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Inside the Australian book industry

Australian women crime writers feted

Australia’s two premier awards for crime writing were presented this month, and three women bagged prizes at each: Dervla McTiernan for her debut novel The Ruin (HarperCollins), Jane Harper for her third novel The Lost Man (Pan) and Bri Lee for her memoir-cum-exploration of the Australian legal system Eggshell Skull (Allen & Unwin). McTiernan already had reason to celebrate: her novel is being developed for the screen by Irish actor Colin Farrell’s new production company.

In this pre-Frankfurt Book Fair edition of Think Australian, we’re bringing you a selection of new titles from Australian publishers Transit Lounge, Spinifex Press, Spineless Wonders and newcomer Journeys to Words Publishing. You’ll find them in our Frankfurt preview below.

You’ll also find many more Australian publishers exhibiting at the fair, and a chance to mingle at the Aussie-IPG stand party. Put it in your diary: Thursday 17 October at 5.30 pm, Hall 6.2 A56-57.

This edition of Think Australian is being sent to subscribers of Publishers Weekly ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair. If you were sent this newsletter as a PW subscriber and would like to continue receiving our free monthly newsletters, sign up here.

Andrea Hanke
Think Australian

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The Sea & Us

From the Stella Prize-shortlisted author, this is a heart-warming novel about longing, absence and the people we unexpectedly come to love. A young man called Harold rents a room above a fish and chip shop called The Sea & Us. Who he meets and what he experiences there propels him to question his own yearnings and failings, and to fight for meaning and a sense of place that can only be reached by facing what is lost. By turns electric, tender, and hopeful, The Sea & Us is a gem of literary imagination. Catherine de Saint Phalle brilliantly captures disparate characters and their common human desire for community and connection.

The Sea & Us by Catherine de Saint Phalle
Publisher: Transit Lounge
Rights held: World


Field of Poppies

Keen to escape the pressures of city life, Marsali Swift and her husband, William, are drawn to Listowel, a glorious historic mansion in the seemingly tranquil small town of Muckleton. There is time to read, garden and befriend the locals. Yet one night Listowel is robbed, and soon after a neighbour is murdered. The violent history of the couple’s adopted Goldfields town is revealed, and plans for a new goldmine emerge. Atmospheric and beguiling, this is a novel that seduces the reader with mysteries and beauties but also speaks of something much larger. The planet is in trouble, but is the human race up to the challenge? Are Marsali and William walking blindfolded into a hostile world?

Field of Poppies by Carmel Bird
Publisher: Transit Lounge
Rights held: World


Almost a Mirror

Like fireflies to light, Mona and Danny are drawn to the glamour of the Crystal Ballroom and the post-punk music scene of 1980s Melbourne, and into the orbit of musicians such as Nick Cave and Dodge, a rock photographer intent on pushing his art to the edge. Set in the Blue Mountains as well as the city, Almost a Mirror is about photography, relationships and rock n roll—what we make of memories and what memories make of us—about how we are all shaped by the people and places that we have lost but how our chosen music can make our past available to us all over again. Evocative, tender and heart-wrenching. A novel tinged with both tragedy and joy.

Almost a Mirror by Kirsten Krauth
Publisher: Transit Lounge
Rights held: World


Parallax: A novel

Robin Morgan’s most radiant prose, spare but sensuous, welcomes you into her dazzling imagination. This is a story about storytelling—a set of shorter tales which, like Russian dolls, nest and fit together to reveal a larger one. A fable for the future, a prediction about the past, Parallax is a luscious story that enfolds you and demands immediate re-reading the moment you finish, a story that surprises you and invites you to play with the patterns inside its paradoxes, a story whose characters will accompany you long after reading.

‘I read it because I started it and did not want to stop. The more I read, the more I did not want to stop.’—Ursula K Le Guin

Parallax: A novel by Robin Morgan
Publisher: Spinifex Press
Rights held: World
Frankfurt Book Fair: Hall 6.2 A57


My Name is Revenge

On 17 December 1980, two men shot the Turkish consul-general to Sydney and his bodyguard near the consul’s home in Vaucluse. The assassins aimed, fired and vanished.

From the assassination in Australia, one of a series of international terrorist attacks, the story traces back to the streets of 1920s Berlin and the Armenian genocide of World War I. Three companion essays provide historical context.

