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About the book | From the publisher | From the author | About the author | Events | Reading copy giveaway 


Allen & Unwin is extremely excited to be publishing a stunning debut novel by Australian author Chris Hammer in August 2018. Set in a fictional Riverina town at the height of a devastating drought, Scrublands is one of the most powerful, compelling and original crime novels to be written in Australia, and is already causing major international buzz.


Scrublands About the book

In an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself.

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don’t fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can’t ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest’s deadly rampage.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers—missing since the time of the church shootings—are found in a dam in the scrublands. It’s the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.


From the publisher

‘As soon as I read the extraordinary opening I was hooked, drawn into a story that held me captive until the final page. In Scrublands, Chris has produced something extraordinary—a brilliant mix of page-turning plot, unforgettable characters, and an evocation of the Australian landscape that makes you feel the heat and taste the dust. Allen & Unwin could not be more excited about publishing what we believe will be one of the biggest debuts of 2018.’—Jane Palfreyman, publisher at Allen & Unwin


From the author

At the height of the millennial drought, I travelled through inland Australia researching my nonfiction book The River. It really got under my skin: the landscape, the people, the desperation. Time and again I encountered stories of death and heartache, of hope and resilience. It stayed with me.  

Inevitably, it became the setting of a complex crime story that began bubbling away in my mind. Not just one crime, not just two but… Yet I also wanted to tell a story that was more than a series of plot points; I wanted compromised characters, struggling to survive, just like the town itself. And I wanted that sense of unending drought. Scrublands is the result.


Chris Hammer About the author

Author Chris Hammer has been a journalist for more than 30 years, working as a roving international correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline, as well as chief political correspondent for the Bulletin, a senior writer for the Age newspaper and online political editor for Fairfax. His first book The River (nonfiction), published in 2010, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award as well as being shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award.

Photo credit: Alex Ellinghausen.



Chris Hammer will be available for events during August. If you are interested in holding an event with Chris, please contact Christine Farmer via email:


Reading copy giveaway

Be one of the first to read Scrublands. Email us at for your chance to receive one of 10 proof copies.




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Kelsey Oldham

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Brad Jefferies

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Matthia Dempsey

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