Surprise visitor at Hustling Hinkler library talk

One of the rewarding aspects of talking about and signing my Hustling Hinkler book is meeting lots of fascinating people, all with their own stories to tell. I had a pleasant suprise at Carindale Library on Saturday 17 August, when I discovered mid-way through my talk that in the audience was 92-year-old Eldred (Ed) Cunningham, who told us he had seen Bert Hinkler arrive in Bundaberg at the end of his record-breaking England-Australia flight in 1928!

with Jennie at Carindale Library 17 August 2013

with Jennie at Carindale Library 17 August 2013

Not only did Ed vividly remember that day he went along with his dad to see the famous aviator land, he gave us a brilliant rendition of the 1928 song, ‘Hustling Hinkler’. The 25 or so people assembled at the library for the occasion gave him a well-deserved burst of applause for his contribution to a very enjoyable session. My wife Cheryl has suggested I should take Ed and his Hustling Hinkler song with me whenever I talk about the book.

Carindale Library is a modern progressive facility with great resources and well-equipped meeting

with Craig, co-owner of Dymock Carindale, Brisbane

with Craig, co-owner of Dymocks Carindale, Brisbane

rooms, and I am thankful to Jennie and the other staff there for the invitation to talk about Hustling Hinkler. Olwyn from Dymocks Carindale was also there with a book stand, and kindly invited me to the store, where I found myself face-to-face with a poster of myself. Scary.

Hustling Hinkler and I have been busy the past week. In addition to the Carindale Library talk, I did interviews with Sky Kirkham for the 4ZZZZ bookclub, Sue Gammon and David on ABC Wide Bay (which includes Bert Hinkler’s hometown of Bundaberg), and two with newspapers: Megan from the Sunshine Coast Daily, and Jim Fagon from Noosa Today.

On Friday, I had an interesting and enjoyable chat on ABC local radio with Phil Smith and his mate Ian ‘Watto’ Watson, in the ‘Shed happens’ segment,  on the theme of ‘blokes and the spirit of adventure – are there still “Hinklers” today?’  You can download an mp3 of the show, which is part of ‘Breakfast on Saturday’ program. Watto has written a self-published book, Every bloke’s a champion – even you, which he tells me is available at ABC online. His theme, ‘I’ve never seen a bloke go backwards with encouragement’, has echoes of my e-book, Extending your use-by date: why retirement age is only a number, published earlier this year.

In the coming week, I’m doing an interview on the ABC Sunshine Coast breakfast program on Wednesday, then I’m off on a short tour – firstly to Rosetta Books Maleny (Sunshine Coast hinterland) at 6pm Thursday 22 August, and then the following evening at Written Dimension at nearby Noosa. On Saturday 24 August at 11am I’ll be at the library in Bert Hinkler’s hometown of Bundaberg.

I’m looking forward to returning to that city, which was affected by severe flooding earlier this year,

Hinkler Hall of Aviation Bundaberg

Hinkler Hall of Aviation Bundaberg

and is apparently still recovering. In an earlier blog, I told how that event had an impact on my plans to obtain photos for Hustling Hinkler, because the waters that washed away parts of the city also swept through the records section of the Hinkler Hall of Aviation. Fortunately that marvellous facility has now re-opened.

Book launch for Hustling Hinkler ends with author as window display

Hustling Hinkler launch - Riverbend Books

Hustling Hinkler launch – Riverbend Books

We had a wonderful launch of Hustling Hinkler at Riverbend Books in Brisbane on Friday 9 August, which happened to be the eve of National Bookshop Day in Australia. It was a balmy spring evening in Brisbane, and the outside deck at Riverbend was crowded with people chatting and having a drink before the more formal part of the proceedings got under way.  I was grateful to my brother Ian (who is always quick to point out that he is the younger of the two boys in our family) for emceeing the event and establishing the warm tone that prevailed throughout the evening (until the dressing gown episode – see below).

The CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre, Meg Vann, launched the book with generous words that were clearly appreciated by the 60+ members of the audience. I am particularly pleased that Meg was able to accept the invitation to launch the book, because QWC is a co-sponsor with Hachette of the Manuscript Development Program.

Meg Vann, QWC CEO, launching Hustling Hinkler at Riverbend Books, Brisbane

Meg Vann, QWC CEO, launching Hustling Hinkler at Riverbend Books, Brisbane

As part of the celebration, my work colleague, singer and song-leader, Ray Smith, cajoled the audience into singing a song from 1928. They responded so enthusiastically that the diners at the Mexican restaurant next door must have paused in mid-mouthful as the sound echoed across the ‘lifestyle precinct’ of Oxford Street, Bulimba, on a Friday night.

It was great to see family members, work colleagues and friends from various parts of my life at the launch, as well as fellow writers from the 2010 Development Workshop, Rebekah Turner and Charlotte Nash. I made new friends too – keen readers on Riverbend’s mailing list who responded to the invitation.

Beforehand, I had spent most of Friday with the very professional Adele Fewster, visiting ten bookshops around Brisbane, and signing copies of Hustling Hinkler. It was really good to meet the booksellers, people in the frontline of the publishing industry who, despite sometimes gloomy predictions, in general were very positive about the role of bookshops and optimistic about sales. It’s great that National Bookshop Day recognises their place in the community.

An unexpected element of the launch was when Krysi from Riverbend asked me if I would loll on a chaise lounge in the window of the bookshop to have my photo taken for Riverbend’s Facebook page for National Bookshop Day. If you think you’re up to it, you can see me in a dressing gown (!) reading Hustling Hinkler, on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/darryldymockwriter

Hustling Hinkler: Book launch at end of rocky road

In a previous blog, I talked about the rocky road to publication. Well, that road has finally come to a happy end on this occasion – on 30 July Hachette Australia published my non-fiction book, Hustling Hinkler: the short tumultuous life of a trailblazing Australian aviator, in hard copy and online. The launch will be on Friday 9 August at 6pm at Riverbend Books, Oxford Street, Bulimba, and anyone in the vicinity is welcome – it’s free, but you need to book: phone 07 3899 8555. For those readers of my blog elsewhere in Australia and across the world, I hope you are able to obtain a copy from your local bookshop or online.

I was in Singapore on business the day Hustling Hinkler went onto the bookshop shelves in Australia, so solaced myself by downloading an e-copy to my tablet, which I read on the plane during the seven-hour trip home. I really enjoyed it – this D R Dymock is a great writer, I said to myself 🙂

I will have to wait for more objective reviews, but have been encouraged by the generous endorsement in the book by Richard de Crespigny, author of the multi-award winning QF32 (about how he saved a Qantas plane from a mid-air disaster).

Since my return to Brisbane, I’ve enjoyed doing four radio interviews about the book, with Wayne Taylor at Radio West, Perth, John Stanley for his 2UE Sydney Weekend Breakfast program, Chris Coleman on ABC Statewide Afternoons NSW, and Tim Cox on my local ABC station, 612 Brisbane.

My busy publicist at Hachette, Alice Wood, has lined up more interviews for me over the next couple of weeks. I’ll also be appearing at Carindale Library, Brisbane, at 10am on Saturday 17 August, and the following Saturday, 24 August, at Bundaberg Library at 11am, both in association with Dymocks* bookstores.

I’m also delighted to have been invited to be the guest of Rosetta Books at Maleny, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, at 6pm on Thursday 22 August, and the following evening at the nearby Written Dimension, Noosa Junction. Then it will be a sprint up the highway (but obeying the speed limit, of course) to Bundaberg on Saturday morning for my library appearance there.