‘Against a backdrop of eucalypts and thrumming cicadas, Kalagian Blunt deftly sketches her portrait of a family reckoning with its past. Dealing imaginatively with questions of radicalisation, displacement, and assimilation, this story feels very pertinent to our current political climate, and makes for a gripping read.’—Adele Dumont, author of No Man Is an Island

My Name is Revenge: A novella and collected essays by Ashley Kalagian Blunt
Publisher: Spineless Wonders
Rights held: World



Motherling addresses every parent of an adult child’s nightmare. Your child is grown up. He’s got a great job, living a happy life overseas. You don’t have to worry about him any more like you did when he was young. And then a call from halfway round the world. Something terrible has happened.

Join a grieving mother as she walks the ancient pilgrim pathways of the Camino de Santiago. She describes her experiences of time and place, making keen observations of the lives and energy around her. On behalf of all mothers, she invents a new and loving name for women who have lost a child. This is a tale of love, and a pathway from tears to calm.

Motherling by Jen Hutchison
Publisher: Journeys to Words Publishing
Rights held: World


High Infidelity

At 44, loyal English wife Lara Winters discovers that Brock, her husband of 21 years, has betrayed her. Devastated, desperate, she flees her home in London and heads for the farthest place she can imagine from her old, blinkered life. She heads for Byron Bay, Australia. On her first day in the laid-back town, Lara almost runs over the red-haired, slightly raddled Ruby in a car park. Relieved to be still alive, the warm-hearted Aussie leases Lara a small cottage on her semi-rural property where Lara’s journey of self-discovery begins. This is a search for self and an entertaining and engaging review of life’s fundamental tenets—independence, fidelity, loyalty, friendship and love.

High Infidelity by Shelley Davidow
Publisher: Journeys to Words Publishing
Rights held: World


Hardie Grant sells multiple rights to new Clive Hamilton book on China

Hardie Grant Books has sold US, UK, German-language and Dutch-language rights to a forthcoming book by Australian academic Clive Hamilton on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) international influence. According to the publisher, Hidden Hand: Exposing how the Chinese Communist Party is reshaping the world, co-authored by German academic Mareike Ohlberg, will be the first exposé of the CCP’s network of influence and interference operations in Europe and North America. Hamilton is the author of the 2018 book Silent Invasion: China’s influence in Australia.

Black Inc. has sold North American rights to journalist Jess Hill’s nonfiction book See What You Made Me Do—an investigation into domestic abuse and the justice system in Australia—to Sourcebooks.


Pantera Press has acquired ANZ rights to literary crime novel Torched by Kimberley Starr in a two-book deal. Set in regional Australia, the story follows a school principal and her son in the aftermath of a bushfire as the son is accused of being the arsonist. ‘Torched is the kind of book that forces you to hold a mirror up to yourself: what do you believe the people you love are capable of?’ said Pantera Press publishing director Lex Hirst. ‘Kimberley perfectly captures the achingly complex relationship between a mother and her son, along with the fear, rage and reactionary prejudice of a small community under threat.’

Text has acquired world rights to a new novel by Kate Grenville, author of the bestselling The Secret River. A Room Made of Leaves tells the story of pastoralist and merchant Elizabeth Macarthur—a woman of ‘spirit, cunning and sly wit’—in the infant colony of Sydney.

UQP has acquired world rights to Ellen van Neerven’s second poetry collection Throat, described by the publisher as ‘a collection of poems about whiteness, climate change, extinctions; about types of shame lodged squarely in the throat; about family, identity, queerness and pride’. Publisher Aviva Tuffield said: ‘Throat is an incredible collection that takes Ellen’s work to a whole new level and confirms their place as a key writer of their generation.’

Screen adaptations

Dervla McTiernan’s debut crime novel The Ruin (HarperCollins)—an Ireland-set police procedural, which recently picked up several prizes at the Ned Kelly and Davitt awards (see Awards)—is being developed for the screen by Irish actor Colin Farrell’s production company Chapel Place Productions alongside Australia’s Hopscotch Features. Producer Troy Lum of Hopscotch said of the novel: ‘We all responded so strongly to the material, which is driven by a richly authentic protagonist—detective Cormac Reilly—and set in the unique beauty of the west coast of Ireland.’

