” he said.

Dis­cus­sions in­cluded book writ­ing tech­niques in­cluded map­ping to keep his writ­ing con­sis­tent and log­i­cal, and his ex­pe­ri­ence with an agent and pub­lish­ers.

Tak­ing five years to write the novel while­work­ing full-time, Mr Ham­mer said trans­la­tion rights to Scrub­lands had been taken up in 12 coun­tries and a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion was in the mak­ing. Mr Ham­mer said he found writ­ing fic­tion lib­er­at­ing. “I can’t be­lieve how lucky I am,” he said. Beech­worth Arts Coun­cil pres­i­dent Jamie Kron­borg hosted the con­ver­sa­tion with Mr Ham­mer for the li­brary and Beech­worth Books.

“He’s had a fas­ci­nat­ing ca­reer as a jour­nal­ist that in­cluded time in the west­ern Rive­rina when in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fu­ture of Mur­ray-Dar­ling river sys­tem com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing the mil­len­nium drought,” he said. “That pro­vided in­spi­ra­tion for ‘Scrub­lands’. “It’s a dark tale with par­tic­u­lar in­sights of coun­try town life and char­ac­ters and I think many peo­ple will rel­ish the story.

“It’s led the adult fic­tion best­seller list in Aus­tralia for more than six weeks.”

Ruther­glen’s Alexan­dra Camp­bell said it was al­ways a great ex­pe­ri­ence to read a book that has reached num­ber one on the best­seller list.

Chris­tine McLeod, also from Ruther­glen, said it was in­ter­est­ing to hear about the story’s writ­ing process.

Mr Ham­mer, in his jour­nal­ism ca­reer, re­ported from more than 30 coun­tries across six con­ti­nents.

He was an in­ter­na­tional cor­re­spon­dent for SBS TV’s cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram Date­line, The Bul­letin’s chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent and a se­nior po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist for The Age.

PHOTO: Coral Cooksley.

EN­GAG­ING: (from left) In­digo Shire Li­brary branch co­or­di­na­tor Lau­ren Kelly Beech­worth Books’ Diane Ing­w­ersen, Author Chris Ham­mer and Beech­worth Arts Coun­cil pres­i­dent Jamie Kron­borg at the Beech­worth li­brary last week.

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