In the first review I’ve seen of the book since its publication, I was heartened that the reviewer, Owen Zupp, a commercial pilot and author of 50 Tales of Flight, appreciated what I was trying to achieve in Hustling Hinkler – to show the man behind the hero:

“In life and death, Bert Hinkler was a rare blend of hero and enigma. Darryl Dymock has wonderfully and respectfully recalled his achievements and revealed new perspectives of this quiet, complex Queenslander. ‘Hustling Hinkler’ is a book that not only examines the daring lone flier, but helps us to Hinkler head shotunderstand the man. As such it is fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in flight, history or the human condition.”

If other reviews show that the book has reached the reader in this way, I will be a contented author. Until the next book, that is

* No relation

I almost cried and damn near died: The rocky road to publication

In an earlier blog, I told you that my narrative non-fiction book, Hustling Hinkler, which was selected for the 2010 Queensland Writers Centre/Hachette Development Workshop, will be published by Hachette Australia in August this year. If you’re a non-fiction writer, I’d like to tell you that the first most important thing I’ve learned along the way is that narrative non-fiction tells a story. This may seem self-evident, but what matters is how you tell the story.

Although the basic and remarkable story of Bert Hinkler, the trail-blazing aviator, has stayed the same, and is based on extensive research, the style of the writing is quite a way from where it started. Vanessa Radnidge, the publisher at Hachette, continually said to me, ‘You know Hinkler’s story so well. Just tell his story.’ The manuscript went through a number of iterations, and I read lots of other non-fiction before the penny fully dropped. I clearly remember saying aloud, to myself, ‘I get it, Vanessa. I get it!’ Tell the story! Build word pictures! Engage the reader! And Vanessa agreed I’d got it too. And she convinced the rest of Hachette Australia that I’d got it. And now it will be published. On 30 July. With my name on the cover. Awesome.

On re-reading the paragraph above, I can see it is an inadequate summary of my journey from when the book was chosen for the 2010 Development Workshop, and where it is today, about to come off the press. The truth is that I sweated, I doubted, I was up, I was down, I almost cried and damn near died! But I didn’t give up.

This leads me to the second most important thing I’ve learned: write, rewrite and rewrite again. Of course, it’s likely that no author is entirely happy with every aspect of their story, whether it be non-fiction or fiction. But nor should we be satisfied with our first draft, or even the second or third.  Keep writing until it’s the best you can make it.  I wrestled with that manuscript, I wrote it and rewrote it in response to what I learned at the QWC/Hachette Development Workshop, and I wrote it and rewrote it in response to what the Hachette publisher and editors wanted, before I was offered a contract. And I’ve revised it at least twice since. (It also had a change of title along the way – better to get the storytelling right, then worry about the title.)

Some of what I initially regarded as brilliant writing, cleverly linking parts of Bert Hinkler’s life together in a way that readers would no doubt find fascinating, perhaps even highly amusing, ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. And good writing needs good editing – check the spelling, check the grammar, and don’t be cute with fonts and embellishments. Write, rewrite, proofread. As my former tutor, Kim Wilkins, said in the June 2013 issue of WQ magazine, aim for excellence.

And the third piece of advice I have from my relatively short literary career is: don’t give up. Publishing is a tough industry, and arguably more volatile than ever. The demise of bookshops such as Borders and Angus and Robertson means there are fewer outlets in Australia, and e-publishing (into which I have also recently entered, with Xoum Publishing) is still a developing and uncertain field for writers and publishers alike. Nevertheless, writers are still getting published.

Above the desk where I write, I have pinned a quote from the late Isaac Asimov, the science fiction writer,

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, who wrote more than 500 books.  Asimov said:

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.

I’m a great believer in persistence.

‘Hustling Hinkler’ and other productive stories

Being productive 1

Things are starting to hot up as the launch of Hustling Hinkler: the short tumultuous life of a trail-blazing Australian aviator, draws near. Hachette Australia will publish this narrative non-fiction book on 30 July, so it will be in the bookshops and online from that date onwards. The book is currently with the printer, and I’m looking forward to finally having a copy in my hands.

