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About the book

Philadelphia, 1961. After having to give up his brother to save his own life, hitman Blake Saunders flees the Mob and seeks refuge on the other side of the world. Two years later he is reborn in a tiny coastal Australian town. The ghosts of the past still haunt him, but otherwise Coral Shoals is paradise. Blake surfs, and plays guitar in his own bar, the Surf Shack. But then the body of a young woman is found at a local motel, and evidence links her to the Surf Shack. When Blake’s friend is arrested, and the local sergeant doesn’t want to know, it becomes clear to Blake—who knows a thing or two about murder—that the only way to protect his paradise is to find the killer.

River of Salt
Author: Dave Warner
ISBN: 9781925591569
Format: C Format PB
Release date: April 2019


Advance praise

‘Part Goodfellas and part love letter to Australian coastal towns, this wonderfully imagined crime novel is like riding the perfect wave.’
—Michael Robotham

‘Dave Warner captures the heyday and spirit of the surf music scene perfectly. This is a pitch-perfect crime thriller of epic twists and turns.’
—Jim Skiathitis, composer and guitarist, The Atlantics

‘… full of engaging, well-drawn characters.’
Adelaide Advertiser


Interview with the author

You’re a musician by trade and each of your books seems to have its own soundtrack. Tell us about the particular era and style of music that inspired your new crime novel River of Salt?

I’ve been nursing this idea for I guess seven or eight years, ever since I went to a gig by the legendary Australian surf band The Atlantics, who had a worldwide hit back in the 60s with the surf instrumental track ‘Bombora’. Martin Cilia, Australia’s premier surf guitarist, had since joined the band and Martin and I have collaborated on music for thirty years. As I watched the band, and as I listened I started buzzing on the whole idea of a TV show set in the early 60s—the years of my youth—but with a coastal feel, watusi dances, surfing and so on. I remembered black-and-white TVs with lopsided screens, men with Caesar haircuts and kids playing in rumpus rooms, pogo sticks. I wasn’t sure whether it should be a comedy or drama, but then I went to what I know best and thought, why not a murder? I wrote it up as a TV series idea but was simultaneously thinking about it as a novel. The era is very emotive and the music from that era, for people my age at least, is very evocative.

You’re touring WA and NSW and you’ve even written a song to go with your talks, is that right?

There is one point in the book where Blake, the main character, is playing a ballad on stage and I thought, ‘I should write that song.’ So, I have done, and I recorded it with Martin—and I hope to have it out by the time of the book’s release.

Why is your lead character Blake, who is a cold-hearted killer and a Yank to boot, so appealing?

While Blake is an efficient killer, I don’t think he’s cold-hearted. He steels himself to do what he does, but he doesn’t want to do it, he just doesn’t know how to get away from it. Circumstances conspire to offer him that way, but they come with a price, and that price is being constantly aware of the blackness of where he has come from. Blake may be a killer, but he is an honourable and caring person in his day-to-day relationships with people, and he never seeks to pretty up or excuse his deeds. But he is prepared to risk everything, including his own life, to protect innocent people, and that is why we like him.

Your female characters must be some of the most likeable in Aussie crime fiction to date, and they play a major role in the book. Why have you included such a strong supporting cast of women?

I didn’t set out to write ‘strong’ women characters any more than I set out to write strong male characters, I just try to construct characters with humanity and surprising secret places in their innermost thoughts. If this means the characters are strong then perhaps it is because I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong women in my life as I grew up, and by that I don’t mean women who scaled political heights or took charge of their lives the way you see in so many TV dramas and films these days. In that period, the 60s, this just wasn’t the case and those shows that paint those pictures are mostly a sham. But characters who are resilient even though they are vulnerable I find very appealing, and I think that’s what my main females characters are in the book—resilient.

Can you surf?

No. In my day as a teenager, you could either play in a band or surf, but definitely not both. Brian Wilson never surfed and he is the greatest songwriter of his generation.


About the author

Dave Warner is an author, musician and screenwriter. His first novel City of Light won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Fiction, and Before it Breaks the Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime fiction. His last novel Clear to the Horizon features the lead characters from both these books. Dave Warner originally came to national prominence with his gold album Mug’s Game, and his band Dave Warner’s from the Suburbs. In 2017 he released his tenth album When. He has been named a Western Australian State Living Treasure and has been inducted into the WAMi Rock’n’Roll of Renown.


Tour dates

  • Western Australia: 26 March to 6 April 2019
  • New South Wales: 10 to 17 April 2019

Contact Fremantle Press for event bookings: or (08) 9430 6331.


Digital assets

  • Read a sample chapter of River of Salt here.
  • Download the Book Club notes here.
  • See the marketing kit for booksellers here.

Free advance copies

Fremantle Press is giving away five free advance reading copies of River of Salt. To be in the running contact




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Kelsey Oldham

Digital editor
Brad Jefferies

Acting editor, Daily
Matthia Dempsey

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