Thursday, 10 July 2014

Top 5 - A completely idiosyncratic list of Aussie books

Publishing my second book with an Australian setting, THE LAST TIGER,  (the first was last year's HIS FATHER'S SON) has set me thinking about other books set in the Lucky Country.

A quick scan at my blog stats tells me most of you reading this are in the States and the UK, and only a few are from Oz - so it seems like a good idea to share some of the fruits of the Aussie writing mill with those of you who might not have come across the best and the brightest from Down Under.

So, here's my completely idiosyncratic list of books set in Australia. They're not all by Aussie authors, and there's at least one short story collection in the mix but I'm vouching for the quality of each and every one of them.

1. TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG by Peter Carey. Where do I start with this one from the double Booker-winner. If you know the Ned Kelly story, or even have a passing familiarity with it, then you know it's a ripper of a yarn. Kelly, the son of poor Irish immigrants who were ruthlessly persecuted by the colonial government, took off on a crime spree that makes Dillinger's escapades look like a picnic. Throw in hand-made armour and numerous bank heists along the way and you get the picture. I've read a few of Carey's books and this is without doubt my favourite. An incredibly finely drawn character study of Australia's most infamous bushranger, told in glistening prose. Top class.

2. RED DOG by Louis de Bernieres.
He's more famous for Captain Corelli's Mandolin but Brit, de Berniers's little novel about an errant bush dog that can't stop picking up new owners is a must read slice of modern-day Australiana. De Berniers stumbled across the stories of the legendary Red Dog on a trip Down Under and felt compelled to commit them to print. I'm glad he did. I read this book when I was living in country Australia and it rings totally true to life. A raucous romp through the spinefex and dust of rural Oz that will leave you both laughing and smiling.

3. TIGER TALES by Col Bailey.
Australia's past is fertile ground for many a writer, they were hard times those early frontiersmen and women faced and nowhere fared worse than Tasmania. The small apple-shaped isle at the foot of the continent has a rich and varied history - Ned Kelly's family hailed from there - but perhaps even more interesting is the variety of wildlife, unique anywhere else in the world. Everyone has heard of the Tasmanian devil, but the isle also hosted, or should that be hosts, tigers. Bailey is a world-renowned authority on the Tasmanian tiger, a veteran bush explorer with nearly half-a-century's experience under his belt and a cast-iron belief that the tiger, although officially extinct, still survives. He should know - he's seen it twice. Tiger Tales is Bailey's collection of frontier tales from the time when tigers were plentiful and stalked the lands of the new European settlers. A brilliant, all-encompassing and beautifully told collection that is so all-Australian you'll be shoo-ing flies whilst you read it.

4. THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple.
Crime fiction fans around the work are likely already familiar with Temple's work and the reason for that is his breakthrough novel, The Broken Shore. Essentially a detective yarn it rises above the standard fare in its depictions of a modern vibrant Australia coming to terms with its long journey from convict roots. Temple, a resident of the Victorian town of Ballarat, originally hails from South Africa but writes like a life-long native. The descriptions of the landscape and its inhabitants are crisply told; add in a rattling good crime plot and what more could you ask for from one of the world's most popular genres.

5. FAVOURITE AUSTRALIAN SHORT STORIES - edited by Harry Heseltine.
I'll admit to buying this book on the strength of the cover image - two larakins propping up a bar in a stereotypical Aussie ale house - but the contents were even more appealing. The book spans the country's cities and small towns and is the perfect companion to take on any outback adventure, though if you can't manage a trip Down Under, don't worry because the stories in this collection are so evocative by the end of it you'll feel like you've been there. Some great Aussie writers, contemporary and classic alike, fill the pages: people like, the double-Booker winner we mentioned earlier, Peter Carey, Henry Lawson - the colonial-era legend who is often called Australia's greatest short story writer - and the first Australian Nobel-winner, novelist Patrick White.

:: Discover more about the brightest and the best of Australian literature at Wikipedia.