The publicist I’ve been working with at Hachette, Alice Wood, has been setting up author events with libraries and bookshops, and it will be great to be able to talk about Hustling Hinkler on those occasions, and meet with prospective readers. If you’re in southern Queensland, watch for details here and in the press; if you’re not, watch for the book in your bookshop and online.

Being productive 2

On 10 July, the Brisbane Courier Mail published a feature article by Fran Metcalf about the Queensland Writers Centre/Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program, based on interviews with fellow Hachette author, Charlotte Nash and myself. Charlotte and I took part in the 2010 development program, and Fran Metcalf did a good job weaving our stories together.

Being productive 3

In regard to my other book published this year, Extending your use-by date, I recently submitted a related article, ‘Have you got a use-by date?’ to a new e-magazine, Starts at sixty, which was published on 26 June. I hope to contribute more articles to this publication, which, as its name suggests, is aimed at people of older age.

Being productive 4

Marc Freedman, founder and CEO in the US of Encore.org, a nonprofit organization working to promote encore careers – ‘second acts for the greater good’ – was in Australia recently. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear him speak, but I understand there are moves afoot to establish ‘Encore Fellowships’, pioneered by Freedman and his organisation in Australia, through local not-for-profit activist, Doug Jacquier. While Extending your use-by date is about more than working with non-profit organisations in later life, it shares similar themes to those espoused by Freedman.

Being productive 5

And speaking of being productive into older age, I promised a former Army colleague, Bob Whittaker, that I’d mention his book, Jellybeans in the jungle, in my blog. Bob and I did our Australian Army recruit training together when we were both conscripted as National Servicemen (Nashos) in our 20s, but our subsequent postings were very different. Jellybeans in the jungle is described as ‘one man’s attempt to make sense of his experience as a conscripted soldier during Australia’s war in Vietnam.’ You can find the book by clicking on the highlighted link.

Hustling Hinkler: Learning to be a writer

I often wander around bookshops, entranced by the range of titles, but at the same time overwhelmed by the number of authors there are. So to think that soon my book, my name, will be on those shelves alongside (well, close to) some of the world’s best-known authors is mind-boggling. And I have mainly the 2010 Queensland Writers Centre/Hachette Development Workshop to thank for it. Applications are currently being called for the 2013 workshop, and the deadline has been extended to 12 July.

The author in his Hustling Hinkler T-shirt

The author in his Hustling Hinkler T-shirt

When I turned up for the first session of that 2010 workshop, I discovered I was the only one there who was a) writing non-fiction, and b) of the masculine gender. The other seven were wrestling with the manuscripts of novels in a range of genres, including crime, reality-based fiction, various sorts of romance and relationships, and speculative fiction (whatever that was). That was a very supportive time, and I’m still in touch with most of my fellow writers, several of whom have since been published.

The funny thing is, that my narrative non-fiction book started life in a different genre – as a young adult novel. I had the rather limited idea that if there was already an existing biography, it wasn’t worth writing another one. So when I re-discovered this intriguing pioneer aviator called Bert Hinkler, I did a lot of research

Author Kim Wilkins

Author Kim Wilkins

about him, and decided to aim a fiction book at a young adult audience. Keen to develop my craft, I registered for the QWC workshop series with Kim Wilkins, Year-of-the Novel, then the follow-up, Year-of-the Edit. And I learned lots, not only about writing, but about publishing in general.

In that second year, I saw an advertisement for the Writefest event in Bundaberg and, thanks to the ever-obliging Sandy Curtis, had an opportunity to send a portion of a manuscript for consideration by a real, live literary agent, the sort of person who can tell you whether your book is any good or not, and if it is, might find a publisher for it. The agent turned out to be Sophie Hamley, a senior agent with the Sydney literary agency, Cameron Creswell, and the deal was that she’d give each of the budding authors selected, 15 minutes each. The scenario with me went something like this:

Sandy Curtis, author and key figure at Bundaberg Writefest

Sandy Curtis, author and key figure at Bundaberg Writefest

‘I’ve read the 30 pages of your YA novel,’ Sophie said, ‘and I think it’s got legs, as they say in publishing.  I’d like to see the rest of it. Can you please send me the full manuscript.’