A TV adaptation of Meg Mundell’s novel The Trespassers (UQP)—a literary page-turner set on an emigrant ship in the near future—is being developed by Triptych Pictures and production company Fremantle. Producer Jo Porter said Mundell’s novel ‘lends itself to the kind of event television that makes it the perfect addition to our international drama slate’. ‘Through a group of isolated strangers forming connections, the book explores a range of relevant contemporary issues in a tense and suspenseful setting.’

For the latest Australian rights sales and acquisitions news, click here.

(Pictured: Clive Hamilton)


Multiple wins for McTiernan, Harper and Lee

Australian women crime writers have cleaned up at the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing and—predictably—the Davitt Awards for crime books by Australian women. The multiple winners were Dervla McTiernan for her debut novel The Ruin (HarperCollins), Jane Harper for The Lost Man (Pan) and Bri Lee for her true crime book Eggshell Skull (Allen & Unwin).

Australian independent bookseller Readings has announced the shortlist for its New Australian Fiction Prize, which recognises ‘exciting and exceptional new contributions to local literature’ and is open to first or second works. The shortlisted titles are: A Constant Hum (Alice Bishop, Text), Inappropriation (Lexi Freiman, Allen & Unwin), The Flight of Birds (Joshua Lobb, Sydney University Press), A Superior Spectre (Angela Meyer, Ventura), This Taste for Silence (Amanda O’Callaghan, UQP) and The Glad Shout (Alice Robinson, Affirm).

The ‘Nib’ Literary Award, which recognises the role of research in fiction and nonfiction, has delivered an all-nonfiction shortlist. The shortlisted titles are: An Unconventional Wife: The life of Julia Sorrell Arnold (Mary Hoban, Scribe), Imperfect: How our bodies shape the people we become (Lee Kofman, Affirm), Her Mother’s Daughter: A memoir (Nadia Wheatley, Text), The Arsonist (Chloe Hooper, Hamish Hamilton), Dr Space Junk vs The Universe: Archaeology and the future (Alice Gorman, NewSouth) and Steve Smith’s Men (Geoff Lemon, Hardie Grant).


‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ top Australian charts

While the two titles at the top of the Australian fiction and nonfiction bestsellers charts continue their impressive runs, elsewhere in the top 10 there are plenty of new titles. After debuting in sixth place in the fiction chart last month, Michael Robotham’s latest thriller Good Girl, Bad Girl has risen to second place, while Miles Franklin Literary Award-winner Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko received a prize-winning boost into fourth spot. They join five brand new entries: Sophie Green’s The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle, Sarah Bailey’s Where the Dead Go, Rachael Treasure’s White Horses, Tony Park’s Ghosts of the Past and Joy Rhoades’ The Burnt Country.

In nonfiction, new entries include journalist Adele Ferguson’s investigation of Australia’s banking sector, Banking Bad; bestselling children’s author and educator John Marsden’s manifesto on raising kids, The Art of Growing Up; and the first in-depth biography of the AC/DC founder, Jeff Apter’s Malcolm Young.

Australian fiction bestsellers: August

  1. Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, Fourth Estate)
  2. Good Girl, Bad Girl (Michael Robotham, Hachette)
  3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, Echo Publishing)
  4. Too Much Lip (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP)
  5. The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle (Sophie Green, Hachette)
  6. Where the Dead Go (Sarah Bailey, Allen & Unwin)
  7. White Horses (Rachael Treasure, HarperCollins)
  8. Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Macmillan)
  9. Ghosts of the Past (Tony Park, Macmillan)
  10. The Burnt Country (Joy Rhoades, Bantam)

Australian nonfiction bestsellers: August

  1. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, John Wiley)
  2. Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books)
  3. Banking Bad (Adele Ferguson, ABC Books)
  4. Dear Dad (Samuel Johnson, Hachette)
  5. 4 Ingredients Keto (Kim McCosker, 4 Ingredients)
  6. Plots and Prayers (Niki Savva, Scribe)
  7. The Art of Growing up (John Marsden, Macmillan)
  8. Easy Keto (Pete Evans, Plum)
  9. Halliday Wine Companion 2020 (James Halliday, Hardie Grant Books)
  10. Malcolm Young (Jeff Apter, Allen & Unwin)

© Nielsen BookScan 2019
Period covered: 4­–31 August 2019
Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan’s book sales monitoring system from 1000 retailers nationwide

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