A thrilling night with author
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.
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.