When I finished opening and closing my mouth like a goldfish, I managed to say, ‘I’ve been doing a lot of research on Bert Hinkler, and his life story is pretty interesting in itself. I reckon there’s an adult novel in there too.’

She looked straight at me. ‘Why don’t you write his life story?’

‘But there’s already a biography,’ I said.

My dynamic agent, Sophie Hamley

My dynamic agent, Sophie Hamley

‘When was that published?’

‘1962, with a slight update in 1979.’

‘Might be time for another one,’ she said. ‘Non-fiction outsells fiction three to one in Australia.’

‘Does it?’ I said, eyes wide.

[I know this sounds like bad dialogue from a cheap novel, but that’s how I recall it.]

‘You could write it as narrative non-fiction,’ she said.

Up to this point, I thought there was fiction, non-fiction, and there was politics. What the hell was narrative non-fiction?

Now I do know something about the English language, and my lighting fast brain reminded me: ‘narrative – that means a story’. So I cleverly said, ‘You mean tell a story using non-fiction.’

She nodded, and I nodded in return. ‘Uh huh.’

Sophie must have realised I was scrambling a bit, because she gave me the titles of a couple of big-selling narrative non-fiction books. I carefully wrote the titles down, told her I’d get hold of them, and would immediately begin writing a new biography of Bert Hinkler. And after some pleasantries during which time I tried to show her what a well-read, fascinating writer I am, my 15 minutes was up.

That was five years ago. Since then, the (rewritten) young adult novel has been highly commended in a publisher’s competition, but is so far unpublished. However, I’ve had two short stories published after being selected in competitions I’ve entered, and, thanks to my agent, Sophie Hamley (see above) I signed a contract with an emerging Sydney e-publisher, Xoum Publications, for publication of a non-fiction e-book in March this year, Extending Your Use-By Date, which attracted heaps of media attention (www.xoum.com.au/shop/extending-your-use-by-date/). I’m continually working on other writing, including another non-fiction book.

And the biography? It was the one selected for the 2010 Development Workshop, and in August this year Hachette Australia will publish Hustling Hinkler: the short tumultuous life of a trail-blazing Australian aviator. In my next blog post, I’ll tell you about that book and what I learnt on the rocky road to publication.

[re-blogged from Queensland Writers Centre http://www.qwc.asn.au/connect/blog/]

Hustling Hinkler and the cyclone: a wet and windy tale of bad timing

I’d revised the manuscript for the umpteenth time, in response to the editor’s numerous suggestions, and had negotiated further changes with the always cheerful Vanessa Radnidge and Kate Ballard at Hachette Australia. My narrative non-fiction book, Hustling Hinkler: the short tumultuous life of a trail-blazing Australian aviator, was looking good for publication. Now it was time to add the photos.

The subject of my biography, Bert Hinkler, was born in Bundaberg, Queensland,  and late last year, I had contacted the Hinkler Hall of Aviation in that city about obtaining a selection of images of the pioneer aviator from their extensive collection. All I had to do was finalise the arrangements. Then Oswald intervened.

Cyclone Oswald had swept in over the Gulf of Carpentaria in January 2013 and, although soon downgraded to a tropical low, dumped masses of rain on communities in Tropical North Queensland before heading south. On its way down the coast, it continued to suck in moist tropical air and spread its largesse on the areas below. When Oswald reached Bundaberg at the end of January, it whipped up several typhoons as an initial demonstration of its power, then lashed the area with torrential rain. The Burnett River, where Bert Hinkler once famously flew under two of the bridges, reached record heights, and much of Bundaberg was inundated. Some 7500 residents were evacuated and there was widespread damage, particularly in  North Bundaberg (where Hinkler grew up and went to school).

