A pair of

Ragged claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

I MEN­TIONED last week that Christo­pher Koch has a ter­rific new novel out, Lost Voices. I flew down to Tas­ma­nia re­cently to talk to Koch about the book, and spent a spent a lovely af­ter­noon with the au­thor and his wife, Robin, at their home in Rich­mond, just out­side Ho­bart. You can read my in­ter­view with Koch on page 4. BEREFT is the book that just keeps on giv­ing for Mel­bourne writer Chris Womer­s­ley. The novel, Womer­s­ley’s sec­ond, was pub­lished by Scribe in 2010, won sev­eral awards the fol­low­ing year and was short­listed for the Miles Franklin. Now it has been short­listed for the Crime Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s Gold Dag­ger Award for the best crime novel of the year. Bereft, set in ru­ral Vic­to­ria in the af­ter­math of World War I and cen­tred on a young man blamed for a murder he did not com­mit, is a crime novel in the way Crime and Pu­n­ish­ment is a crime novel. The re­viewer in British news­pa­per The In­de­pen­dent put it well: ‘‘Chris Womer­s­ley has writ­ten a nar­ra­tive that grips like a dingo’s jaws, but at the same time gives us those glimpses into hu­man mo­ti­va­tion, that par­tic­u­lar gift of evok­ing at­mos­phere, which char­ac­terise the most sat­is­fy­ing lit­er­a­ture.’’ Bereft is be­ing lapped up by the crime-fic­tion hun­gry Euro­peans, with the French edition just go­ing into a sec­ond print run. Womer­s­ley’s three ri­vals for the Gold Dag­ger, which is worth £2500 ($3900) and will be an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 18, are M. R. Hall for The Flight, Gene Ker­ri­gan for The Rage and N. J. Cooper for Vengeance in Mind. The last Aus­tralian to win this cov­eted crime-writ­ing prize was Peter Tem­ple for The Bro­ken Shore in 2007. You can learn more about the CWA and the Gold Dag­ger at www.thecwa.co.uk. And Bereft is not Womer­s­ley’s only prize con­tender in Bri­tain next month: he also has made the 10-writer short­list for the BBC Short Story Award, for his Chan­dleresque ti­tled A Lovely and Ter­ri­ble Thing. That prize, worth a cool £15,000, will be an­nounced on Tues­day. Fans will be pleased to hear Womer­s­ley is well into his third novel, due to be pub­lished by Scribe next Septem­ber. ‘‘It’s called Cairo and set in the mid-1980s art world,’’ he tells me. ‘‘It’s a com­ing-of-age tale about a young man who falls in with a group of charis­matic bo­hemi­ans who lure him into tak­ing part in a fa­mous art heist. There’s a lit­tle some­thing for ev­ery­one: a love story, a bit of be­trayal and some art forgery.’’ DEPART­MENT of cor­rec­tions. Last week’s re­view of the An­thony Bour­dain-Joel Rose graphic novel Get Jiro! was at­trib­uted to An­drew McMillen. The re­viewer was in fact Cefn Rid­out. And we jumped the gun with Iain Shed­den’s re­view of a new bi­og­ra­phy of Leonard Co­hen, I’m Man, as Ran­dom House does not pub­lish it un­til Novem­ber 1. I blame the Co­hen stuff-up on my en­thu­si­asm for the man and his mu­sic and my in­creas­ingly un­re­li­able mem­ory. QUOTE of the week: ‘‘Any resid­ual nas­ti­ness in ... Sweet Tooth has been cu­ri­ously dis­placed, on to the cover of the book. I don’t mean the pho­to­graphic im­age, which shows a glam­orous woman in a red dress . . . I mean the tex­ture of the ac­tual lam­i­na­tion used on the dust jacket, al­most sticky yet al­most slimy, cre­at­ing a sub­lim­i­nal urge to wash the hands that have been contact with it. This is an ef­fect no e-book can hope to du­pli­cate.’’ British nov­el­ist and critic Adam Mars-Jones, re­view­ing Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth in the Lon­don Re­view of Books, re­minds us that he’s the reign­ing Hatchet Job of the Year title­holder.

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