Flooded Bundaberg North January 2013

Flooded Bundaberg North January 2013

The Hinkler Hall of Aviation is located in the botanic gardens in North Bundaberg, and 30 centimetres of water washed through the building, depositing clinging mud across the displays and in the foyer. Significantly for my particular interest, the floodwaters also found their way into the collection store and research rooms. Needless to say, the staff had enough to worry about in restoring the exhibits, cleaning up the place and saving the records (with help from Queensland Museum experts). Lex Rowland, long-time Hinkler enthusiast and one of the Hall of Aviation trustees, rang me to apologise that they wouldn’t be able to help me out with photos on this occasion. In fact, this key tourist attraction has remained closed to the public since that time, although when I was still missing a couple of key photos recently, Lex was able to supply them from the Hinkler House Museum and Research Association database.

Fortunately, many of the Hinkler photos held by the Hall of Aviation are also held by State and national libraries in Australia, and the national archives. Each library holds only a few, however, so it was quite an exercise to go through the full catalogue (which is held on the central Trove database), select the required images, then submit requests to each library individually, complete with payment.

State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland

 

Most of this was done through completing order forms, printing them off, scanning them, and emailing them back. In most cases, the requested photos were sent (in TIFF format) very promptly online, but the denseness of the images meant relatively slow download times on my laptop (up to 30 minutes each time). Each library also indicated how it wants the source of the images acknowledged in the book, and none of the requirements are exactly the same. It was about this time that writing a fiction novel seemed particularly appealing – no photos, no fact checking.

There will be eight pages of black and white photographs in Hustling Hinkler. This will be the first time many of the images have been published in a book, including some I have sourced from elsewhere. What’s more, there is at least one image in the book which has never been published anywhere before, that I think will be a surprise to readers.

Missing out on a few photos hardly compares with coping with the inundation the people of Bundaberg suffered in the floods of January 2013, and I was also fortunate there were alternative sources for the images. The city is still recovering, but I hope the Hall of Aviation might be open again by the time Hustling Hinkler is published in August this year.

P.S. The Queensland Writers Centre earlier this year organised a fund-raising venture called ‘Writers on Rafts’, to help communities affected by Cyclone Oswald.

 

 

 

 

Preview: Bert Hinkler biography to be published August

I’m delighted to tell you that my book, Hustling Hinkler: The short tumultuous life of an Australian aviator, will be in the bookshops and online in August. The publisher, Hachette Australia, have now posted details on their website. I’ve been working on this book for several years, and it’s based on research I’ve done on three continents. I hope readers will be as satisfied with the outcome as I am.

Hustling Hinkler tells the remarkable story of Bert Hinkler, who rose from humble beginnings in the sugar town of Bundaberg in coastal Queensland, Australia, to become a world-famous long-distance pilot. On the ground, however, things weren’t always quite so smooth …

Click here for a preview of the cover and a brief synopsis of the story of Hustling Hinkler.

Meanwhile, I did another newspaper interview this week about my e-book, published in March, Extending your use-by date:Why retirement age is only a number, and have been invited to speak about it at a library event at the Gold Coast.  Extending your use-by date  is available through the publisher, www.xoum.com.au, and  Amazon.com,  iBookstore and Kobo.

e-book contract signed for Extending your use-by date

Grab your Kindle and get ready to download. I’ve just signed a contract to have a non-fiction manuscript published, this time as an e-book.

In March 2013 you can check the electronic bookstores for Extending your use-by date: Why retirement age is only a number. It will be published by Rod Morrison and the team at an emerging Australian e-publisher, Xoum Publishing, www.xoum.com.au

Signing the Xoum contract

My agent, Sophie Hamley, sent them the manuscript, they liked it, and now we’re working together to prepare it for publication and promote it to potential readers.

Xoum is a Sydney-based independent multi-media publishing company, founded by publishing and design professionals, David Henley, Jon MacDonald and Rod Morrison. They say they use the most up-to-date production technologies combined with traditional editorial, sales and marketing nous. Xoum titles are distributed globally via Amazon, the iBookstore, Kobo, Overdrive and Google Play.

The starting point for Extending your use-by date is that we sometimes head unthinkingly into retirement at a time when many of us have developed skills and abilities we can keep on using and when people are generally living longer. It also argues that continuing to work can maintain our well-being as well as contribute to our bank balance. But only if we want to.

So, I’ll have two books out in 2013: Extending your use-by date as an e-publication in March (Xoum* Publishing), and the biography of aviation pioneer and global adventurer Bert Hinkler in hard copy in August (Hachette Australia).

* pronounced ‘zoom’ of course

Stiff lessons, the Order of the Hedgehog, and a different point of view

Experienced young adult author, James Moloney, says that when he visits schools, students ask him how to be a writer, and sometimes their faces fall when he tells them they should do lots of reading.* I know what he means. The more I write, and read, the more I become aware of writers’ styles, strategies and structures, and the more they influence my own writing, or at least, the more I become aware of my own writing.

For example, I recently re-read an Australian classic, Stiff, by Shane Maloney (no relation to James – different spelling) and enjoyed the wry commentary of the book’s ‘hero’, Murray Whelan, on the events chaotically enveloping his life. Soon afterwards, I was writing a short story and found myself adding a touch of what I regard as wry commentary to the protagonist’s views. The further the story went, the more I felt I had found his voice – and mine. That story, ‘Walking the line’, was the Queensland winner in the national Adult Learners’ Week competition in September this year. Thanks heaps, Shane Maloney.

More recently I’ve read two quite different books: The secret pilgrim by John Le Carré, and In a strange room by Damon Galgut.

John Le Carre and his character George Smiley are well known to readers of spy thrillers, although Smiley is more a device in The secret pilgrim for Le Carré to string together a series of short stories. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book, and noticed some delightful observations from the author along the way, including:

‘She was a tall woman and must once have been beautiful, but preferred to wear the signs of her neglect.’

‘And much time was spent among these exiled bodies [European émigrés]arguing our niceties about who would be Master of the Royal Horse when the monarchy was restored; and who would be awarded the Order of St Peter and the Hedgehog; or succeed to the Grand Duke’s summer palace once the Communist chickens had been removed from its drawing rooms…’

‘He had recently grown himself a moustache for greater integrity.’

Thriller writers may not be nominated for the Man Booker Prize, but Le Carré’s prose is very engaging in a busy genre.

Damon Galgut, on the other hand, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, in 2010, for The Good Doctor, a book I enjoyed. I picked up the later book, In a strange room, at a book remainders sale, and two features jumped at me as I began to read. For a start, it doesn’t use quotation marks for direct speech. I have come across other examples of this, and must confess I’m not a fan of the style. Perhaps I just did too many punctuation exercises when I was at school.

The other feature of Galgut’s book is that he uses first and third person when talking about the same person, occasionally in the same paragraph. Talk about point of view! Take this example:

‘He turns. Reiner is walking towards him. If he offers one word of apology, if he concedes even the smallest humility, then I will relent.’

The ‘He’ in the first sentence and the ‘him’ in the second are the ‘I’ in the third sentence. It’s not as confusing as I thought it might be, but it is a little disconcerting after Le Carré. And perhaps that’s what Galgut intended.

*In the last blog I mentioned my visit to Riverbend bookshop in Brisbane to listen to James Moloney talk about his new adult novel, The tower mill.

[D R Dymock’s biography of pioneer pilot and global adventurer Bert Hinkler will be published by Hachette Australia in 2013. He also has a non-fiction e-book close to publication – details soon.]